SLA Challenges Members to Learn, Grow, and Contribute – Leslie Reynolds, Candidate for President-Elect

For more than a decade, SLA has offered me challenges to learn, grow, and contribute.  I’d been a member of SLA since library school in the early 1990s, but it wasn’t until I switched from an engineering library to working in a business library that I was able to grok* [understand thoroughly] how to derive real value from my membership in this amazing, supportive association.

While talking with my new colleagues about SLA and watching them contribute, I decided that I wanted to get more involved and take an active role in SLA.  I mentioned to them that I wanted an opportunity to contribute, after I returned from my honeymoon.  When I got back to town, Brent Mai cheerfully congratulated me on being elected President-Elect of the Southern Appalachian (now Tennessee) chapter, and Charlene Cunniffe congratulated me on becoming local arrangements chair for the 2004 Annual Conference that would be in Nashville.  While I was thrown into the deep end of the pool fairly quickly, my colleagues, other board members and nearby chapters were very supportive and quick to offer a helping hand.  I learned how to raise money for the chapter, recruit and organize volunteers to serve at the local booths in New York City and in Nashville, and how to reach out for help and delegate effectively.  Of course, that was just the beginning of my involvement with SLA.

As I served in these roles, I watched as my professional network blossomed and my skill set grew.   I attended my first Leadership Summit and was amazed at how accessible the leadership of SLA was, and how happy they were to answer questions and just chat.  This also helped me to gain confidence when speaking to people in positions of authority – they are just like us, so no need to be nervous.  I have also strived to continue that tradition of accessibility and openness both within SLA and my current organization.

As I write this and reflect on the wonderful opportunity it is to run for the SLA Board of Directors, I want all of our members to have similar experiences to gain confidence and learn in a safe, supportive environment.  If you want to learn about finance, improve your presentation skills, or learn to build a website – you can do that, and more, in SLA and there are so many people ready and willing to help you succeed.   I would not be where I am today in my career without the experience and support from SLA.

I believe that we need to improve member involvement at all levels so that everyone can make a positive impact on SLA and on each other’s careers.   In return, I want SLA to continue to support every member in his or her pursuit of professional growth and career success.  I’d love to connect with you to continue the conversation at, Twitter (@leslier), or on LinkedIn.  I look forward to hearing from you.


* Grok is a word coined by Robert A. Heinlein in his 1961 science-fiction novel, Stranger in a Strange Land.  It is defined as:  “… to understand so thoroughly that the observer becomes a part of the observed—to merge, blend, intermarry, lose identity in group experience. It means almost everything that we mean by religion, philosophy, and science—and it means as little to us (because of our Earthling assumptions) as color means to a blind man.”

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