Why I joined SLA (Candidate Question #2)

Question #2: When did you first join SLA? What made you decide to join then, and why do you still belong today?

I joined SLA as a newly-minted professional, back in the mid-1990s. It may surprise some to know that it was not the first professional library association that I joined. I am proud to be able to say, however, that it is perhaps the best. You see, I had long been working in libraries (since the tender age of 16, to be exact) and I had long known what I wanted to do professionally. In my focused tenacity in pursuing that dream, I almost missed the chance to see, experience, and benefit from a much bigger picture. I had developed something that I now call "professional myopia". Luckily for me, SLA, with its diverse and active membership, was just the prescription I needed to cure it.

What is "professional myopia"? It’s that false sense of security you get when you fail to see the greater world in which your professional niche sits. It’s the illusion that you are an information island or that your work in some sort of professional vacuum. For me, it was actually the result of a focused tenacity on obtaining the career of my dreams. You see, I wanted to be a law librarian. So I took legal research classes (even went to law school!), took internships in various legal settings, and, of course, joined professional groups exclusively tailored to the law profession. Little did I know and less did I care, at that time, what I was missing in the greater information industry.

It was a great way to get started and to break onto the law library scene. But once my foot was firmly in the door, the safety bubble burst. To get my work done and to do it exceptionally, I needed knowledge, experience, resources, and contacts that extended well beyond the background and professional support network that I had worked so hard to forge. It was clear to me that if I was going to succeed in my career, I had to branch out in ways I had not before imagined. That was where SLA came in and turned my professional world around. When a trusted colleague introduced me to the Special Libraries Association, she did more than show me another group worth joining. She opened the door to a vast world of information professionals who were working together redefine client services and push the boundaries of what it means to be a librarian. In joining, I found more than a great place to network and learn, I found a true partner in my success.

I am happy and humbled to say that I have not looked back a day since. Thank you SLA!

John J. DiGilio, Candidate for Treasurer

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