Jane Macoustra – 2011 Candidate, SLA Board of Directors
I first joined SLA in 2000, when colleagues at Credit Suisse First Boston had joined, and we were encouraged to take up membership – especially by my New York counterpart and the Global Head of Libraries, Pam Rollo. I was already a member of CILIP and the UK Records Management Society, but I didn't ever feel that I slotted into any particular niche or role by having membership at these bodies.
I didn't really know what to expect from SLA membership at first, but I went to Philadelphia in 2000 for the annual conference, dropped into New York on the way home to the UK and had an absolutely amazing all-round experience. I couldn't get some of the notes from the conference training sessions down onto paper fast enough; there was so much to learn, and I learned about the SLA culture and enjoyed the networking events and receptions.
I had never been in a learning environment that was so specific to my profession and I couldn't get enough! Previously I had attended one or two-day workshops in London and Hong Kong on knowledge management or managing people – but never were any of my learning experiences on such a large scale or so on-topic. In 1998, I'd taken myself off to Westminster University to do a 6-month course on Law for Librarians, but it didn't have the energy or the buzz that I experienced at SLA events. I had also attended Online Information in London annually, but there was no comparison.
SLA offers its members the chance to participate in lots of ways, such as lurking on lists such as the Business & Finance Division, writing blogs and articles and undertaking remote training via ClickU, and Second Life. Another really important aspect of the membership is SLA have built access into the membership for joining divisions and chapters with a speciality atttached. The membership fees reflect the differences in salary levels from the lowest to the highest paid, and offers everyone the opportunity to join SLA by using this fee structure, regardless of geographical location or wealth.
Furthermore, I never foresaw the turn of events that would so drastically alter my life or how SLA would become such a strong part of it. In 2000 I did a lot of business travel and ended up with a posting to Hong Kong with my family. My life had changed beyond recognition since 2000 and it was in Hong Kong that I joined the Asian Chapter and took my first active role as a Director. Chapter membership was tiny. On my return to the UK in 2003, I remained with the Asian Chapter, but eventually also joined the Board of SLA Europe in a similar capacity. SLA Europe exudes a certain uniqueness, even though, like SLA Asia it crosses many jurisdictions and is geographically dispersed. At Board meetings we can use the best technology to attend meetings remotely via conference calls. Time zones and physical location have become irrelevant.
I still function on both Boards in small roles, but in 2005 to 2006 I was asked to take the Asian Chapter Presidency when they experienced some difficulties. The Asian Chapter has gained international recognition within SLA as the fastest growing Chapter in 2006-7 and has experienced strong growth with an enthusiastic team of professionals at the helm.
Since then, every time I have attended an SLA conference, I have loved the training opportunities that are on offer, and the chance to network with so many like-minded individuals from across the globe. I first met my Asian colleagues at Baltimore in 2006 and then in New Delhi in 2008, at the ICoASL conference. In 2007 I was was awarded the Presidents' Citation Award, which was a huge honour. I was pleased when SLA decided not to change its name because I personally, would have felt it could have lost its "special" element. I feel that being part of SLA not only helped my career to develop but it brought me some unique opportunities. That is why I am still an active member.
So – Why SLA?
- Training opportunities
- Job openings, marketing, looking to the future and learning about new technology and ways of working
- Recognition by peers for those who work on the Boards of the divisions and chapters
- A Sense of Belonging that is synonymous with an Organisation that supports its members
- A top-down organisational network that supports and encourages its members to contribute their expertise to SLA for the benefit of all
- Why not SLA?
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