Interview with Incoming SLA President John DiGilio

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays

January 09, 2024

The Special Libraries Association (SLA) offers special librarians opportunities to connect, gain knowledge, and support in the profession. John DiGilio will be the Special Libraries Association President for 2024. My interview with him is below.

Please introduce yourself to our readers.

I am John DiGilio, president of the Special Libraries Association for 2024 and Firmwide Director of Library Services for Sidley Austin LLP. Though I have been a professional legal researcher for over 25 years, I have been working in libraries since my teens. Suffice it to say (since I do not want to date myself) that it has been almost 40 years! Having lived, studied, and worked all over the world, being part of libraries has been one of the very few constants in my life. The funny thing is that it took me years and years to figure out that the thing I did on the side to pay for schooling and travel could actually become the life-altering and incredibly satisfying career that it has. I have seen a lot of change in this industry over the years. I would like to hope that I even helped affect some of it. I think the current outlook for librarians and information professionals is as exciting today as it was when I first decided to give this career a go. Personally, I am not ready to call it quits any time soon!

Please share about the Special Libraries Association (SLA).

I have been a member of the Special Libraries Association for over 20 years now and I have watched it evolve with the members and the industries it serves. For 115 years, SLA has been giving a voice to and touting the value of special librarians. Regardless of the sector in which you work, our Association has something to offer you. Whether it is networking with others who do what you do, sharing best practices across disciplines, or availing yourself of opportunities for both vertical and lateral professional growth, SLA has your professional interests at heart.

What support does SLA offer its members?

As I mentioned above, the professional networking and learning opportunities SLA has to offer are outstanding. The strength of the Association lies in both the diversity and enthusiasm of its members. We have special interest communities that connect and cater to almost every professional niche and industry concern there is. This includes geographically and issues focused groups in addition to those that address specific areas of practice. These communities offer continuing education sessions, industry insights and best practice content, and even advocacy— along with newsletters, reports, discussion boards, and in-person or virtual learning 

What professional development areas are important for special librarians?

There are so many, of course. The ever-growing list of what we can or should learn is a testament to our staying power as a profession. One area I would highlight is the need to always be on top of the latest tools, technologies, and methods for doing what we do. Every single area of the information industry is evolving, and the pace of change seems to just keep speeding up year after year. The innovations we see and the challenges we face are as diverse as the areas in which we practice. While no single person can stay on top of it all, we can collectively evaluate and advise on the best new ideas out there. As they say, “it takes a village” and SLA has a global one at that.

What resources does SLA have in those areas?

Just to happily reiterate and reinforce what I mentioned earlier, SLA has its diverse communities and all the fantastic content that they have to offer. There are always new learning sessions being scheduled and advertised to all members. Though you do not have to be a member of a specific community to participate, we encourage all who are part of our Association to join all the communities that interest them. If online classes are not your thing or you need something on the spur of the moment, the discussion boards on our Connect platform are a great resource for sharing tips and tricks.

In 2024, we will be bringing back our Association magazine and opening it to all our communities for the sharing of best practices, industry insights, and articles that celebrate who we are and what we do as special librarians. Combined with a reformatted conference that focuses on instructional content and professional networking, we are taking a back-to-basics approach to supporting the educational needs of our members.

What information can you share about the next SLA conference? What can attendees expect?

We are in the process of rethinking our approach to conferences and dialing things back to those things that attendees value most— high quality continuing education and meaningful networking with colleagues. While the structure and sessions are still coming together, I can share a few details at this stage. SLA is working with a prominent educational institution in Rhode Island to craft and curate an experience that will inspire and reinvigorate our members as well as provide the return on investment that both the attendees and sponsors expect for their money. Stay tuned for some imminent, official announcements—and I hope to see you all there next year!

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Librarianship and the power of information have been passions of mine for more than two decades. For all the challenges and obstacles we have faced in this profession, we have repeatedly opened our minds and used our know-how to turn each and every one into an opportunity to demonstrate the value we bring to our institutions and communities. Even in this age of artificial intelligence and made-to-order information, I am as optimistic as ever about the need for us and for our skills. It is the librarians and information professionals of the world who will take these innovations and put them to work in ways that make them meaningful and valuable, not just to our employers, but to the world as a whole. We are the movers and shakers who make sense of what is being moved and shaken!

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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