Why SLA is a ‘Must’ Membership for Me

by Naomi House, MLIS

Why SLA is a ‘Must’ Membership for Me

IMG_6534SLA or Special Libraries Association is an organization I really believe in.  I like to call it the “Specialized” Libraries Association, because that is what it truly is; it is an organization for LIS professionals in any field who specialize in something.  Divisions include newspapers and journalists, university librarians and public librarians, corporate, competitive intelligence, knowledge managers and more!

Beyond Borders” is the theme this year and it is very fitting.  June 8-10, 2014 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada SLA (Special Libraries Association) is holding its annual conference and librarians and other information professionals from around the globe are attending.  While I am not there, again this year, I am looking forward to attending the 2015 conference in Boston.  Even though I am not in attendance I am super-grateful for the ability to follow along on Twitter with the #SLA2014 hashtag.
So how did I get to be such an SLA superfan?

Many of you who have been following INALJ from the beginning may have noticed I mention SLA a lot.  I have written about SLA 2013 and meeting SLA Leadership in Alexandria, Virginia last year. One of my bloggers, Mary-Michelle Moore, who now runs INALJ California also did a recap of #SLA2013.  I interviewed SLA’s Director of Education and Information Services , Carolyn Sosnowski as well as Tom Nielsen of the Solo Division and general shout-outs of how much I love being a member pop up all the time.  I almost titled this article “A Love Letter to SLA” but love is sometimes unpredictable, unreasonable and often out of our control and not always good for us.  SLA is more like a friendship and I totally feel supported.

It all started when I was the library assistant at a small information center near K St in Washington, nhouse_dcslaDC.  It was a two person library and my Director, Susan Fournier, was also at the time the President of DC/SLA and held many of the programs at our offices.  She really opened my eyes to all of the different jobs LIS pros can do in our field and outside of it and encouraged me to continue and get my degree. Since then I have not only attended events for SLA chapters in DC, Maryland, Virginia, Louisiana/Mississippi, Hawaii and the UAE, I have been an invited speaker at many events.  In fact my very first speaking engagement ever was for SLA Maryland!

What I Gain as a Member

We all spend money on things we don’t need and balk at investing in our networks and careers, which baffles me.  Put away $5-$15 a month that is it!  It is well worth it.

  • PROGRAMMING:  I Loved being a member of DC/SLA because it seemed every week there was something great, free and new going on.  Even if your chapter is smaller and hosts fewer events the annual business meeting is a must-go-to.  I was vacationing in Hawaii and went to the Hawai’i-Pacific Islands annual business meeting and was able to hear Helen Wong Smith, at the time the Archivist for Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park, speak!  I also have taken advantage of many online presentations and some of the certification classes, through Click University.
  • NETWORKING:Being known in the field is getting easier with social media and I really appreciate that.  But for old fashioned person to person in face networking I have found SLA cannot be beat.
  • LOCAL CHAPTERS:  While I love the global aspect and connections I have made in SLA my true home has always been within the local chapters, most specifically the chapter I was with the longest, the Washington, DC chapter.
  • DIVISIONS:  Whether you are interested in Academia, Non-Profits, Legal Libraries, Competitive Intelligence, Taxonomies, Government, the Military, working in Journalism, being a Solo Librarian and many, many more fields the SLA Divisions has a home for you.
  • CAREER DEVELOPMENT: As I mentioned above my very first speaking gig was on a panel for Maryland SLA in the fall of 2011 and now I have 60+ under my belt.  SLA, especially at the local chapter and division level, gives all members a chance to develop leadership skills and be active.  It is all what you make it.  I love that staff, MLS librarians, students, anyone can serve on committees and make a difference.  Without these opportunities I would not be who I am in the field today.
  • LISTSERVS:  Lets be frank.  There are listservs within our profession that are highly uncomfortable to read and not invitational in their rhetoric.  You don’t have that problem with SLA.  And you may see a job on one of the local SLA listservs that isn’t advertised anywhere else.  True story, my first professional librarian job was only advertised on the DC/SLA listserv and Catholic University listserv for LIS students.  Nowhere else!!!  If I had not been an avid daily reader of that listserv And been hired because of that INALJ would not exist, period.
  • CAREER CENTER:  When I was working for a federal contractor and they were doing a search for a new Director for our library the HR manager asked me where they should advertise and look for great candidates.  INALJ is a good place to advertise but we do not target one demographic so they might get a ton of applicants who were under qualified but hopeful.  ALA Joblist is another great place to advertise and top LIS professionals check it out so I highly recommend posting there as well.  But the feature I love most about SLA’s Career Center is the database of member resumes that employers can pay to access.  That is where they found the person they eventually hired, who was Fantastic, by the way!
  • PEOPLE:  My favorite thing about SLA is that I have met some of my favorite people there!  I don’t want to even begin to start listing them because I will leave many out but the government, corporate, university, non-profit and all other fantastic folks that are members have enriched my life and opened doors for me.  Believe me, I am exposed to job opportunities I never would see if I wasn’t a member because of the reputation I have built among these professional friends.

These are just some of the reasons I value my membership and plan on being a member for a long, Long time!  Look into SLA if you are not already a member.  I know times are tight, especially for unemployed librarians so they have a discounted membership rate.  Also student rates are very attractive.  Remember that we all use disposable income for things that improve our lives, whether a sip from a mocha latte or to taking a vacation with family.  Consider putting a tiny amount aside each month for SLA, too!


Naomi House

Naomi House, MLIS, is the founder and publisher of the popular webzine and jobs list INALJ.com (formerly I Need a Library Job) and former CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) of T160K.org, a crowdfunding platform focused on African patrimony, heritage and cultural projects. INALJ was founded in October 2010 with the assistance of her fellow Rutgers classmate, Elizabeth Leonard. Its social media presence has grown to include Facebook (retired in 2016), Twitter and a LinkedIn group, in addition to the interviews, articles and jobs found on INALJ. INALJ has had over 21 Million page hits and helped many, many thousands of librarians find employment! Through grassroots marketing, word of mouth and a real focus on exploring unconventional resources for job leads, INALJ grew from a subscription base of 20 friends to a website with over 500,000 visits in one month. Naomi believes that well-sourced quantity is quality in this narrow job market and INALJ reflects this with many new jobs published daily. She has also written for the 2011, 2012 and 2013 LexisNexis Government Info Pro and many other publications in the past decade. She presents whenever she can, including serving on three panels at the American Library Association's Annual Conference in Las Vegas; as breakout presenter at OCLC EMEA in Cape Town, South Africa; as a keynote speaker at the Virginia Library Association annual meeting; at the National Press Club in Washington DC; McGill University in Montreal, Canada; the University of the Emirates, Dubai, MLIS program and the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Naomi was a Reference, Marketing and Acquisitions Librarian for a contractor at a federal library outside Washington, DC, and has been living and working in Budapest, Hungary and Western New York State. She spent years running her husband’s moving labor website, fixed and sold old houses and assisted her husband cooking delicious Pakistani food. She is preparing to re-enter the workforce and is job hunting. Her husband is now the co-editor of INALJ, a true support!  She has heard of spare time but hasn’t encountered it lately. She pronounces INALJ as eye-na-elle-jay.