I had the pleasure of interviewing Leslie Steele, the Executive Director for the Special Libraries Association, and John DiGilio, President of the Special Libraries Association for 2024, about the future of the Special Libraries Association.
1. Please introduce yourselves.
My name is Leslie Steele. I am the current executive director for the Special Libraries Association. I began this role in July. I have an MBA with a specialization in data analytics and over 10 years of association management experience.
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!
2. Please share about how to join SLA.
Founded in 1909, SLA is about more than simply “libraries”; it is home to all information professionals, researchers, analysts, scientists, AND librarians. SLA’s arms reach around the globe with members in 45 countries and over 72 active communities that members can join. These communities host their own events to learn and network with one another. Communities are based on profession, special interests, and regions. There are many benefits to joining SLA, and with the current war on books, joining SLA is more important than ever. SLA empowers our members to connect with one another, share ideas and research, learn, submit content for our publication, Information Outlook, and so much more. To join SLA, please visit https://www.sla.org/access-membership/join-sla/
3. What does the future of SLA look like?
SLA is about to hit its 115th year, which is exciting. Part of what we are doing now is looking at what has made SLA the association that it is. We are starting to look at returning to the basics and making sure that in the wake of the pandemic and remote working, and all the changes that have occurred in the last couple of years, we are well positioned to serve our members and advocate for the sector in this new landscape.
So much has changed in the last 115 years. It is time to look back at what we have done and consider what we can do better.
4. Please share about Information Outlook magazine.
Information Outlook has been a valued member offering from SLA for many, many years. It is not an academic journal; it is more of a practitioner’s journal. It provides tips and tricks on how to do what we do better, and because our membership is so diverse it provides the opportunity to share and learn from one another. When an association’s membership has law librarians, medical librarians, individuals in science, government, and the military, everyone has different ways of doing things and there is a lot that can be shared. Information Outlook has long been about that sharing of information, that sharing of best practices.
With the pandemic, the magazine went on hiatus, but SLA is bringing it back.
5. What are SLA’s plans for the magazine?
We want to use Information Outlook to highlight our members, and the skill sets they have, as well as highlight all the different specialties represented within the Special Libraries Association.
It will not be the exact same Information Outlook as before, but we are hoping to have published content from various communities (SLA has 72 different communities with different interests).
It will be another way to network through digital media.
6. Is there anything you can share about the next SLA conference?
It will be July 14-16, 2024 at the University of Rhode Island. Currently, we are mapping out the schedule and planning the sessions. We are looking to talk about and discuss topics surrounding AI and machine learning technology, data mining, research, and the modern librarian. I (Leslie) was talking with someone earlier today about possibly having a panel where we talk about leveraging your worth as a special librarian. Last year, we collaborated with another association for our conference, and this year we are going to have our own standalone conference, which we are very excited about. I think it is important to offer educational programming that is specific to SLA’s uniqueness, and we are aiming to do just that in 2024.
For more information on the 2024 SLA Conference, please visit https://www.sla.org/partner-with-sla/sponsor/
7. What else does SLA have in the works?
In the next year, there is going to be a lot of surveying to determine what people are looking for and what they expect of this association. Then, we will look at ways that we can make sure SLA is meeting those needs.
115 years is a very long time. It is a legacy. It is something to be very proud of, and we want to continue for another 115 years. We do have to address and adjust with the way technology has evolved. And that’s the kind of thing we’re looking for our membership to help with. In order to provide the best that SLA can offer, we need to know what our members’ needs are and address them. This will be at the forefront of our strategic plan for 2024 and beyond.
We want to focus on improving education and be a resource for our members through SLA Connect, webinars, Information Outlook, communities, and conferences. We have a robust learning management system, but we are looking to update it. We are also looking to update our website and undertake rebranding, because we do realize and accept that SLA is much more than special librarians.
8. What is something you would like special librarians to know about SLA?
This is an exciting time to be a part of SLA. As we move into 2024, we are developing programs and setting strategic goals to develop SLA and our members.
SLA represents at least 45 countries in our membership. We are a prominent international association. The overall goal of our association is to spread education and awareness, and continuously develop our members and provide them with opportunities to publish work, network, and highlight their skills as information professionals. For more information visit www.sla.org.
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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