When Did I First Join SLA? Why Then, and Why I’m Still Around — Juliane Schneider, Candidate for Div. Cab. Chair-Elect

This is Juliane Schneider, and I’m running for Division Cabinet Chair-Elect.

I joined SLA as a grad student at Drexel University.   The Philadelphia Chapter had a travel award and the members very actively encouraged those of us at Drexel to apply.  I won!  So, I went to the 1997 Seattle conference, courtesy of the Philadelphia Chapter.  Thanks, Philly!

I’d never been to Seattle.

I’d never been to a conference.

I didn’t know anybody there.

It was intense.  The economy was beginning to roar, the Internet was coming into its own, and the Info-Expo floor was overwhelming in size and in the flashy booths of the vendors.  I loved it!  I went to extravagant receptions at the Space Needle and talked to vendors and other librarians and generally had a blast.  I’d just graduated from Drexel the week before, and I was starting my new job at Community of Science the week after so I was addled in mind, but blown away by how vibrant and expansive my new profession was.

Profession.  This is the crux of why I joined SLA to begin with, and it is why I continue to be involved at the national and local levels today.

If you are a member of a profession, you need to keep pushing it forward, pushing yourself to redefine your skills and expertise, and finding new boundaries to cross.  Progression, as those X-Games kids would tell us, is the name of the game.  Being successful in a profession means learning some gnarly, gnarly tricks, so it’s best to have a strong support group when you do the occasional faceplant (and oh, I have done some epic faceplants).

Due to changing cities and jobs, I didn’t return to SLA Annual until 2000, but haven’t missed one since.  By this time, I had mentors, friends, and colleagues with similar interests to find and have fun with, and learn from, through the local Philly and NYC chapters.  Every year after that, I would find more of ‘my people’ at annual conference, and those relationships would continue through phone calls and email and texts and visits throughout the year.  I’ve had critical questions answered, digital shoulders to moan upon, virtual high-fives of triumph to share, gossip to exchange and plans to hatch for the fun we’re going to have at the next conference.

Without SLA, my professional life would be so much poorer and more critically, far, far less fun.  I wouldn’t be where I am today (a metadata librarian at Countway Library, Harvard Med School) without the horizons SLA pointed out for me.  I wouldn’t have the technical skills, I wouldn’t have the big picture, I wouldn’t have the ability to see where librarianship stands in a wider world.  Now I have these things, and I can respond to challenges within the labyrinth that is Harvard in ways that are both imaginative and grounded in reality.

I am SLA, and librarianship is my profession.

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