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!


  1. Just to add my thoughts to this Niamh. I agree that I get different things from the two organisations. I originally joined SLA during the period I was working on my CILIP Chartership as I wanted to get an international perspective on the profession. I continued to be a member because I found the resources and CPD really helpful - especially the webinars which you've mentioned.

    I'll keep up my membership of both as like you say there are different things to be gained from each. I learn a lot about the international information profession from SLA and this challenges me to think about things from a new perspective but I also enjoy being involved at a more local level with CILIP. I would encourage anyone thinking of joining either association to give it some serious thought and consider the benefits they could get.

    1. Thanks for your comments Claire! Yes, I left out the international dimension in my post but you're absolutely right, it helps hugely with getting a different perspective.

  2. This is a great way to explain how membership to one or another association does not have to be exclusive. Just to clarify, there is also the opportunity for involvement with SLA closer to home, and SLA Europe is very active, though particularly in and around London but not exclusively. Volunteers to organise face to face events in other locations are always welcome, and latest information about the European Chapter of SLA can be found at They also have a Twitter and LinkedIn presence. I would certainly encourage anyone who has the opportunity to attend the SLA Conference in Boston in June this year to do so. I can guarantee it is like no other conference and has to be experienced at least once in a lifetime (but watch out, it is highly addictive and you'll find you want to do it all over again in Philadelphia in 2016!)

    1. Thanks very much for clarifying that Geraldine and providing those links - SLA Europe has great events, is trying to branch out of London and has an excellent online presence already, all in addition to being a really lovely bunch of people.

      Having little people and being based outside London limits how much I can get involved with the real life scene although a few of us are plotting a Cambridge event so watch this space!

      I agree entirely about the addictiveness of SLA Annual Conference, I went to one and came away with a job to do at the next one...