September 12, 2008

SLA in Seattle Looks Toward Online Innovation, Training

By DiMattia, Susan S

The future goes to people who invest in themselves," said Special Libraries Association President Stephen Abram, setting the tone for the group's Annual Conference in Seattle, June 14-18. Throughout the event, Abram encouraged attendees to take advantage of member benefits, particularly the new technology initiatives. One such new benefit is the online Innovation Lab, where members have access to more than 1,000 e-books in the Leadership and Management Library, a free weekly summary of a current business book, and free access to over 100 pieces of software that members can "test drive." The Atomic Learning section of the lab includes 35,000 video tutorials on using a wide range of software, and its "23 Things" initiative guides participants in learning about 23 technology topics by spending 15 minutes a day for nine weeks.

Cerf's up

The Opening Session featured TV talkshow host Charlie Rose interviewing Vint Cerf, vice president and chief internet evangelist for Google. Cerf, a computer scientist who is often called "the father of the internet," predicted that in 10 years everyone on the planet will have access to the internet. Even now, connections to satellites, the International Space Station, and the Mars rover have made the interplanetary internet a reality.

Moving to the topic of the digitizing of libraries. Cerf is worried about the consequences of relying on software to work with digital objects: "We need rules to make software accessible when companies won't support it any more," he said. Cerf also touched on the need for international agreements on what is acceptable use of the internet, the need for a secure infrastructure to prevent cyberterrorism, and the likelihood that the economic importance of the internet will eventually sway those countries that try to censor its use.

Referring to the conference theme of "Breaking Rules; Building Bridges," SLACEO Janice Lachance observed, "In times of a turbulent environment, the only way to create a strong, resilient, and stable profession for the future is by building bridges to the increasingly technology-centric world of tomorrow." Among the approximately 5,000 registrants (compared to 5,844 in 2006 and 5,046 in 2007) were 500 first-timers; of the 283 exhibitors, 50 participated for the first time.

The year-old alignment project, "Positioning SLA for the Future," is intended to identify trends and determine how the association can meet the changing needs of members and the people they serve. The consulting firm hired to conduct the project defines the principles of alignment as having core values and a core purpose that remains fixed while adapting to a changing world. Among the key strategic areas are growth opportunities for SLA, including growth outside North America, and a "consistent and compelling language to describe the profession and the Association."

As SLA examines its future, it is looking toward its 2009 centennial. Acentennial website, which will go live late in the summer of 2008, will include the products of "Voices of SLA: An International Oral History." A special conference, to be held in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, site of the meeting that resulted in the formation of SLA in 1909, will have a futurist theme. The annual conference, tobe held in Washington, D. C, in June, will include several celebratory events, including a gala.

Television's Charlie Rose (right) interviews Internet pioneer Vint Cerf at the Opening Session.

Susan S. DiMattia, Connecticut-based writer, consultant, and educator

Copyright American Library Association Aug 2008

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