Saturday, 31 January 2015


I've had a few questions about SLA and how it relates to CILIP as a result of my last post,  so I'll try to clarify a bit here.  They are two completely separate organisations, SLA started in North America, has been growing internationally, while CILIP is very much a UK organisation but with a small number of international members.

I am sometimes asked which professional organisation I'd recommend to others.  This is a difficult question because, as with most things, the answer will depend very much on the individual.


I've been a member of CILIP for around six years now and was very involved until around 18 months ago.  I find it fantastic for the local networks and keeping up with library developments in the UK.  They also have special interest groups that focus on areas such as academic and research libraries or information literacy.  I've Chartered with them, am keeping an eye out for mentoring training I can get to and plan to apply for Fellowship in due course - it's very much about my personal professional development.

Why SLA?

I joined SLA around 18 months ago when I started working with an Engineering Department.  I was aware that this was a completely different subject area to others I've supported, that engineers worked in a very different way and that I had a lot to learn.  SLA's Divisions are fantastic, mostly focusing on specific subject areas but also covering areas like Leadership and Management that are relevant across all subject areas.  Although most of the action happens overseas, they organise lots of webinars and committee meetings via conference call, all of which makes it easier for me to benefit from my membership in whatever chunks of time I can give to it.  The much narrower subject focus means that my SLA membership helps me to develop as an engineering librarian and everything I do with them is directly relevant to my job.

Why choose?

For me it's not a question of choosing one or the other because I get very different things from each, and depending on your context there may well be other organisations you should consider e.g. IAML for music librarians, BIALL for law, LAI if you're in Ireland... No shortage of options!

Friday, 30 January 2015

A gap in the market? A virtual caucus for SLA #slaleads

I was at SLA Leadership Summit in Baltimore last week - a really fantastic opportunity to network, plan and learn from leaders in our profession.

What's SLA?

SLA is a bit of a misnomer - it stands for Special Libraries Association but actually my experience suggests that the 'libraries' bit (in the traditional sense) is in the minority.  The tagline 'Connecting people and information' is more appropriate, painting a much larger picture.  Through SLA I've met a really wide range of people from corporate and academic contexts, ranging from knowledge managers and vendors of information products through to user experience librarians and library/information service directors.

What about Leadership Summit?

The Engineering Division was well represented...
I was there as Conference Program Planner for the Engineering Division.  This involves identifying topics of interest to information professionals in engineering departments/organisations for inclusion in the programme for the 2016 SLA Annual Conference in Philadelphia, identifying speakers, managing budgets and generally coordinating things.  If you have any topic suggestions let me know!

This would be a daunting task, but Leadership Summit was hugely reassuring.  My main reason for going was so that I could attend the planning meeting that kickstarts the whole thing.  The message I got from this session is that I am definitely not alone - there are lots of dedicated, creative and inspiring people planning sessions for all the other divisions of SLA and collaboration is encouraged to ensure a practical, relevant programme for all attendees.  The other Engineering Division members were also hugely supportive - I'll be working closely with Chair-Elect Giovanna Badia on this and already have a volunteer willing to talk about copyright issues in the corporate sector (thank you Gabriele!) was the Leadership and Management Division
This and other business meetings formed just one aspect of the conference though - there were keynote talks by Steve Denning on Radical Management and James Calvin, Associate Professor and Faculty Director of the Leadership Development Program (LDP) for Multicultural and Multinational Leaders at the Carey Business School, Johns Hopkins University.  Programme sessions included SLA 101 (how it's all put together), fund-raising tips and strategic thinking as well as update sessions on the Member Preferences Task Force and the State of the Association.  I came away with lots to think about, tools that I can put into use within my library and renewed enthusiasm for getting involved with this professional association.

Just to make me feel at home, one of the evening receptions took place in Tír na nÓg, bringing a whole new angle on the conversations about my name, how to pronounce it (Nee-uv) and its meaning and origin (a totally normal Irish name, there were four of us in my class of 30 in primary school and Niamh Cinn Óir was the Princess of the Land of Youth in a well-known Irish legend).

So what's this about a virtual caucus?

During one of the sessions, someone suggested in passing the idea of a virtual caucus as the first step towards developing a Chapter that is not geographically based, reaching members in any part of the world whether or not they belong to a local chapter.  (See here for more on SLA Caucuses, Chapters, Sections and Divisions.)  If you know who that was, please let me know in the comments - I'm a strong believer in credit where it's due!

I loved this idea and a main reason for putting this blog post out here is to get a feel for whether or not we could make this happen.  Are you interested in getting involved? Do you have thoughts on how we could make it work? What kinds of things could a virtual caucus or chapter do?  Maybe we can start this conversation in the comments of this blog post and develop it in an #SLATalk Twitter chat at some point?  I'll be talking to Kate Arnold, Past-President of SLA, about the logistics of it all as well.

Looking forward to your feedback!