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Change Is Our Tradition: A Message from SLA's President
Special Libraries Association (SLA) is facing the information revolution with the same creative energy and pioneering spirit with which its founder, John Cotton Dana, faced the print explosion. In preparing for my inaugural address this year, I discovered that change is the tradition of SLA. That being so, at the end of my address I promised our membership a very traditional year, and that was before I knew that we would also be replacing our executive director of 21 years, Dr David Bender.
At the turn of the last century, John Cotton Dana talked about the print explosion the same way we talk about the information revolution: "Worldly information goes on piling up; so much of it in print as to make that which is printed almost impossible of control". His answer was to lead a change in the practice of librarianship by recognizing the need for and demanding changes in library methods. He formed an organization of those who were leading those changes, the SLA. For the next year we will honor our founder by leading change ourselves, both as individuals in our workplaces and as an association. Knowledge management, Web-based information services, and virtual libraries are just a few of the developments that offer opportunities for our profession to take a leadership role in transforming our organizations. To prepare, this year's annual conference placed a strong emphasis on leadership, highlighted by a new and expanded Leadership Development Institute. Noted speaker Carol Kinsey Goman urged SLA participants to thrive on change and learn to be transformational leaders.
During the coming association year, SLA will honor its founder by embracing change. Five task forces are hard at work to shape a future SLA that will serve well the changing needs of the global information professional. New membership categories and benefits packages will allow members more individual choice, an "SLA just for you" approach. A simplification task force will streamline structure and governance procedures so that provision of service is maximized and bureaucracy is minimized. The partnerships task force is looking at leveraging the strengths of SLA through strategic alliances with diverse partners, and the conference task force continues to find ways to bring innovation and cutting-edge programs to the SLA membership.
The branding task force is exploring the positioning of SLA. One of SLA's greatest strengths is its clear mission as a professional association focused on the individual practitioner. Yet our name, Special Libraries Association, which, in the words of John Cotton Dana, was used for lack of a better, does not say to the world that this is a professional association of vital, creative, and technologically savvy people. Library school graduates need to see that those practicing librarianship as information architects, Webmasters, and knowledge managers belong in SLA. We need an image to fit our twenty-first-century identity.
While our task forces explore these issues, exciting changes are in the works. SLA will have a new look beginning with the unveiling of our re-designed Web site late this fall. The newly designated Strategic Learning and Development Center is re-inventing the association's professional development program. A Strategic Learning Symposium will replace the Professional Learning Conference at the Winter meeting, and the Virtual Seminar Series will replace Real-Time Desktop Courses. SLA is also taking steps to further influence library educators to reflect the competencies identified by SLA as part of their curricula. This year, for the first time ever, we will give an excellence in teaching award.
SLA will also take important steps this year towards realizing its future as a global organization. The Global 2000 Worldwide Conference on Special Librarianship takes place in Brighton, England, and will be attended by special librarians and information professionals from around the world, as well as by representatives from companies serving the industry. With "The Information Age: Challenges and Opportunities" as its theme, it is attracting attendees from every continent.
At the June Board of directors meeting, a revised strategic plan was approved for SLA. A key objective is to "guarantee the future". Clearly, SLA is moving rapidly towards meeting that goal, and, while risk accompanies change, SLA can take pride in its roots and strength in the knowledge that we are ready for anything, because in SLA change is our tradition.
Donna Scheeder is the President of the Special Libraries Association and the Deputy Assistant Director, Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress, Washington, DC. firstname.lastname@example.org