Interview with Cara Marcus on Transportation Librarianship and SLA

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays

April 02, 2024

Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with Cara Marcus, the president of the Special Libraries Association (SLA) transportation community.

Lauren Hays: Would you start out by introducing yourself, please?

Cara Marcus: I’m Cara Marcus, and I am the knowledge and resource manager for National Rural Transit Assistance Program. We’re called National RTAP. Our headquarters are in Woburn, Massachusetts, but our organization is national and we are responsible for rural and Tribal transit and State RTAP programs throughout the States and US. Territories.

Currently, I am also the president of the Special Libraries Association (SLA) transportation community.

Lauren: Will you please expand on your role with SLA?

Cara: I’ve been in SLA since I graduated from Simmons College. I have always been a special librarian for my professional career, and I think SLA membership is really a must for anybody who’s going to be a special librarian. When I was a new librarian, it helped me in many ways. For example, I met others who could mentor me. Now I am in a position to help others, both in terms of their involvement in the transportation library world, and in their careers with the transportation community.

The transportation library community is vibrant. We have over a hundred members, and we have a great website. We have platforms on Linkedin and X, we do quarterly transportation collection showcases, and we have a good showing at the annual conference. It is a very active community and its members know each other.

Lauren: What are some of the goals of the transportation community?

Cara: The goal of the transportation community is to provide education about being a transportation special librarian or information professional. We provide a listserv where someone posts almost every day. Best practices are shared through the community.

Lauren: What changes do you see in the near future for either special librarians, broadly, or specifically transportation librarians?

Cara: Special librarians are on the cusp of a lot of technological change, which is good, and is also daunting. Everybody at every meeting now is talking about the proliferation of AI, and what that means to the transportation library world—not just for the librarians, but for the vehicles too. We are all starting to get a handle on that, and will look to SLA for knowledge on AI and other technological innovations.

Lauren: Are there specific ways that the transportation community is advocating for themselves within the community?

Cara: We have collection development showcases that are a good way of doing that. The showcases highlight the librarians who are collecting, organizing, and disseminating information.

Lauren: You mentioned you have been a member of SLA since 1991. If you could summarize SLA in 2 or 3 words, what words would you select?

Cara: First, community. When I first joined in 1991, I was a brand-new librarian. I joined just to find out what it means to be a special librarian, apart from what I learned in school, and I did. I went to meetings all the time. We had a Boston community and we had meetings that were in different people’s homes or apartments. People would bake cookies, and it was just so nice to meet the other librarians in that setting.

Second, value-added. I remember when I first started with SLA they had Information Outlook. I still have the anniversary edition on my bookshelf at home where they reprinted articles from the 1800s when SLA was first formed. I am very excited to see that Information Outlook has been renewed and is being published again.

Lauren: Is there anything else you would like to share?

Cara: Yes, one other thing that SLA has done recently that has been great is that they used to let members be in only one division/community for free, and you had to pay for others. Now you can freely be in as many communities or special interest groups as you want. This is really important because a lot of librarians wear many hats; e.g., many transportation librarians have a strong affinity affiliation with STEM and engineering librarians. Therefore, you could be in all those or other communities, and benefit from subject overlap and different people with whom you can network. In addition, I am excited about their new website. It seems that in the last year there have really been many exciting things going on in SLA.

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays

Dr. Lauren Hays is an Assistant Professor of Instructional Technology at the University of Central Missouri, and a frequent presenter and interviewer on topics related to libraries and librarianship. Please read Lauren’s other posts relevant to special librarians. Take a look at Lucidea’s powerful integrated library systems, SydneyEnterprise, and GeniePlus, used daily by innovative special librarians in libraries of all types, sizes and budgets.

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