Improving the Value of the SLA Member Experience


Ever had an out-of-body experience? A once-in-a-lifetime experience? A near-death experience? Me neither—although the first time I went motorcycle riding with my husband, I sort of wished my body had been elsewhere!

It used to be that an experience was a discrete event or occurrence—a graduation, say, or a wedding. At some point, however, an experience became an ongoing process that combines actions, emotions, and impressions to form a sensation that shapes our future behaviors.

Consider, for example, the “Starbucks experience.” Starbucks is the largest coffee chain in the United States, but it doesn’t really sell coffee—it sells an experience. With its comfortable chairs and sofas, soft lighting, alternative music playing in the background, and warm color schemes, Starbucks creates an atmosphere that is conducive to lingering and talking with friends or meeting with business associates. And with free Wi-Fi access available, that’s just what many Starbucks customers do.

Similarly, the SLA member experience isn’t about our annual conference, our continuing education courses, our social media, or any of our other offerings. All of these things contribute to it, of course, but the member experience transcends our programs and benefits. It’s really about being a community, a place where information professionals come together to share ideas, teach and learn skills, mentor others who wish to grow professionally, make connections, and advance the profession.

Improving the member experience is one of SLA’s three strategic priorities for 2015-2016 (I’ve blogged about the others—the value of the information professional and the value of SLA—in previous posts). One way we’re doing this is by making changes to our administrative systems to help our members create stronger networks and relationships with each other. We expect to begin implementing these changes later this year and will be communicating more about them in the coming months.

Another facet of improving the member experience is making it easier to share ideas with, and learn from, fellow industry professionals. Since 2013, we’ve been hosting PartnerTalk Webinars and #SLAtalk Twitter chats to educate and encourage discussion among members on topics such as networking, building your brand, and demonstrating your value to executives. We’re now adding another learning/sharing opportunity, the SLA Learning Initiative Partnership (L.I.P.), which is designed to promote informed conversations about issues ranging from supporting innovation to publishing large data sets to offering massive open online courses (MOOCs). Through this initiative, SLA will join with various industry partners to create a steady stream of content that will engage librarians and information professionals at all stages of their careers.

The initial L.I.P., with the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), will launch next week with the release of a white paper on research workflows. Over the course of the next 12 months, a series of white papers, Webinars, e-books, interviews, and other information resources will be released and made available to SLA members. Some of these materials will highlight the work of SLA members who are at the forefront of the information profession.

Yet another element of improving the member experience is making information, opportunities and tools more visible and accessible. One way we’re doing this is by publishing content from Information Outlook in article format as well as in magazine format. Each week, you’ll see a “teaser” on the SLA Blog that links to a specific article from Information Outlook. The article will be free-standing, meaning it will be a separate document on rather than embedded within the magazine.

We launched this initiative last week by posting the member interview from the January-February issue as a separate article. As we go forward, however, we’ll make some articles available that haven’t been published yet in Information Outlook. As soon as an author approves the final version of his/her article, we’ll format it and publish it separately. When all of the articles for a specific issue of Information Outlook have been approved, we’ll go ahead and publish the issue, but we’ll make the individual articles available for reading as soon as they’re approved.

In these and other ways, we are continuing to enhance the user experience for SLA members. Together with our efforts to increase the value of the information professional and the value of SLA, these enhancements are pushing us in new directions and challenging us in new ways. But as I have emphasized in my previous posts, I chose the “lean into the curve” theme for a reason—we are at a turning point, and it is critical that we take bold steps to move forward and accelerate toward a positive future. A better member experience is part of that future, and I welcome any suggestions you may have to further improve it.

—Jill Strand, SLA 2015 President

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