Posted on July 17, 2009.
This year the Leadership & Management Division helped sponsor Laura Woods, a winner of the SLA Europe Early Career Conference Award (ECCA). Laura Woods is a student at City University in London and will earn her MSc Library and Information Studies
in 2009. She works part-time in the evening at the Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn and will shortly begin working at the law firm, Davies Arnold Cooper.
In order to enhance Laura's experience at the SLA 2009 Annual Conference, Sylvia Piggott volunteered, on behalf of LMD, to mentor and guide Laura. Thank you Sylvia, we knew would be a great. When Betty Jo presented the award at the LMD Business Luncheon in Washington, she asked only that Laura take full advantage of what the conference offers and to report back to us on her experience.
Report from SLA 2009 Conference
When I applied for the ECCA, back in December, I must admit that I didn’t really think anything would come of it. I applied with my usual philosophy of “it couldn’t hurt to try” in my mind, so when I got the email informing me that I’d been selected as one of the ECCA winners I was absolutely shocked and delighted!
The five-and-a-bit days I spent in Washington DC were a whirlwind of activity. It felt like I’d only just arrived when I was boarding the plane to fly back home! The entire experience was packed with so many opportunities for learning and networking that the time flew by. It probably took me a day or so after I’d got home to synthesise everything I’d learned and experienced while I was there: I’d started keeping a blog shortly before the conference, and I found this a really useful tool for organising my thoughts.
The opening of the conference on Sunday was a fantastic insight into the kind of work that SLA does. I was fortunate to be able to attend the Fellows meeting before the opening ceremony – my Leadership and Management Division mentor, Sylvia Piggott, very kindly invited me along – and it was fascinating to be able to observe the issues discussed around the Alignment project and the plans for next year’s conference.
I was really impressed by the obvious talent and commitment to the profession displayed by the many award winners honoured during the opening session, and it was wonderful to see their hard work being recognised by SLA. General Colin Powell’s keynote speech was quite an eye-opener: I hadn’t expected him to be such an entertaining speaker. He spoke about the value of information and information professionals, and his own dedication to ensuring that his staff had the tools they needed to remain effective in the information age (for example, buying 44,251 new computers for the State Department).
Over the next few days, I attended a number of informative and inspiring sessions. Of particular interest to me were several sessions on effective communicating and presenting –I am aware this is a weak point of mine, so I learned some very valuable techniques from these sessions. I found Sharol Parish’s session, “Speak as if Your Career Depends On It”, especially useful – I took away a lot of very practical tips on body language, articulation, posture, etc. that I was able to put into practice straight away.
I also very much enjoyed Mary Ellen Bates’ presentation on “Creating Groupies: How to Add Value, Make Yourself Indispensable and Beat the Pants off Google” (with a title like that, how could any librarian resist?). The talk was filled with good, practical advice, backed up with some interesting statistics from the SLA Alignment research (for example, the information professional’s role of conducting research on behalf of users is much less valued by clients than info pros believed it to be: our clients actually place more value on making information available to the desktop and creating a culture of knowledge sharing).
The various receptions and networking events throughout the conference were a great way to get chatting to people I probably wouldn’t have spoken to otherwise. The First-Timers event was a fantastic ice-breaker, and it was wonderful to talk to some other non-North American SLA members at the International Reception on the Monday. I made some great contacts at all of the Division Open Houses I went to – I had to learn very quickly to get over my British reserve and just introduce myself to people I didn’t know! It was terrifying at first, but well worth the effort.
This has been an incredible experience: I cannot thank SLA Europe and the Leadership and Management Division enough for making this possible. I returned from the conference feeling inspired by all of the interesting, committed, talented information professionals I had met, and enthusiastic about beginning my career in information. I am so glad to have seen all of the work that SLA does for its members, and look forward to a long and rewarding association with the organisation.
I am so grateful to have discovered the Leadership and Management Division, and am sure that it will be a resource I can continue to turn to throughout my career. I would advise anyone with an interest in leadership and management issues in library and information services to join LMD – I was so inspired by the ideas that came out of the LMD-run sessions I attended, as well as the LMD business meeting luncheon. I have been following the LMD division’s blog for some time, and always find the thoughts of the blog contributors to be thought-provoking. I am looking forward to seeing how this blog develops, as well as how it integrates with the other social networking tools the division is using (such as the Facebook group).