September 25, 2008

Whatever the Future Holds for the Internet, SLA Will Be There

By Lachance, Janice R

As part of its focus on the practical applications of the internet, SLA unveiled the Innovation Laboratory at SLA 2008 So much is written and said about the Internet that we could be forgiven if we do not follow each and every development and innovation with the same interest and intensity we do our day-to-day responsibilities. That is not to say the Internet is unimportant to us as individuals or 'professionals because we know it is and will be even more so throughout the remainder of our careers. What interests most of us today, I suspect, are the practical applications of this technology and the ways in which it could impact our enterprises or industries in the future.

The keynote presenters at this year's SLA Conference & INFO-EXPO in Seattle gave attendees that and more. They offered a fascinating and insightful glimpse of the Internet's promise in the near and long-term future, and also outlined some of the likely challenges ahead.

During the opening keynote presentation, Google Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist, Dr. Vint Cerf, widely recognized as a "Father of the Internet," said that by 2010, three billion people likely will have access to the Internet thanks to mobile devices, and that in 10 years it is possible for everyone in the world to be online. Cerf, who was interviewed on stage by award-winning television journalist Charlie Rose, said the Internet has fostered enormous creativity and innovation and will continue to do so. "If it remains open, it has no boundaries," he said. Cerf admitted, however, that he is concerned about challenges to the openness of the Internet from governmental and commercial interests-and even new developments in technology. Despite these reservations, Cerf said he and others are working to open the world to new users through solar- digital cafes in areas of the planet where electricity is scarce, and are even seeking a standard for digital communications in space.

Cerfs emphasis on the practical implications of the Internet, even if some are years away, was reinforced by the conference's closing keynote speaker, best-selling author and entrepreneur Seth Godin. The author of Meatball Sundae and founder of told attendees they and their organizations must completely reassess the way they market and communicate in the age of the Internet. Godin offered no less than 14 marketing trends he sees for success on the Internet. Among these trends, Godin described the importance of direct communication with consumers, amplification of communications by consumers, and speed with which organizations can reach customers. While some traditionalists in the audience may not have been ready to embrace Godin's perspective completely, he certainly challenged their thinking.

In addition to the vision and best thinking of this year's keynote presenters about the future direction and use of the Internet, SLA also unveiled its new Innovation Laboratory at SLA 2008. The Innovation Lab, which is available through the SLA Web site, gives SLA members exclusive access to nearly two dozen applications that allow them to experiment with everything from wikis to blogs and from podcasts to virtual worlds. You can even become part of SLA's presence in second Life. And, this is in addition to the outstanding programs and courses available online 24/ 7 through SLA's industry leading Click University.

As SLA continues to look toward the future of the profession and the association, most of you are aware that we are undertaking a project designed to align your mission-critical skills and competencies with the future needs of your customers. The goal of the project is to develop a comprehensive strategy that communicates the essential truths about who you are as information professionals and what you do that is of primary value to your organizations. Additionally, it seeks to inform the association on how it can best anticipate and meet your needs for networking, learning and advocacy in the information industry of tomorrow.

During the SLA Annual Membership Meeting, representatives of FleishmanHillard and Outsell, which are working with SLA on the project, described their progress. They explained how they have performed extensive analysis of information in Outsell's proprietary database, conducted "language workshops" with the SLA Board and at different locations throughout North America and are about to launch a survey of target groups important to SLA. These groups, including senior executives, students and others, will be surveyed with the use of cutting-edge online technology to help identify the best ways to communicate the critical importance of your profession. These interviews will be conducted throughout the world.

Next year, SLA will celebrate its centennial. This important milestone is not only a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reflect on 100 years of service; it is a time to redouble our efforts as we seek to anticipate, define and create a successful future for librarians and information professionals in an age ever more dependent, as Dr. Cerf said, upon information and technology.


Copyright Special Libraries Association Aug 2008

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