SLA is an international organisation. How can SLA involve and reach out more to members outside North America? Bethan Rudddock, candidate for Director
The international aspect of SLA is one of my favourite things about the association! As a non-North American member I’ve always been very pleased by how I’ve been accepted: not as an ‘international member’, but just as a member.
And coming from overseas has always been a great ice-breaker at conference. My ‘SLA Europe’ ribbon has started more conversations at conference than my first-timers, award winner, or board candidate ribbon. Everyone’s always interested to hear what it’s like – what’s different in the UK? What’s the same? At my first conference, I spent a happy hour or two over drinks with some other SLA Europe members and some US library school students discussing the difference between UK and US courses.
The ways SLA is communicating are encouraging more non-North American members to get involved, with the emphasis being on virtual communication and timeslots that work for as many people as possible. I really like the way that #SLAtalk on Twitter runs in different timeslots, and how webinars are nearly always recorded and made available afterwards. But there’s always more that could be done. I’d really like to see recognition of the diversity of SLA chapters with a newsletter-style round-up once a month, with an item from each chapter. It could be a post from their blog, an event review, a ‘meet a member’, photos from an event, a video or podcast. This information about the chapters and their members is often out there, but it’s usually silod on their blog, website, or newsletter. I’d like to see this pushed more to the membership, to raise awareness and help forge links between chapters. Let’s face it – how often do you go to a random chapter’s website and see what they’re up to? I bet not many of us ever have! But it’s a great way to find out what initiatives are going on, and to find out about people you’d like to talk to or meet.
We also need to start challenging our assumptions about what it really means to work as part of a global association. We all make them, often unconsciously. For instance, I thought I was doing quite well about working across timezones until someone in the Australia and New Zealand chapter pointed out that actually, ‘spring’ and ‘fall’ were not helpful indicators of when things might be done. I’d unconsciously excluded a whole hemisphere. And I have no idea what challenges people for whom English is a second, third, or fourth language face when they want to get more involved with SLA – if any! I’m assuming that there will be, but on what evidence?
We have a great exemplar of how a library and information association can successfully work globally in IFLA, and I’d like to see us learn from their experiences to help us learn to be a truly global organisation. There is so much talent and commitment out there in SLA members, no matter what country or timezone they’re in, what language they speak, whether they work in a bibliothèque, an archief, or a университет. That diversity and talent is invaluable if we’re to keep growing the association to grow the members, and is a large part of what makes SLA strong. We need to emphasise that SLA is all of its members, and to give all members a chance to get more involved with SLA, to add value to the association and to get more value out from their memberships.