SLA2020: Education, Inspiration and Rejuvenation

Is there a best time of day to stretch your mind, your body, or your imagination? The second “live” day of events at SLA’s 2020 Annual Conference provided a clear answer, as hundreds of librarians and information professionals from across multiple time zones and continents gathered to attend education sessions and product demonstrations, share their ideas and insights, and even refresh their minds and spirits.

A morning yoga and stretching class—morning by U.S. East coast standards, although SLA2020 attendees hail from countries as dispersed as New Zealand, India, and Scotland—set the stage for alternating education sessions led by subject matter experts and product demonstrations presented by vendors of information services. The education sessions ranged in knowledge level from beginner to in-depth, while the topics varied from showing return on investment to reopening libraries during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following are excerpts from some of the education sessions:

Foreseeing the Future of Intelligence and Information Services
In order to get to the future, we have to do it ourselves. And we’re going to the good old-fashioned way that people have done it for centuries, and that’s through thinking about it, through science fiction and stories and movies about the future. It gives us all a way to put ourselves in what I call a time machine that projects ourselves into different points in time, my favorite being the future.

What we’re going to do today is put ourselves in this time machine and set it to 2030. We’ve developed three different alternate futures. The first one is dystopian. If things really go badly between now and 2030, you might see things like technology driving the vast majority of information, people being only a small part of that process. You might see a world where people don’t know what a library is, people in the workforce who have never been to one of those—and oh, by the way, in most of their companies, which are all geographically dispersed, they don’t have knowledge centers. Can you imagine a world dominated by just a few major enterprises, most of which have an information basis that explains their commercial success?
—Craig Fleisher, Aurora WDC

The ROI of Research Services: Measuring Value, Not Usage
Sometimes information teams can get frustrated because they’ve done all this work to collect data and analyze it and make sure it’s in the right format, but it’s still not hitting the mark in terms of making the case for ROI. And that’s when we really start to take a close look at how they’re communicating this message. Are they making it easy for their stakeholder to see the value and work with them to enhance the value?

Value is about context. Value is not inherent in a number or even a ratio of numbers, like cost per use. The context of what the business is trying to accomplish is where value comes from. There are a lot of stakeholders that most information teams need to worry about and need to communicate with in order to accomplish their goals. So you need to think first about who you are communicating with, and map out all of your stakeholders. Then you need to think about their context for value, and use their language.
—Robin Neidorf, Jinfo Limited

Where’s the Money? Raising Funds for Special Projects and Initiatives
There’s a great quote from one of my favorite grant writing books, The Only Grant Writing Book You’ll Ever Need, that says grant seeking is half dating, half job interview. So the job interview part is probably more setting up your search criteria, asking questions and checking things off, and then there’s the dating aspect—getting to know the funder.

We highly recommend reaching out to potential foundations before you actually apply or submit a proposal, because it really does help to have that personal connection before they see a proposal or see your organization’s name on paper. That relationship building is really a through line through all of fundraising, so keep that in mind as you consider this process.
—Stephen Sherman, Southeastern Council of Foundations

The conference concludes on Friday, October 16, with a closing keynote presentation on creating connections and getting ahead in a socially distanced world, another wellness activity featuring chair yoga, the announcement of the best poster, more education sessions and product demonstrations, and virtual open houses and receptions.

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