Candidates for the SLA Board of Directors will be asked to answer questions on the SLA Blog until election time. My response to Question 2 has been published, along with those of my fellow candidates. I’m copying it below.
Question 2: What changes, if any, do we need to make to keep annual conference as a vibrant, well attended event?
I’ve had to opportunity to read the very detailed report by the Conference Re-envisioning Task Force. This committee can only be commended for the tremendous amount of work they put in surveying members and partners, analyzing data and making recommendations.
I’ve attended the Annual Conference since Nashville, in 2004. I’ve always enjoyed my experience. I generally come back exhausted but invigorated. And I’ve met new people with unique jobs and interesting points of view.
Here are some recommendations I would make:
- Reconsider having continuing education sessions. They’re difficult for smaller divisions to organize, general attendance appears to fall yearly and more are canceled than take place. Is it because they’re seen as an additional expense on top of what some attendees consider an already expensive conference? Let’s offer more webinars: That way members across the world can easily attend and revenue will increase for the divisions.
- Promote an online component to the conference. Streaming during the conference, or after, as was done in 2013, will boost SLA awareness.The lower price will be more affordable for smaller budgets, the best sessions will get a second boost, international exposure will be increased, and local group viewings will give Chapters the opportunity to be more involved in the conference.
- Bring in speakers from outside the librarian/information professional world. Diversity of thought and experience will only make us better. For example, LMD held an excellent session on leadership in 2013 with the San Diego Naval Base commander.
- Rethink meeting time. Being very active in the association, on division boards, as a speaker or as a candidate means that, over the years, I have spent a fair amount of conference time in association business/board/cabinet meetings instead of sessions.Thanks to the SciTech Division, I’ve recently attended my first online division annual business meeting and it was a success. Every member could attend, participate and maybe even get the bug to become involved. Plus, it gives more time to attend conference sessions or the INFO-EXPO.
- Strive to offer more varied programming. Generate new insights, more exchanges and networking. Offer different formats and session lengths (hopefully this year’s Quick Take sessions will turn out to be as popular as the Spotlight Sessions have become.) Building a sense of community will create an over-the-top conference experience. That leads to attendees who want to return yearly.
- Continue to work with our business partners. A new model might be emerging, where partners work with the association and units as a whole, instead of piecemeal. We’ll see later this year how this worked, or didn’t work
- Be especially welcoming to First Timers. I would like that every “veteran” would take a moment to say hello and introduce a First Timer to people they know. The Fellows and First Timers Meet is a great event for any new attendee to unveil the mystery of the conference experience. Several Divisions also have conference mentors to achieve that goal.
I’m a firm believer of lifelong-learning and professional development. I encourage my staff to read professional publications and attend trainings, seminars and conferences like SLA. Professional development is a sound investment. It not only betters individuals, but co-workers and organizations as well.