Interview with Tom Rink about SLA’s Information Outlook

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays

June 18, 2024

I had the pleasure of interviewing a few members of the editorial board of Information Outlook, a publication of the Special Libraries Association.

My first interview was with Tom Rink.

1. Please introduce yourself to our readers.

Hi, I am Tom Rink, and I have been a member of the Special Libraries Association (SLA) since the mid-1990s. From Day 1, I have been an active volunteer/contributor serving in many leadership positions including President, Secretary, Treasurer, Membership Chair, Program Planning, Webmaster, etc. I have served a variety of communities (currently Oklahoma and the Academic & Education communities) and have even served on a variety of committees, task forces, advisory councils, and working groups at the association-level. I have served on the SLA Board of Directors twice: 1) as the Division Cabinet Chair-elect, Chair, and Past Chair (2008-2010), then 2) as the President-elect, President, and Past President of the Association (2015-2017). My contributions have been recognized with several Presidential Citations (2002, 2015, 2017), Fellow of the Special Libraries Association (2005), SLA Hall of Fame (2020), and SLA’s John Cotton Dana Award (2023).

I currently work as an Instructor for Library Services at Northeastern State University on the Broken Arrow campus and am the Resource Coordinator and Faculty Liaison for both the College of Liberal Arts as well as the College of Science and Health Professions.

2. Briefly describe Information Outlook.

Information Outlook has been the official publication of the Special Libraries Association since January 1997. From the San Jose State University site: “Articles and columns in Information Outlook address topics of timely interest, such as data curation and digital asset management, as well as issues of perpetual interest, including technology and copyright law. A popular feature is the SLA Member Interview, which offers a close-up look at information professionals in different disciplines, work environments, and countries. (ISSN 1091-0808)” All the issues are archived at The publication ceased in 2020 (only two issues produced) due to budget constraints.

Prior to Information Outlook, there were two other publications: Special Libraries (quarterly magazine) and SpeciaList (monthly newsletter). Both of these previous titles ceased publication in 1996 (being replaced by Information Outlook).

Special Libraries began publication in January 1910 and ran through 1996. Here is a statement of the magazine’s original goal (per Guy St. Clair’s centennial history book, SLA at 100: From “Putting Knowledge to Work” to Building the Knowledge Culture: A Centennial History of SLA (Special Libraries Association), 1909-2009:

“It will serve as a medium of intercommunication and to a certain extent will be a clearing house of notes and news of special interest to the members of the association. It will publish a limited number of papers and short reference lists. It will devote special attention, however, to listing the more important current literature and especially those books, official reports, pamphlets, and periodical articles that are not included in the general book lists and periodical indexes. Conforming to the needs of libraries represented, these current lists will relate chiefly to public affairs, social problems, public utilities, technology, insurance, and finance. It is believed that such information will be very useful not only to special libraries but to a very large number of general and public libraries. … It is expected that the members of the Association will communicate to the secretary for notice in Special Libraries news, items, and references to important publications. Short notices in relation to new methods of work will be particularly helpful. “

All the past issues of Special Libraries are archived at

3. Why did you join the editorial board of Information Outlook?

I was asked by the Association’s Past President, Seema Rampersad, to serve on this editorial board. I have been saying “yes” to SLA for many years now, and am known to have difficulty saying “no,” but I did ask for clarification on the expected commitment for this role. Leslie Steele, the Executive Director responded back with “the editorial board would work with me to develop the quarterly themes, collect content, and review the magazine prior to publication” and it sounded like something I could fit into my schedule. Relaunching the magazine sounded like a win-win to me, and serving on an editorial board with other dedicated members seemed like a great way to engage.

4. How does Information Outlook fulfill a need in the special librarians community?

Specialized librarians don’t always fit into any of the recognized, most-often-thought-of categories such as academic librarians, public librarians, or school librarians. Oftentimes they are in such specialized settings, serving such specialized clientele, that it is difficult to find a “home” association. SLA is that home. Information Outlook, the Association’s official magazine, is the “voice” of this home. One of SLA’s strengths is the diversity of the membership all housed under one roof, and while we do have a large number of academics, they have chosen SLA over other academic-related library associations mainly because of their subject specialty. Information Outlook offers a vehicle for communicating and sharing some of the unique roles, libraries, stories, etc., with the rest of our membership. Information Outlook is a place for our members to share their expertise, knowledge, ideas, and commonalities.

5. As members of the editorial board, what is your vision for the future of Information Outlook?

I don’t believe we have an overall “vision,” but as individuals, we share the vision of creating a much needed magazine for the association. The original goal statement remains pertinent: “It will serve as a medium of intercommunication and to a certain extent will be a clearing house of notes and news of special interest to the members of the association.” I think it is important to have a magazine and was disappointed when it was discontinued in 2020 (despite fully understanding the reasoning behind the decision to cease publication). Moving to a quarterly, online publication is a good direction for us to resurrect the magazine. My own vision—continue to provide quality content on a quarterly basis for years to come.

6. What topics do you hope you highlight in forthcoming issues?

Our Winter 2024 issue did not really have a theme, but it included an article about the SLA 115th Anniversary this year and was a historical piece.

Our recently published Spring 2024 issue was on the theme of “Risk Management.”

The Summer issue will be published the month of our conference (Leslie Steele wants to have physical copies available at the conference—I’m not sure this is feasible financially—but we’ll have to wait and see) and will focus on topics related to the educational sessions.

The Fall 2024 issue will have a theme of News and Civic Literacy, Mass Media, and the Dissemination of Information (especially with the upcoming election).

The Winter 2025 issue will have a theme relating to the SLA Communities (but this hasn’t been finalized). That is all we have “scheduled” for now.

7. Are you seeking submissions or regular contributors?

Yes and no. Yes, we are seeking submissions and have said we will take a look at anything (whether topic specific or not)—reluctant to turn any good idea away. We are hoping to have regular content for each issue (not necessarily the same contributor for each issue though). The types of “regular” columns we would like to have include:

  • a letter from the President of the Association (didn’t have one for the Spring 2024 issue), but would be good to have in every issue
  • a featured article (a longer article focused on the issue theme, hopefully)
  • a book review
  • an article from the SLA Fellows
  • a “member spotlight”
  • an article from a specific community (highlight of the community, or perhaps a spotlight-type of article on the community)

We are still in the infancy stage of this relaunch and things will probably continue to evolve as we move forward.

8. Is there anything else you would like to share?

I can’t think of anything else. Content is king. Getting people to contribute content and then staying ahead of who is contributing, and to which issue, is going to be the biggest challenge. The good news: since it is a quarterly magazine, a lot of the pressure is off for having to come up with content every month, so for now, it seems to be working just fine, but I can sense a time (as with all publications) when we will likely have to work a little harder to get the content. I’m just delighted that we have the magazine up and running again and that we already have two issues under our belt with a third issue forming up as we speak.

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.

**Disclaimer: Any in-line promotional text does not imply Lucidea product endorsement by the author of this post.

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