I just landed in Portland from Internet Librarian 2009 in be-U-ti-ful Monterey, California, and I have to say I’m glad I went! I haven’t been to the Internet Librarian conference in a few years, and I went back and forth in my mind as to whether to go this year. Now I wonder why I was hesitant — it was totally worthwhile. I’ll give it two thumbs up.
The conference planners seemed to be working on turning this year’s event into an experience as well as a conference—witness the Gaming and Gadgets Petting Zoo, the Rockin’ Battle Decks and the launch of Library 101.
As with every conference, it’s the networking and the quality of the presentations that make your actual attendance worthwhile. Here are a couple tips, tricks, and quote-ables that I picked up:
Vint Cerf, commonly deemed the “Father of the Internet” and now the Chief Internet Evangelist at Google, left us with these nuggets:
Roy Tennant, Senior Program Officer at OCLC, in speaking about the Digital Library Landscape, urged us to realize that libraries are in imminent danger and that the challenges to libraries are foundational. Libraries were conceived in an era of information scarcity, whereas we now have ubiquitous information.
“If you dislike change, you are going to dislike irrelevance even less.”
–General Eric K. Shinseki, U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs
We were told that libraries need to become a part of the new “information ecology” by building services around user workflows. For example, academic libraries are refactoring the research/publish process, with tools such as eScholarhip. Public libraries are building communities, and special libraries are adding value and providing ROI.
Victoria Harriston, from the National Academy of Sciences, described working with Google to digitize 6,000 NAS documents. Through this digitization project, Victoria has increased access to the NAS collection and enhanced the endurance of their collection.
Paula Wolfe, from the University of Arizona, had these ideas– which I must remember– “metadata is a way of marketing” and “the information designer must care about the searcher’s needs.”
Christy Confetti-Higgins, from Sun Microsystem’s Digital Library and Research Group, gave an impressive demonstration of integrating information and social media tools into the business workflow. Integration is key to maximizing investment, exploiting content and engaging conversation. In one example, she showed how Sun authors had “author chats” in Second Life. The individual examples she showed were interesting on their own, but it was the way they leveraged and integrated content across the board that made the work they are doing so compelling.
Paul Hodengraber, director of the New York Public library, was a lively interviewer for the keynote on day one, and interviewee on day two. He claims his role at the NYPL is to “oxygenate the library.” He sees the library as a lively place of ideas and “embraces the friction of dialog.” Paul was incredibly quotable—he wants to “make the private experience of reading public” through events that he calls “cognitive theater.” His presentation was quite enjoyable.
At this point, I wish I hadn’t taken such good notes, as there is a lot more to digest. But I have to mention two additional topics…
Library Mashups: Exploring New Ways to Deliver Library Data, is a newly released book by Nicole Engard. There was great content here with loads of potential.
Rebecca Jones and Nicole Hennig’s presentation on “Persuasion, Influence, and Innovation” showed that influence skills are critical to our success. (Please refer to Roy Tennant above for the need for success.) Rebecca pointed out that there are three components of influence: clarity of message, competence of the speaker, and making sure you have the requisite relationships in place. Nicole recommended three books on the topic of influence:
There was plenty more to report on (visualization, best science sites, etc.). I’ll let you rest here, just in case you’ve reached a saturation point – as I eventually did!
There is a big, healthy discussion going on right now about a new name for SLA. The Association has conducted more than two years of research to ascertain how to best align our association with the institutions and clients that we serve now and in the future.
After reading and reflecting on the Alignment Project research, the Board, with input from the membership, concluded that a name change is needed and put the name Association for Strategic Knowledge Professionals before the membership earlier this month. We’re all trying the new name on for size, and the reactions predictably run the gamut from 0 to 10. For some the name is a tad presumptuous and doesn’t quite fit yet. For others, it’s something we’ve been doing for years and are very comfortable with.
One thing that has influenced my thinking in this discussion is Eugenie Prime’s admonishment: NO PUNY VISIONS! –that is, we need an identity that captures the full gamut of what we can do and what we want to do. And that is not a puny vision.
In the discussion of a new name, we must look at the cost of staying the same, that is, the lost opportunity cost of relinquishing information and knowledge management to another discipline. Thomas Friedman, when referring to the read/write web, states, “Anything that can be done will be done. The only question is will it be done to you or by you.” It’s a tough statement, and points out that, in our case, we need to take ownership of the information landscape or others will.
Recently, I spoke with Eugenie and asked her for her opinion. Here’s how the exchange went:
Cindy: SLA is in the midst of re-aligning itself, and there is a name-change possibility in the works. What is your take on these developments?
Eugenie: I am not opposed to a name change. It may be necessary, but it will never be sufficient on its own. If we change our name and change nothing else, it will be simply cosmetics. We need an attitudinal change that results in changes in the way we perceive our profession and our role.
I worked at Nike for 16 years and from that experience, I saw that Nike was at its most compelling when it was highlighting human potential through athletic endeavor. Nike sells fitness apparel, but its real strength is when its message challenges us to maximize our potential and be all that we can be as individuals. That’s the power of branding, and it serves as a guidepost as we position ourselves for the future.
Whatever we call ourselves, be it librarians, consultants, knowledge managers, or information wranglers, the mission is the same. We provide answers, we organize, disseminate, and analyze information. We need to look at our aspirations. We are strategic to the business and the client. We facilitate smart business decisions and inspire world-class research. We are a valuable link in the chain of execution in an organization.
The name the Association for Strategic Knowledge Professionals is a step forward. You can still be a special librarian, an information professional, or one of the more than 2000 other titles that we call ourselves. The new name will help us capture the growth areas of our industry, and sit in that sweet spot where our work is valued and not just a commodity. So don’t get hung up on just the name change – there’s more to it than that. This is our chance to change our name, change our attitude, and our future.
First, I want to tell every one of you who voted “THANKS.” I’ll work hard to make sure the best interests of the association—and therefore your interests—remain front-and-center. And to those who didn’t vote, well…you get a wag of the finger and a stern look. And a polite, throat-clearing cough.
In many ways, the campaign served to prepare me for office. I’m a different person than the one who started the journey so long ago. (It was a long time ago, because “election months” are like dog years). Before I turn the page and take on this new role, I want to reflect on some things I learned as a candidate.
I learned to blog. It seems easy enough: write a bit about something that interests you, then post it. The hard part is looking at your interactions and activities as if they are something that someone else should be interested in. My constant debate with myself was whether or not what I thought was intriguing was blog-worthy. Reflecting on issues and events and how to share your thoughts on them is a good tool for your toolbox.
Be more extroverted than you are. Usually I just let life wash over me, but now I have to pick up the shiny things I see and show them to others. If you’re usually introverted, it takes a real effort to be extroverted. I’m still coming to grips with that, to be honest.
Use Web 2.0 tools. My blog automatically updates to my LinkedIn account and my Twitter account, enabling me to reach a lot of members at the same time. And my Twitter account updates to my Facebook site. Isn’t that cool!?!
Look for the spirit of generosity. I was constantly humbled at the idea of people believing in me enough to donate their time and energy to a fellow member. Our Association runs on good will and generous souls, and I didn’t always see the magnitude of that compassion before the campaign.
Others can rely on you and you won’t break. You can volunteer to do stuff that benefits others more than yourself and it feels good. It is enlightened self-interest—you get back more than you give. And you will have a new way to define “riches.”
I can rely on others. They won’t break, either. People came through; they care. They want me to carry their concerns forward.
You can’t – and shouldn’t – do it all yourself. Relying on others isn’t always easy. I’ve always been able to meet deadlines and check off tasks on my own. But running for office is not a solo effort. So I learned to collaborate better and to involve others by articulating a simple vision. They, in turn, spread the message further. I think if we can get this concept right, eventually we’ll be able to empower a movement.
It’s going to be tough. Not everyone agrees on the direction, the vehicle, or the speed we need to travel. Some people don’t think we need to go anywhere and some want to go twice as fast as we can safely manage. Balancing those demands will be tricky. My hope is that if I listen to as many members as I can, I’ll get good guidance about the best path forward. But make no mistake: we are moving forward.
It’s going to be the most fun we’ve had lately. I felt fantastic energy at some of the question-and-answer sessions. Members care deeply about our direction, and when they sense positive change is coming, they feel good about it. Strategizing about the future can be a lot of fun when you believe in the journey.
Business savvy is key. We know our jobs and our tools, and we’re darn good at what we do. We satisfy customers every day, and we push ourselves to do it better. But knowing the ins and outs of the information landscape isn’t enough. For our profession, our association, and our careers, we need to get better at the business of business. Becoming fluent in “business speak” is crucial to making us Future Ready.
Don’t booby-trap yourself. Sometimes the crazy new idea you get late at night isn’t all that great when the sun comes up. My own natural exuberance can be a bit spontaneous. I’ve learned to fit myself with a restrictor valve in order to be critical and cautious. The stakes are higher now. Because of the office that you have entrusted to me, I face more scrutiny, and people will be holding me up to a higher standard.
At the same time, I have to be myself. Go figure!
I don’t know everything—and don’t have to. “WE are the smartest ones in the room,” as the saying goes. Figuring out how to use the strength of others is the hallmark of a leader. A strong rope is made up of many individual strands. My take is that the more voices we hear consistently, the better our Association gets.
I’ve got to go draw a new map now. I think it has your name on it!