Libraries, the universe and everything

Board candidate questions: #3
August 10, 2016, 11:45
Filed under: SLA | Tags: ,

As part of the candidacy requirements, we all have to answer four predetermined questions, with answers being posted at regular intervals on the campaign webpage. As this is in a members-only area of the SLA website, I decided to share my answers here as well.

Q.3:”SLA is an international organization.  How can SLA involve and reach out more to members outside North America?”

This is a question which really resonates with me. So far, I’ve lived in 4 different countries (England, Scotland, Oman and the US), and travelled in 27 others, I love learning about different cultures and customs, and one of my favourite pastimes is planning where to visit next! As a British transplant to New York city, I am very aware of SLA’s international side, and I’m proud to be a member of SLA Europe as well as the New York chapter.

SLA’s infrastructure should help members to collaborate more, regardless of where in the world they happen to be, and I’m looking forward to seeing what Connect can do to facilitate the sharing of news, advice and content. All units need to be encouraged to report on major and/or particularly successful events – communications staff support should also be allocated to this, and any digital content should be made widely available (whether through the current pooled resources initiative or by other means).

There are all kinds of small, simple things which really help facilitate international participation, but which often get neglected – for example considering the impact of different timezones when scheduling twitter chats and webinars, running them twice (or more) so that members around the world can participate, perhaps even arranging for transcription or translations. Electing international members to the Board is a great way to reinforce SLA’s global outlook, and perhaps there’s more to do at the unit level too – for example, I know that the SLA Europe Board has a regional representative from the USA, as well as members from various European countries. More international presenters at conference ought to enhance the program content, whilst increased financial support for international members to attend conference would help us all to develop those vital inter-personal relationships.

I realise that language can be a barrier to some of this – as a foreigner I’m always being met with strange looks when I use the wrong word, and this in a country which ostensibly speaks the same language as I do! Even within the association we all need to be mindful of how we refer to things, for example not describing SLA’s conference as “national”. There’s also a lot to be gained from checking out what other similar associations are doing – CILIP’s International Library & Information Group maintains a “hosts directory” (like AirBnB for librarians!), and of course IFLA does all kinds of fantastic work which SLA might learn from too. I see the Chapter and Division Cabinets as the logical conduit for SLA’s international endeavours, and the prospect of being involved with this is very exciting to me as a candidate for Chapter Cabinet Chair-Elect!

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