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SLA President-Elect Questions & Answers – from PHT Division Members

September 6, 2011

Hi all, with the SLA elections coming up, PHT members had the opportunity to ask a few questions of the President-Elect candidates.  Here are the questions and answers compiled (thanks to David Cappoli and Deb Hunt for agreeing to answer these questions):

1.  Assuming a slight decline in both membership and conference attendance in the next 3 years, how do you plan to make SLA financially sound going forward (3 year horizon)?

David Cappoli:

To reuse a statement that I made that the Leadership Development Institute at the annual conference “… we must evaluate every service, function and feature that our membership provides to us and decide what is required to help us succeed in our organizations, and what has run its course.  We need to determine what benefits are highly valued, and what we will continue to value, because any investment today must continue to reap rewards for us.”  So everything should be “on the table” in terms of the value that is provided to us, and we should be prepared to discard that what is no longer useful.

We also need to focus on the conference revenue model to see if it sustainable, and consider alternatives such as joint conferences, regional programs, and major international conferences that occur every other year.

Deb Hunt:

Associations are no longer the sole or even major source of industry-specific knowledge. SLA will need to continue to expand its role that cannot be fulfilled in other ways, such as government advocacy, new CE/PD models, and tracking key trends and opportunities in our profession. SLA staff, members and volunteers must utilize available technologies and prepare for those on the horizon to optimize association engagement, income and success.

We need to look at how other associations are thriving in this economic environment and learn from them. Then, we need to make some tough decisions of what works best for SLA and its members so that we are sustainable both as an association and as a profession.

Association-wide and unit continuing education needs to be revisited and coordinated so that it best meets the needs of members, wherever they are at a price they can afford and that contributes to SLA’s bottom line.

SLA as a whole and SLA units need to continue to interact and collaborate with other information and library associations as well as library, ischools and related grad programs. I believe we can learn from their successes and also recruit new members, especially when we show them the ROI on our membership fees with member benefits such as the Alignment Toolkit, the 23 Things, the Future Ready blog, ClickU and a near-future certification program.

2.  It is clear that SLA is in a financial crisis.  What are the things that MUST be done in the next fiscal year that are a change from the past?

David Cappoli:

While I am in favor of student scholarships and supporting research, SLA should not immediately return to awarding scholarships at the association level and its research grants should continue to be suspended as well.  A number of units offer scholarships and stipends to students and those new to the profession, and it is hopeful that chapters and divisions will continue to make these awards.

Also, travel for the President, President-Elect, and CEO, could be curtailed somewhat though having an SLA leader present at a chapter program tends to bring out members.  The diminished travel could be supplemented by webinars, especially now that SLA is providing GoToMeeting for the units to utilize for their virtual programming.

Additionally, vendor sponsorships of Click U virtual programming could be considered so that webinar prices are kept at their current levels for members.  The sponsorships could be scaled to offer “a word from our sponsor” at the beginning of the program at the highest level, while lower levels of support would be acknowledged by the moderator.  This would be attractive to a wide variety of vendors of all different sizes.

Deb Hunt:

SLA has already done much to lower its costs (staff layoffs, staff contributions to medical and other benefits, much less travel for the CEO, etc.) and will continue to do so. Beginning in 2012, unit allotments will better reflect the sliding scale of membership dues rates.

The current model of the annual conference needs to be on the table. This is a radical departure from over 100 years of annual conferences, but something that needs to be considered. Having regional conferences combined with divisions in the off-years is a possibility. Other organizations who have moved to the every-other-year model (e.g. have found it to be both financially sound and with higher attendance. That said, I truly enjoy meeting my colleagues in person. The recent SLA conference in Philly was a rewarding experience as I learned new skills, met new colleagues and reconnected with old friends.

3.   How do you expect the change in timing to affect conference next year (Annual Conference is in July, not June, in 2012)?  What should SLA be doing in response?

David Cappoli:

Some of the challenges that I see with the 2012 SLA conference coming in July are:  1) It is towards the middle of the summer which can potentially interfere with our family vacations; 2) for those of us on a July –June fiscal year, it would mean attending two SLA conferences within one year because the 2013 conference is scheduled for June; and, 3) it ends three days prior to the start of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) Annual Meeting in Boston, a conference that may appeal to members of the Legal Division.  All three of these challenges can affect attendance at the annual conference, but SLA can avoid a potential drop in attendance by considering the following options:
·      The possibility that the conference dates will get in the way of family vacations can be mitigated by advertising Chicago as a fabulous destination for families.  I vacationed in Chicago a few years ago with my family and we thoroughly enjoyed the Museum of Science and Industry, the El, the Adler Planetarium, and many other Chicagoland attractions.  And Chicago’s central location makes it a comfortable flight from within North America or internationally.
·      In response to potentially attending two SLA conferences within the same fiscal year, SLA should encourage members to encumber funds in the current fiscal year in order to attend the 2012 conference.  Usually a brief discussion with one’s supervisor or business office can achieve this, but SLA could also provide a sample letter for members to use if needed.
SLA should also consider extending the early-bird registration deadline for those of us needing to deal with the closing of the fiscal year and the challenges that are posed by this time of year.
·      And while it may be difficult to note the number of SLA members who might also plan to attend the AALL Annual Meeting, SLA could approach AALL to develop a joint agreement so that members from each association could attend both conferences at a combined registration rate that offers significant savings over registering for each conference separately.

Deb Hunt:

A comment I’ve heard from several members is that it will mean two SLA conferences in one fiscal year, which will be a challenge for them to explain to their employers. I asked Cindy Hill, 2012 Conference Chair, why it is scheduled for July instead of June. Here is her response:
a.    The convention center and many of the hotels were already booked in June (5 years ago)
b.     Many members over many years have asked to try a different month since there are many June conflicts (graduations, weddings, Father’s Day, etc.)
c.     Our exhibitors and partners also wanted to experiment with a different month since there are so many conferences back-to-back
SLA cannot change the dates of the 2012 conference but the 2013 conference goes back to the June schedule. It will be informative to see if having the conference in July has a significant impact on attendance so that SLA can review conference scheduling.

4.  What is your vision to market the profession?

David Cappoli:

Usability engineer, archivist, librarian, interaction designer, researcher, information architect, and records manager are some of the job titles of recent UCLA MLIS grads and they show the diversity of positions that are held by information professionals.  These titles also show that the reach of the information profession is expanding and it can continue to grow through advocacy.  The recent New York Times article, “Seeing Promise and Peril in Digital Records <> ” delineates the challenges revolving around medical records and usability issues, and to me, it clearly shows that information professionals should have a role in resolving these challenges.   In organizations and industries where knowledge services are maturing and issues such as digital preservation are coming to the forefront, SLA can be our advocate by illustrating the value that an information professional can bring to those groups.  Similar to the “Need to Know” program at the conference in Philadelphia, which was “designed for individuals who could use a skilled librarian or strategic knowledge professional in their organization,” SLA can propose presentations at other association meetings which promote the information professional through case studies and other real world examples.  Organizations which have difficulties managing the flow, usability, and preservation of their internal and external information and knowledge would do well to hire information professionals, and SLA can move this forward as our advocate.

Deb Hunt:

This needs to be a joint effort of both SLA as an association and us as members.

Many LIS jobs are not coming back or are coming back in a whole different way. As Stephen Abram noted:  “LIS skills are good currency, but only for those with the flexibility and insight to exploit the opportunities.“

Each SLA member must add flexibility, insight, and recognition of opportunity to our essential core skills! We need to move outside our comfort zone and reflect on our accomplishments so we can communicate them to current, future and prospective employers or clients. Else, how will they know what we can do and what we bring to the table?

As SLA stabilizes its finances, a larger budget needs to be devoted to marketing which will result in more members, more jobs for members and the shattering of librarian stereotypes which will bring us career sustainability, job security and better pay.

5.   The Pharmaceutical & Health Technology Division is comprised to a large extent of information professionals in pharmaceutical companies (i.e., corporate information professionals in a regulated medical environment).  Jump in the time machine ten years.  What is the role of the corporate information professional?  How is SLA supporting the corporate information professional?

David Cappoli:

Aaah to have a crystal ball, but I feel as if the role of the information professional in a decade will be vital to organizations in light of the need to manage, analyze, preserve, and continue to make accessible the ever-growing amount of organizational information and knowledge.  While the Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts average growth for librarians through 2018, it does not necessarily take into account individuals whose titles do not include librarian, yet whose work encompasses the many varied responsibilities of an information professional.  Whether still working within a physical space known as a library or information center, or embedded within an organizational group, information professionals will gain in importance within the organization because of their ability to adapt to changing environments and continue to align themselves with the goals of their organizations.

I am concerned though about the “fragmentation of the profession” that was the focus of one of the most important recent issues of Information Outlook (April/May 2011), and the challenges of linking those of us in disparate areas of the profession.  But SLA can bring us together by continuing to foster the networking, learning opportunities, and support, virtually and in face-to-face meetings, which help us thrive within our organizations

Deb Hunt:

As a former medical librarian and someone who does pharma research for clients, I am familiar with the regulated medical environment.

Here are the trends I see in the next 10 years for corporate information professionals:

  • More embedded info pros on R&D teams
  • Info pros moving beyond research and value-added analysis, folding KM/KS into their roles
  • Info pros no longer being perceived by stakeholders as gatekeepers of information, but who empower their users to get their work done and contribute to the organization’s bottom line

How will SLA support corporate information professionals in 10 years?

  • SLA’s member base will have broadened to include info pros of all stripes, no matter their career path
  • SLA will be THE organization for corporate info pros, whether in their first 5 years, mid-career, nearing retirement or retired
  • SLA will continue to provide value-added member benefits for professional development, career sustainability and networking

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