“Only the strongest professions have the strongest associations“ - 2012 SLA Hall of Fame inductee Susan Fifer Canby
Chicago in July is hot, even with the lake breeze you can’t escape the concrete jungle heat. So I learned that the key to my personal success in attending the annual SLA (Special Library Asociation) conference was:
- #1 keep hydrated
- #2 pick the right sessions to go to (hard when so many are going on at the same time!)
- #3 when taking a break from sessions and sitting down with other attendees, choose a shady cool spot (unfortunately, I learned that the hard way!)
Two weeks ago, I attended the SLA 2012 (Special Library Association) conference as an attendee, not as a vendor staff person as I have for many many years (although, I always made sure I was able to sneak away and go to some sessions that I really wanted to go to— often negotiating booth time slots with my coworkers). This year, my focus was on attending as many interesting sessions as I could and to meet as many information professionals as possible that had similar interests.
Here are some high level themes I came back to California with:
- Throughout 2011 I kept an eye on the SLA Future Ready Project, a project that Cindy Romaine, SLA President 2011 had led with the goal of finding and sharing information about how information professionals had to get ‘Future Ready’. Many of the sessions and conversations this year were focused on what and where the professions of ‘Special Librarians’ were going. I had numerous conversations on value (perceived and measurable), extension of roles (where else in the organization to embed oneself) and identity (what is a special librarian, what is the role of information in the enterprise, etc.). The general consensus I heard was that as a profession, information professionals feel that they are or are on the way to being ‘Future Ready’.
- I attended a session on collaborative insights that highlighted some new information professional roles. I thought these roles were great role descriptions for the skills and experience that come with being an information professional in an enterprise including:
- Connectors at Critical Intersections
- Innovation Facilitators
- In more than one session and conversation, the topic of ‘delivering information to users where they are’ came up. Mary Ellen Bates in one panel, made the association that it is not only about giving users the ability to ‘search’ but being able to proactively ‘alert’ within context of what they are doing, regardless of what device they are using.
- The rise of internal enterprise app stores and the opportunity for Information Resource Centers/corporate libraries to become front and center to that new enterprise ecosystem. Being first in line to delivering valuable enterprise applications within these new platforms would raise awareness of the services provided and direct value to the enterprise.
- Types of collaboration skills to develop as an information professional includes ‘Horizontal Collaboration’ within organization— IT, HR, and very importantly rainmaking with C level executives.
- In regards to collaboration, I really liked this reminder from Mary Talley : “collaboration requires intimacy“. - The shift to self service and self curation and the changes in how end-users use and consume information was another popular topic heard in many sessions— unlike the ‘clients’ of the past, the skills AND the tools available to end-users enable self access (and success with it). Information professionals MUST understand and become champions of these tools.
- Very popular sessions: 60 Apps in 60 minutes conducted by Scott Brown of the Social Information Group and Joe Murphy who highlighted the need for information professionals to have a good grasp of tools readily available so they can make recommendations, compete effectively and become part of the app culture that the corporate enterprise is now embracing.
- Guy Kawasaki— gave the keynote, focused on Enchantment (that is the name of his newest book). Although I wish Guy had focused a bit more on addressing the actual audience of information professionals (something he talks about being a requirement to enchant!)— his core message can be applied to pretty much any profession that is responsible for providing services and products: Enchant people and build something DICEE - Deep, Intelligent, Complete, Empowering & Elegant.
- Last but not least on my list, Lee Ann Benkert (@LRBenkert, pictured above) spontaneously organized an ‘un-conference’ session during lunch. She asked people to join in the social media lounge and self-organize into small groups to talk about topics that were top of mind to them. It was a new thing for many of the attendees, and it was great to see their excitement. I have been to many un-conference events, and honestly, the group session I was in was just OK (it was about one’s identity as a special librarian, e.g., what should the title really be, etc.). But the classy part was that Lee Ann managed to include the expo vendors who might have complained that this was taking people away from the expo floor booths during the time when attendees had free time to visit by coordinating a ‘flash-mob’ visit to the vendor that best included themselves in the process of the un-conference organization—well done!
There were many other sessions which you can view here, many have slide-decks as well (click through the session title) and there is also an eventifier conference overview that has aggregated images, tweets, slides etc.
Thank you SLA for another excellent conference and thank you to all my old and new friends that I got to spend time with— see you next year in San Diego!
Note: This post was originally posted on my personal blog, chitchating about information delivery.