Member Insights: Southeast Chapters

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As I continue my Member Insights Series, I head to the southeastern United States. The chapters in this region include Alabama, Florida & Caribbean, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana/Southern Mississippi, Mid-South, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Several chapters had members send feedback to a series of four questions.

I first asked about local attractions to visit and food to experience. If heading to the Pensacola area of Florida, a must see location is the Naval Aviation Museum. Palafox street offers wonderful choices for shopping and eating! Our Georgia members had several suggestions. Georgia in the spring is stunning with the blooming azaleas and dogwoods. The state also has beautiful beaches and a series of barrier islands. Cumberland Island is a National Park accessible only by boat. Charleston and Savannah are lovely small cities with historic charm and lovely sights. Charleston is also well known for its outstanding food options. The southern Appalachian mountains are beautiful through Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina.

Classic southern cuisine to experience includes barbecue, soul food, low country cuisine, and fried chicken. For fun in Atlanta, check out the Ponce Market, a redevelopment of a former giant Sears catalog center into retail, office, and restaurant space. Krog Bar is a delightful, tiny bar specializing in wine and tapas. Atlanta is also home to a thriving art scene, and DragonCon is an amazing convention that blends art, pop culture, and general nerdiness that is fun for almost anyone, according to Stephen Sherman.

Heading to the Triangle area of North Carolina, there are countless sights and flavors to
savor in Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. The post resources will list many, but highlights include the Sarah Duke Gardens in Durham and the Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill. The Duke Chapel at Duke University features classic Gothic architecture. Rebecca Vargha recommends catching a show at the Durham Performing Arts Center preceded by a gourmet meal. Former tobacco warehouses are being transformed into living and working spaces. Many younger chefs are embracing the changing Durham urban area. Chapel Hill is a beautiful place that boasts the country’s oldest public university (which was founded in 1793). Be sure to visit the nearby Ackland Art Museum and the Morehead Planetarium.

The southeast United States is a region rich in culture, natural beauty, and cuisine. See the resource list for their special recommendations.

I next asked what key challenges were facing the chapters, and what services or tools SLA offers or should develop to help address the challenges.
Member recruitment and retention were common threads across the chapters. Finding ways to reach new student members is a particular challenge
. Many students study remotely and are not easily identified by chapter leadership. How can these students be found? And are they aware of member benefits? Rebecca Gebhardt Brizi would like to communicate with this constituency and get them involved. Finding our student members is a challenge throughout the association, and the Students and New Professionals Advisory Council is generating ideas in this area. Where can staff help? Where can the board and our unit leadership help?

The Georgia chapter has a traditional base of members from law  libraries, business school libraries, and consulting firms. The chapter would like to reach out and identify other information professionals and knowledge workers. Once again, finding and connecting with these potential members is a challenge. The new SLA Unit Toolkit is promising, but smaller chapters worry about the ability to fully implement the recommended practices. Any assistance that staff can provide in selectively implementing recruitment and retention initiatives would be most welcome.

Finally, I asked members what SLA could do to address the shifting job market and industry challenges in special libraries and information centers. Lynne Tobin is retired in Florida and volunteers in her local library community. She thinks there may be potential for deeper engagement with military libraries. Rebecca Gebhardt Brizi feels that librarianship is suffering an image crisis. “Even those who employ librarians and library departments are often not fully aware of the broad range of the work and benefits librarians bring.” We have an educational and public relations opportunity, here, and the implementation and communication of our competencies within SLA and externally has great potential. Nancy Snell shared her insights. “SLA members have always been great about sharing. Learning about different paths and jobs [is] motivational. We can become ‘data scientists’ or work in ‘text analytics’ and more. If we can just keep building along those lines that would be great. The academic, legal and medical fields are a good base, but the growth will be in non-traditional fields and areas.”

Stephen Sherman suggests that we “look outside the traditional jobs in special libraries and develop outreach for those in related fields. Many professionals with library and information science degrees (including now myself) may find themselves drawn to knowledge management or research positions in other fields. We need to find ways to identify, cultivate, and engage these individuals.” Rebecca Vargha suggested that SLA “talk with members about what they need from a professional development point of view to learn new skill sets to stay relevant in the information profession.”

Several members of these Southeast chapters shared challenges and offered solutions. I’ll continue to seek insights from our members, and will next turn to our science and technology divisions.

—Dee Magnoni, 2017 SLA President

Learn more about the Members Insights Series.

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