Another Perspective on SLA

By , June 29, 2011 4:23 pm

by Eli Edwards

I’ve been attending SLA conferences regularly (with the exception of one year) since 2002, in my hometown of Los Angeles, CA. I usually balance my schedule with both theoretical and practical discussions of the things that interest me in librarianship (online research, intellectual property, digitization, information ethics, the state of the profession), as well as the social aspects (Parties! Happy hours! Raucous “silent” auctions! Meet-ups and tweet-ups!). I learn, I network, I walk my feet off, and I come back edified and excited.

This year was slightly different.

Ever since graduate school, while working on my MLIS, I’ve been a member of the News Division. It is filled with people who work hard and play hard and took me under their wings, even when it became apparent that I was not going to be a career news librarian. After all the support I’ve received from various members, and the group as a whole, I decided it was time to give back. So, I stepped up, and next thing I knew, I was the Chair-Elect, with responsibilities for planning the division sessions for the 2011 Philadelphia Conference.

The SLA staff and board liaisons provided terrific support throughout the year. The fellow Division conference planners brought a spirit of collaboration and innovation to session proposals, working within the theme of Future Ready. I corresponded with future conference speakers who were at or near the top of their game, professionally, and ready to share their experience and knowledge with their colleagues. Working with the executives of my Division gave me a greater understanding of teamwork and how professional associations get things done.

It was definitely a challenge. There were points where it felt as though there was a deadline around every corner. Some sessions ideas and potential speakers fell through. And, of course, there were technology glitches. But the program came together–the sessions were scheduled, the A/V was booked, the speakers were confirmed . . . and next thing I knew, I was in Philly.

There was so much to do, and so many places to be, and so many events to oversee–this was my most atypical conference. And while I didn’t have the time (let alone the energy) to do my usual a la carte selection of events–I did learn a lot. And I did have fun. And I learned some lessons about leadership and thinking ahead and collaboration that will, I hope, stay with me for quite a while. One day, I’ll go back to my style of conference attendance, but for now, I’m happy to sacrifice a bit of my time and energy to helping others make the most of their conference.

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