Earlier this month, SLA's Executive Director Janice LaChance was in the Bay Area, and attended the joint meeting of the San Andreas and SF Bay chapter. Her keynote was conducted as a interview with the Association President, Cindy Hill. She talked about joining SLA (she's been ED for approximately half a year now), the Association's strengths, potentials and obstacles and what she sees as the long-term goals SLA can and should embrace.
Some of her thoughts (written in third person; questions from Cindy and the audience, as well as the answers, are paraphrased):
Why did you choose to come to work for SLA?
She was a consultant at the time, and was somewhat frustrated that her work focused on only one aspect of the organizations that were her clients. When she heard the position was open, she looked into what special libraries did, and saw a lot of potential and talent with the Association.
SLA just came out of it's Winter Leadership Summit with a new vision and mission statement. How do you view it?
The new vision and mission statement gives a very straightforward, clear visionary statement. It eliminates/puts to bed the question of whether SLA is indeed a global organization. It focuses on three areas:
2) Advocacy -- a champion of the profession
3) Professional development
You've been traveling a lot for the past 6 months, meeting with various SLA chapters as well as attending to Association business. What surprises or observations have you discovered to SLA?
The strength of SLA is in its diversity
SLA members are nice and like to have fun, [and jokingly] there's a lot of wine drinking at SLA gatherings.
What do the Association's partners bring to SLA?
They add to the diversity of the Association; their presence and involvement staves off an us-versus-them mentality; there's a lot of successful integration in how to make everyone profit from partner's activities/products.
What best practices from your experience in the federal government can be applied to SLA?
Also, encouraging new perspectives -- help people learn and grow by providing the right resources and tools
What positions have you filled since joining SLA?
Staffers to handle the following:
Communications and marketing
What's expected of leaders at the unit level and how should units respond?
Recruiting and mentoring are crucial at the unit level; we need to get people involved in SLA.
What turns you on?
What turns you off?
"One of your stated priorities upon starting at SLA was to increase the focus on public policy by the Association. Where are you with that and what can people at the unit level do in this regard?"
SLA now has an in-house specialist/staffer who focuses almost exclusively on public policy. Also, the Association has formed coalitions with other major library associations (particularly: ALA, AALL, MLA, ARL) to file joint amicus briefs in legal cases that affect libraries and librarians. We need to get people throughout the organization who are interested in public policy to come forward and become active on that front>
What can be done to enhance the value of librarians within corporations?
SLA has a definite role in helping librarians and in helping corporations realize the value of their librarians ...
How does SLA retain members?
Through its two strengths: networking and professional development.
How does SLA compare with ALA?
There are important differences between ALA and SLA. SLA provides different services and resouces to its membership than does ALA. ALA has put a lot of resources towards public policy, and SLA partners with them on a case-by-case basis. However, there are different instutitional priorities, as well as somewhat different missions.
What should be SLA's stances on the USA PATRIOT Act?
SLA needs to stay on top of the issue. The Act affects special libraries just as much as it affects other libraries; SLA should not cede the issue to other associations.
I'm left out a lot, but this is the gist of what I wrote down. Part II will be my personal perspective on the Association ...