Libraries, the universe and everything

Board candidate questions #4, a webinar, and some final thoughts
August 25, 2016, 11:26
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.

In addition to answering the fourth and final question, posted below, last week I participated in a webinar Q&A with my fellow Chapter Cabinet Chair-Elect candidate. We had been sent a list of possible questions in advance, although we weren’t told which would appear on the day, and there was time for questions from the audience at the end. I had given all of our pre-questions quite a lot of thought, and made notes too, but of course answering them live felt very different. Chris and I took it in turns to answer first and in some cases we had almost identical things to say, so responding second required an amount of improv to try to make my thoughts distinct from his, and to bring out different themes.
In addition to wanting to answer clearly and convey coherent thoughts in the time allotted, I had the extra challenge that this was the first webinar I’d ever spoken in. Several people gave me some excellent advice beforehand, which I appreciated very much and did my best to put into practice – I haven’t listened to the recording yet so I’m not completely sure how this came across, but it certainly made me feel better before and during the session!

I’m deliberately leaving it a little while until I review the recording, so I can come to it with fresher ears and try to be a bit more impartial about my performance. My OH has also offered to give me his critique, and I’m absolutely going to take him up on that. Feedback received in the immediate aftermath was positive, and I came away feeling that I was generally happy with my performance and that I represented myself reasonably well – if my opinion changes once I’ve heard what I actually said (and/or how I said it) I’ll update this post accordingly!

With the publication of question 4, the formal requirements of my candidacy are effectively over, although of course I remain engaged with the process and very much open to questions from anyone who cares to direct them my way. I’m still reading my way through the other candidates’ responses to Q4, and am looking forward to the fourth and final webinar (with the Presidents Elect) next week – my fellow candidates are all such talented and engaged professionals, it’s going to be really hard to choose who to vote for.

Being a candidate has been a tremendous experience. I’ve loved taking time to think more deeply than usual about many of the issues facing SLA, as well as having the opportunity to represent myself and my views on these things to the wider membership. Whichever way the vote goes in September I will come out of this process a more thoughtful and committed member of the association, and I’m really looking forward to whatever happens next.

Q.4: “SLA has undergone major changes. A new Executive Director is in place and new Competencies have been adopted. What actions should SLA be taking to assure a strong future for the Association and its members?”

Lately, most of SLA’s energies have rightly been focussed on getting its own house in order – now that this work is well under way it is time to start looking outwards again. Not only do we want to be in a position to attract forward-thinking and talented information professionals as members, but we should be engaging with high-profile figures in related fields (authors, technologists, data scientists etc.) to act as advocates on our behalf – everyone should understand the benefits of having an information professional in their organisation! Clear and strong messaging around the value of SLA membership should help both attract and retain members, whilst advocacy for the information profession will help ensure it remains a viable career choice.

Meanwhile, SLA could do more to encourage and assist members in their own development. In addition to improving and standardising educational offerings across the association, we could take the updated competencies framework further by developing it into an explicit tool for professional development. In the UK, CILIP did this a few years ago, and their competencies framework is now available as an online self-assessment tool. This not only provides value to members who wish to evaluate their own professional strengths and skills gaps, but it also helps to communicate development needs more strategically to managers who may not be information professionals themselves.

Whatever happens in September this is clearly a transformational time for SLA, and I’m excited to be a part of it!

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