SLA 2018: Diversity in the profession

If I had to sum up my SLA 2018 conference experience in one word, it would be diversity.

It’s all about the ribbons, stickers, and pins.

New this year at the conference were ribbons showing years of membership. I did the math and realized I’ve been a member of the Special Libraries Association (SLA) for 20 years, and have attended every annual conference for the last 15 years. That’s a long time — I’ve never even lived in one place for that long.

With my transition to an academic job in the humanities this year, I’ve done a lot of thinking about where I will be professionally active. I joined the American Library Association (ALA) and the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL). I even attempted to attend the ALA Midwinter Meeting in February, but I was thwarted by (surprise!) a midwinter blizzard. (I will try again next year.) SLA is not the obvious choice for me, and there aren’t a whole lot of other Germanic and Slavic language librarians in SLA — but one of the benefits of SLA for me is the opportunity to talk to and learn from information professionals with many different backgrounds.

Yes, it is good for people doing similar jobs to talk to each other, and I got some good practical ideas at the Academic Librarians Roundtable. But it’s also important to connect with people doing different jobs in different kinds of organizations, because that is often where innovation begins.

I started the conference by getting to know my fellow candidates for the SLA Board of Directors. SLA’s announcement summed us up: Board Candidates Span Wide Range of Library Environments. We work in a subscription management firm, a large academic library, a banking software company, a specialized academic library, and two law libraries. We come from different parts of the US, and even from outside of it with a candidate from Ireland. (Last year’s slate included a candidate from New Zealand, and our President-Elect is from the UK.) During the conference, SLA inducted the first member from India into its Hall of Fame (PK Jain), in part for his work to grow the SLA Asian Chapter. SLA’s current board includes a member without the traditional library school credential, Zena Applebaum, and she recently wrote about her experience as a non-librarian, non-lawyer working in a law library for 3 Geeks and a Law. I attended the interactive session “A United Vision: IFLA’s Global Vision for the Library Field,” and one of the topics my group addressed was whether the ALA-accredited MLIS was a necessary credential, and the various ways librarians are credentialed in other countries. One of my favorite sessions at the conference was a panel called, “Choosing Your Partners: Strategic Choices for Successful Librarians,” which included both academic and corporate librarians talking about their experiences as embedded librarians.

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden gave the opening keynote.

I’m aware that I’ve only touched on a few aspects of diversity. Like most organizations, we in SLA still have work to do to be inclusive and accessible. This conference featured the first session presented by the new Diversity, Inclusion, Community, and Equity (DICE) Caucus. We were reminded that this conference was originally slated for Charlotte, and moved to Baltimore after North Carolina passed discriminatory legislation. The conference included a session on transgender information resources (which I unfortunately had to miss due to a conflict, but I met one of the presenters later and he gave me a link to his list of transgender information resources). Not one of the three keynote speakers was white. I believe SLA is committed to doing this work and making progress on it.

How to present a poster webinar recording

If you missed the webinar last week, a recording is now available from SLA Social Science Division.

This was the first time I’ve presented a webinar. I owe a big thank you to the session organizer, Maya Kucij, who was also new to this. She spent quite a bit of time reading documentation and testing software with me. I’ve got a small list of things I would do differently if I present another webinar, but overall it went well. I did miss the little cues you get from talking to a live audience – but I also didn’t have any distractions while I was talking. Using polls to ask the audience questions gave me some feedback about who I was talking to, and also reassured me that they were still listening.

I’m really glad to see so many SLA chapters and divisions using the SLA GoToMeeting account to present webinars. For chapters, it opens up programming to members who have difficulty making it to in-person meetings. For divisions, it allows for year-round programming and benefits members who can’t attend the annual conference. It also provides opportunities for chapters and divisions to collaborate on programming.


Presenting a poster is a great way to share your ideas with colleagues – and it can be a gentle introduction to presenting in other formats.

If you are attending SLA 2012 in Chicago this summer, you have an opportunity to present a poster during an open house hosted by the Social Science, Academic, Education, and Museum, Arts & Humanities Divisions.

Next week I’ll be giving a webinar on poster presentations for anyone considering submitting a proposal for this or any other poster session. The webinar is on April 20 at noon Eastern, and I hope to have a registration link soon registration is now open!

Following are some additional resources for poster presenters:

In my previous job, I taught an annual workshop for graduate students on presenting posters. The idea for the workshop came from a discussion with a faculty member about how to improve the quality of posters at a conference he organized, and evolved over the years as I worked with students.

The guide I created, while tailored to the needs of demography graduate students, provides a summary of design and presentation advice I gathered.

Other resources I found helpful:

Displaying Your FindingsDisplaying Your Findings: A Practical Guide for Creating Figures, Posters, and Presentations by Adelheid A. M. Nicol and Penny M. Pexman (American Psychological Association, 2003)

Poster Presentations: Designing Effective Posters by Fred Stoss (University at Buffalo Libraries)

Developing Poster Presentations in the Social Sciences (George Mason University Writing Center)

What do you bring back from conferences?

Conference sessionRegistration for SLA 2012 opened this week, and members all over the world are busy booking Chicago hotels and perusing the conference schedule.

If you’re going to SLA or some other conference this year, what will you bring back with you? A tote bag? Some free pens? Maybe if you’re very lucky, an iPad won in a drawing?

How about bringing back something that will help your boss and your coworkers appreciate the value of the conference? I’m not talking about any kind of magic. Just share what you learned at the conference. Not just on your blog and your Twitter account and with your librarian colleagues, but in your workplace.

I touched on this a little bit last year, but it’s a good time for a reminder. The Learning Circuits Blog has a nice list of 10 Ways to Bring a Conference Back to Work.

Plan ahead so when your boss drops in to ask how the conference was, you are ready with more than just a report on the weather in Chicago. What did you learn? What connections did you make?

Conference serendipity

Touring the Free Library of Philadelphia map collectionThere is something about getting together in person – just like there is something about browsing the shelves in a library – that leads to discoveries.

At SLA last month, I attended a tour of the Free Library of Philadelphia’s map collection with the Social Science Division Geography and Map Section. I decided to attend because I’ve always enjoyed G&M Section programs in the past, even though I’m not a map librarian, and because I always learn something when I get to visit another library behind the scenes.

I did, of course, learn a lot from seeing the different kinds of maps in the collection, how they were stored, and learning about conservation and digitization projects. The best part of the tour for me, though, came from a casual question I asked as I was about to leave: “Do you have any postal maps?”

The answer to that question led me to a resource that my library patrons can use, a potential collaboration, and to thinking about what other postal history-related collections might be tucked away in unexpected places.

On my library’s blog, I wrote a post about what I found at the Free Library of Philadelphia and more about finding postal history information in libraries. That post was featured in our member newsletter, and literally overnight became one of our most-read blog posts.

The Facebook tip I learned at SLA

One of the most useful things I learned at SLA this year came not from one of the many expert speakers but from a casual conversation with a colleague.

I was frustrated because I couldn’t find a way to comment on posts from a page I’m an admin for as myself. I finally found the solution and thought I’d share it.

Use Facebook as SLA Social Science DivisionNo matter how much I clicked on the “Use Facebook as SLA Social Science Division” and “Use Facebook as Tara” links, whenever I liked or commented on a Social Science Division post, it came up as a like or comment from the Social Science Division – making it look like the division was having a conversation with itself. I had resigned myself to the fact that I could no longer comment as myself once I became an admin. (At least until the next time Facebook changes its interface…)

I had complained about this “feature” to several people, when Morgan Grimes pointed out to me that there is a way to toggle between posting as the page and posting as myself.

For each page you are an admin for, you need to adjust the settings so that you don’t comment as the page by default.

Edit PageFirst, go to the page, and click on the “Edit Page” button in the upper right.

Your SettingsNext, click on “Your Settings” in the menu on the left.

Then you can uncheck the box that says “Always post and comment on your page as…”

Now the links to toggle between “Use Facebook as SLA Social Science Division” and “Use Facebook as Tara” actually work!

How to lead a virtual meeting

Ruth Wolfish has been leading monthly web-based meetings for SLA chapter leadership, and shared her lessons learned during the Leadership Development Institute at the beginning of SLA 2011.

I lead a bimonthly phone meeting for a group of philatelic librarians, and we’ve been thinking of trying to use the web to include library representatives from outside the U.S. I also lead a bimonthly phone board meeting for my SLA division board. While neither group has moved to web-based meetings yet, much of what Ruth shared can be applied to phone meetings.

Here’s a summary of her advice with a few comments from me:

  • Unlike in face to face meetings, people can leave early without being rude, so engage attendees early. (This is less true for small meetings, but attendees sitting in their offices will probably be checking their email or Facebook during the call if they get bored.)
  • Use a world clock if your audience is in multiple time zones.
  • Take questions in advance so you can be prepared to answer them during the meeting.
  • Practice the web features of the meeting software ahead of time. (Or, make sure you know how to use your teleconferencing system.)
  • Send out a reminder notice the morning of the meeting.
  • Ask attendees why they chose to join the meeting so you know what they want to get out of it.
  • Use the mute and chat box to manage discussion. (On a conference call, make sure attendees know they can mute their line when they are not talking to eliminate background noise.)
  • Set a date and time for the next meeting.
  • Thank people for attending and share your contact information.
  • After the meeting, send out highlight notes for those who didn’t attend. This informs them and encourages them to attend future meetings. (I send out notes to the entire group after each of my calls. It helps keep those who couldn’t attend updated so they can jump in at the next meeting.)

Why I’m tired this morning: SLA 2011

I got back from SLA 2011 in Philadelphia last night. As usual, it was a great conference and I came back full of ideas, many of which I plan to share here. But for now, I will share with you the reason I am drinking a second cup of coffee this morning:

SLA 2011 schedule

SLA has a really packed schedule and doesn’t leave much time for eating or sleeping.

Non-traditional conferences

Don’t get me wrong. I love library conferences. I’ve attended SLA every year for the past 10 years and I’m registered for SLA 2011. I attended the much smaller APLIC conference when I worked in demography. Last year I attended PaLA for the first time and had a blast.

But, sometimes we need to take a break from talking to each other and go to some different conferences. I came across two blog posts on this subject this week:

On Library Attack, Kendra Levine writes about going to conferences in her subject area – to learn about what is going on in the research community, and to make new partnerships for herself and the librarian community. She points out that no one will see librarians as an important part of the research community if we don’t see ourselves that way.

On 3 Geeks and a Law Blog, a group of writers talk about their favorite “non-traditional” conferences. While this post isn’t specifically related to libraries, it makes the point that there are lots of different kinds of conferences out there.

In my new job at a non-profit, there are few relevant academic conferences and there is less money for travel and professional development, but I’ve still been able to get to relevant events. I’ve been to stamp shows – where I’m mostly working at a booth, but I host a meeting for other librarians and try to get to as many seminars as I can. I’ve also been to a symposium that includes both academics and hobbyists (a really interesting mix).

What non-traditional conferences do you attend – non-library conferences, or non-traditional library conferences?

The after conference

After attending a professional conference, you are probably tired and behind on things both at home and at work. The last thing you want to do is come home and continue the conference – but this is exactly what you should do. You’ll get a lot more out of the conference experience if you collect your thoughts, follow up with fellow attendees, and get started on anything you promised to do right away.

Write a conference report. Your boss may ask for this – but even if he or she doesn’t, write one. I once had a boss who would stop by my office after a conference and ask how it went. I learned to come back from every conference with a quick sentence or two about the value of the conference. Your conference report could be as brief as that, or maybe something longer written in your diary, filed with your conference materials, or posted on your blog. Consider writing something for an association newsletter or blog, which will also benefit your colleagues who couldn’t attend the conference. Writing about the conference experience will help you digest what you learned, and give you something to say when people ask about the conference.

Follow up with colleagues. You probably met some new people at the conference. Did you promise to send them anything? Do they have blogs, Twitter feeds, or LinkedIn profiles you can follow? If you want to stay connected, don’t wait until you have a drawer filled with business cards from people you don’t remember.

Let people know what you learned. If you are able to accomplish something at work based on what you learned or who you met at a conference, let your boss and co-workers know. It helps them see the value of professional development activities.

I was inspired to write these tips partly because I just got back from the SLA Leadership Summit (watch for more blog posts about what I learned!) and partly by a post from the Embedded Librarian.

The post actually offers a related pre-conference tip:

start telling your colleagues about SLA annual conference as soon as you register. This way (ideally) they will be more interested in what you’ve learned there once you return.