Candidate for 2022-2024 Director: Heather Kotula

Heather Kotula has been active in SLA since 1995. Most recently, she was past president and membership committee chair of the Taxonomy Community and past president and secretary of the Route 66 Community. She was a member of the Annual Conference Advisory Council for the 2020 conference and will serve again for 2022.

Heather’s prior volunteer activities include the following: conference program planner for the Information Technology Division in 2004, when she organized the first IT Dance Party; chair of the local arrangements committee when the SLA Leadership Summit was held in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in January 2004 (for which she raised more funding than was needed to host a dinner for all of the attendees); president of the SLA Rio Grande Chapter and editor of the SLA RGC Bulletin; and chair of the Information Systems Section of the IT Division. She also was a candidate for SLA treasurer in 2018.

Heather earned a master of business administration degree from New Mexico State University and is currently vice president of marketing and communications at Access Innovations, Inc., an industry leader in taxonomy and semantic enrichment. She has served in leadership positions in other associations, gaining experience in how associations function and a deep knowledge of Robert’s Rules of Order.

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Question #1: Why are you a member of SLA? What has kept you a member throughout the years?
SLA was my first professional “home.” I cut my teeth on leadership positions, starting with newsletter co-editor of the Rio Grande Chapter in 1996, and except for a hiatus after my child was born, I have always volunteered in my units in some capacity. I believe that your membership in an organization like SLA is only worth what you put into it and, in fact, your dues are an investment in yourself, your professional growth.

Some call this “giving back,” but I like to think of more as “paying it forward.” SLA benefits from my efforts, and in return I receive great advantages. By taking on leadership positions, I have learned how to run a meeting, resolve conflicts, grow my network, develop budgets, plan events, work on committees, and so much more. I wouldn’t have gained these skills otherwise, and they have very clearly helped me in both my professional and personal lives.

I have participated in other professional associations and will continue to do so. I always come back to SLA, though, hoping to share with others—especially those new to SLA and the profession—the benefits I have enjoyed and prospered from (paying it forward).

Question #2: Why are you running for the SLA Board of Directors? What do you bring to the table? How do you plan to help support other SLA members, if elected?
I am running for the SLA Board of Directors to be part of an open collaboratory that leads the association forward with true membership involvement at every reasonable opportunity.

I bring creativity and an inclination to take calculated risks. In 2004, at the annual conference, I secured a hotel function room for a reception and hired a DJ and some line dancing instructors—the birth of the IT Dance Party! At recent conferences, to increase membership in my units, we gave away unit-branded swag at our kiosk on Main Street SLA as a thank you to current members and those who signed up during the conference. I like to try innovations to improve member engagement. I believe the personal touch goes a long way. We shouldn’t wait for members to reach out; we should be proactive in reaching out to them (many thanks to those of you do!).

A colleague told me, “People don’t do business with businesses; they do business with people.” This transfers to the association that is SLA, in that networking is our biggest benefit to members. We need to find a way to market this powerful benefit to prospective members and encourage them to try SLA.

Question #3: SLA is a leader in its commitment to diversity and inclusion and the importance of civil discourse. Share how you have demonstrated leadership or action in these areas, and how your own experiences will inform your contribution as an SLA board member.
Nearly every culture around the world celebrates some version of a festival of lights—Christmas, Hannukah, Diwali, Hogmanay, St. Lucia Day, Imbolc, Nowruz, Kwanzaa, and dozens of others. Their differences are what make these holidays and festivals interesting. While one group of people puts up a tree and festoon it with lights and ornaments, another lights candles on a particular candleholder, another releases lighted lanterns into the sky, and another sets candles afloat on a body of water. All of these are beautiful, sacred, and different from one another, and those differences are what make each of them beautiful and sacred.

Diversity and the differences among us are, in my opinion, what make life worth living. I’m fascinated by people, and I feel we should celebrate our differences. If you look or sound different than (my perception of) how I look and sound, I want to know about you. I want to bring you into my circle, not to change you or judge you, but to enrich my own life, and maybe I can do the same for you.

We must celebrate diversity and practice inclusion every day, in every activity. This way works for me. What works for you?

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