Professional bodies

Ridiculously excited to be interviewed in SLA Information Outlook

I love being a member of the SLA - although the word 'Special' in the title implies that it will be solely aimed at legal or business librarians, it actually has a large percentage of its membership coming from academic institutions like mine. Part of membership includes getting the magazine, Information Outlook. This is a really good trade mag - there's a lot of useful, intelligent, grown-up content there. My favourite part of it is the member interview section, 10 questions with... I've learned a lot from it (and loved reading Bethan Ruddock's one when she did it) so I was ridiculously excited to be asked to participate in it. I've done a few interviews now but, with the obvious exception of Circulating Ideas, they've all been via email. This one was a proper telephone conversation with Stuart Hales in Washington, which was taped and then transcribed. It was exciting doing it this way. I got a copy of the questions in advance, although we went off on different tangents in the conversation itself (Stuart told me a great wedding-crashing related tale which you should force me to tell you should we meet at a conference or in a pub...). I was a little bit apprehensive in the lead-up to it because the questions seemed slightly passive-agressive in a weird type of a way, but Stuart wasn't remotely like that in the actual conversation, so I think I just got an incorrect impression from them on paper!

We talk about marketing, the SLA itself (more on that below the interview), the Buy India a Library project, professional development, new technology, and taking a step back. (Whimsical tales of my ability to lead a walking tour of York are greatly exaggerated. :) ) Anyhow, here it is - it specifically says at the bottom of this page that it's for personal use only and not for reproduction, but I've got proper permission to use it, I promise...


Ned Potter Information Outlook Interview by thewikiman


If you're an SLA member you can read the whole July-August 2013 issue from which this came by logging-in here.

On the subject of the SLA, at the weekend I read this absolutely brilliant post about the organisation and the annual conference, by Penny Andrews. It articulated things I value about being a member which I didn't know I knew... It certainly seemed to chime with a lot of people judging by the Twitter response, so particularly if you're not an SLA member but have wondered about it, have a read.

I'm a member of both CILIP and SLA, and will continue to be so. I get different things from them - in some ways I feel that CILIP helped me more as I was growing up (which is partly why I'll keep paying my membership fees; I owe them) and SLA helps me more now I'm grown up. The SLA is / are a confident bunch, and very positive - perhaps this is partly because they are under less obligation to 'save libraries' than CILIP or the ALA, so there's a lot less hand-wringing. (Incidentally, I LOVE Penny's comments about MOOCs and gamification in that article!) There's a lot of money in the organisation (they work hard to build and maintain relationships with corporate sponsors) and quite honestly it's nice to be part of an organisation that can afford to do things with style and without an ever-present sense of worry about finances. The downside of this is that it is if you don't like wearing suits for work-related things, and aren't going to do so just to fit in (*raises hand*) you can feel under-dressed at the London SLA-Europe events! Penny talks about being treated as an equal at the conference in the US, regardless of the status of the person you're talking to - I'd agree with that, but if you start mixing with the sponsors in London, expect at least a couple of them to be baffled that dressing in a suit and schmoozing isn't your number one priority...

What the SLA does (in my view) is focus on making us into better, more effective information professionals. They can afford to focus on improving us, and let others worry about the Latest Big Library Crisis besetting the profession. Part of the way we can endure in libraries is to be really brilliant at our jobs - it feels like the SLA addresses making a practical impact in a very hands-on way, all of the time, rather than being side-tracked. The conference itself remains the greatest experience of my professional career - I'm over the moon to be going back, to Vancouver in 2014, to give a few talks and see everyone again, and generally drink up the atmosphere of niceness and happiness.

Here's the link if you're thinking of joining; I wish I'd done so earlier. I didn't sign up to the SLA previous to winning the ECCA which gave me a year of free membership, because of the cost. To spend a big chunk of money on something work related, especially after already paying for CILIP membership, is daunting. But it's based on a sliding-salary scale so you pay less if you earn less, and now as a proper fee-paying member from my point of view (and from that of all the members I've talked to), it's worth it.

Librarianship can be tough these days, but the SLA makes you feel good and gives you confidence - that's not a trivial thing.

what about having library liaisons in other industries?

In most Universities there is some kind of formal liaison between the library and the academic departments. Obviously all subject librarians are essentially ‘liaison librarians’ to their specific schools and departments, but often the department itself will have an academic who is designated the library-liaison, or a committee of nominated people on which the librarian also sits. This is to everyone’s advantage, as the library gets to understand the needs of the departments, and the department gets their needs heard. The library can also manage expectations etc, though having an established line of communication. Having a first point of contact in this way is extremely useful, because it creates a bridge between the two worlds. Even if the people designated as liaisons don’t always have to cross the bridge themselves, they facilitate others doing so by putting them in touch with relevant people.

 At a CILIP session the other day, we were discussing the idea of taking a version of the Graduate Day on the road (as currently most attendees come from London and the South-East, so it would be great to make the whole thing more readily available to those across other regions). We were discussing the fact that CILIP membership might be of relevance to people who don’t actually consider themselves librarians or Information Professionals at all, from other industries such as Law, Education, IT, the media, and of course the more closely related fields of archiving, museum curation and so on. How to advertise to those sectors that such an event as a regional CILIP day exists?

Wouldn’t it be useful if there was the equivalent of a library liaison academic in all of those other areas? Obviously in an area like Law there are plenty of very proactive Law librarians about, but even then is there any direct link between CILIP and BIALL, for example? It would only take a CILIP Liaison Officer at BIALL, and a BIALL Liaison Officer at CILIP, to establish a potentially fruitful direct link between the two organisations. Similarly, the National Union of Teachers or the Association of University Administrators or the Society of Archivists or even you-never-know-how-useful-we-might-be-to-each-other-until-you-try type organisations like the Association of Fundraising Professionals  etc etc. This would be mutually beneficial for all concerned, surely? CILIP and its members would have a route in to the resources and members of other organisations, and they would have a similar route into ours – a point of contact to facilitate others crossing the bridge. And presumably not a whole lot of work for each person involved, as the opportunities for collaboration and liaison wouldn’t be so much as to be overwhelming.

I’m aware I could be one of those people who happily ‘comes up with’ an idea which has in fact been doing the rounds for ages, or has been suggested and rejected as unworkable before, or which others simply don’t reckon there’s a need for… Maybe it’s already been done and I’ve just missed the news! But I’m fairly sure there would be circumstances where such a relationship with another organisation could bear fruit (and the organisations themselves could perhaps kick things off by giving free membership to a designated liaison officer from the others!).

I’m tagging (I think that’s what it’s called) Kathy and Lyndsay at CILIP, as they know about this sort of thing. I’m sure they’ll soon set me right if it’s a non-starter…

- thewikiman

p.s Incidentally, I read today that in the UK we import almost exactly the same amount of GingerBread as we export (465 tonnes in, 460 out - I've got an idea, how about we just import 5 tonnes and leave the rest of the GingerBread where it is), a phenomenon known as 'boomerang trade'. Similar trading parity applies to Chocolate Waffles (I've never even seen waffles with chocolate built in already), toilet-paper (we gave Germany 4000 tonnes of it, they gave us 5000 tones back - brilliant) and even Ice-Cream to Italy (what on earth do Italians want with our ice-cream for Chrissakes?!).

If ever there was an argument for liaising, and opening the lines of communication, that's it right there... 


This is a gingerbread tree. The gingerbread house in the background operates a one-in, one-out policy, probably