Candidate for 2023 President: Shelly Ray
The experience that I bring as a candidate for 2022 president-elect includes the following:
- Five years supporting the Los Angeles Metro Board of Directors in a way that enhances public engagement and also gives me insight into how boards make decisions under effective governance and include diverse voices in policy decisions; and
- Six years as an independent information professional, during which time SLA always felt like my true home (and 90% of my job was learning how leaders functioned and made profitable small and medium-sized companies).
The knowledge, skills, and abilities I bring are—
- Creating order out of chaos;
- Building consensus;
- Empathetic and inclusive leadership; and
- A heart for service and a passion for SLA.
I also bring genuine optimism, and a cat.
Outside of SLA, my passion projects are perfume/olfactory culture, walking, local history and governance. and learning about how tree cover/shade impacts urban equity.
Please visit my profile on SLA Connect for the full list of my experience in SLA leadership and on other boards.
Question #1: Why are you a member of SLA? What has kept you a member throughout the years?
I joined SLA in 2007. I was applying to UCLA’s Graduate School for Library and Information Studies with plans to pursue public librarianship; through SLA, I discovered an exciting world of opportunity with the degree I already intended to pursue. I stayed a member because of SLA Southern California’s (SLA-SCC) programming. Being a member felt like having a key to unlock “behind the scenes” access to so much information and ephemeral treasures across the region, and to build relationships with the people who manage them.
When I started serving on the SLA-SCC Board in 2015, not only did I get to meet the professionals who were working dream jobs at fascinating institutions, but leadership service gave me the invaluable opportunity to work with them, too. Working with them meant learning and growing by seeing their leadership styles in action, how they were able to move issues forward, build consensus, and cope when there were barriers getting to it. Serving as a leader helped me practice leadership and develop these crucial skills in a safe environment, and helped me build my professional network of expert collaborators and mentors without technically “networking.”
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 want to sustain an association where future members can be nourished by support similar to what I received over the years from SLA friends and mentors. I’m concerned about SLA’s sustainability both financially and in the fracturing of member morale. We can rebuild trust between members and leadership if we tackle both issues head on, together. As president-elect, I would have the difficult conversations with you and lead with strength, openness and resiliency.
I serve on several other boards, and support the LA Metro Board of Directors as a major part of my job. Seeing how a municipal board operates with transparency and accountability to the public informs how I’d lead SLA. Members should have ample opportunity to speak and be heard, in board meetings and in other forums, and to know leadership is willing to readjust based on their feedback.
My immediate priorities will focus on proactive communication with volunteer leaders about what’s expected of them, and what they can expect from SLA leadership and staff. We can build a more collaborative and effective association where volunteering is fulfilling and not a burden—and empower volunteers to focus their enthusiasm and energy on exactly what they signed up for.
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.
My goal is to bring radical inclusion to SLA. I think it’s past time to unsilo DICE and reckon with the fact we need DICE integrated in all of our decision making, for the association and individually.
Diversity and inclusion aren’t talking points we scalpel out of an issue and send to a committee—they’re the work we all do, all the time. And it’s not enough to be committed to diversity. Those within the dominant culture need to provide volunteer and leadership opportunities for diverse voices to speak, and to commit to listen when they do. This includes lifting and supporting student members, BIPOC members, and any active member who takes the time to engage. Our existing diversity makes us stronger, but we need to pay attention to it and prioritize it, not as it benefits the existing status quo, but in how it challenges norms and traditions and encourages change.
The association needs to examine the structures in place that prevent open conversation and discussion, and remove them. There should be more responsibilities to member groups independent from the board, and comprehensive training on the existing governance structures (e.g., Robert’s Rules) which, when applied from a framework of inclusivity, invites transparent decision making.