Different countries, common challenges: my travels to visit SLA members and units have revealed the strength that lies in our diversity and the concerns that we all share.

Author:Arnold, Kate
Position:INFO VIEW - Special Libraries Association - Column

Yes, it really is a small world.

For six weeks, from late March to the end of April, I was "beyond borders" speaking at four international conferences (on three continents), attending two chapter events, and participating in two Twitter talks. It was fascinating to experience these different occasions, each of which made me realize the value of SLA in promoting and strengthening learning and networking among our members. Next on the list is our own annual conference in Vancouver, Canada, and by the time you read this we'll probably all be in the final throes of preparing to head to Vancouver or be there already.

My recent travels have given me several wonderful opportunities to meet with SLA members to understand their concerns and challenges as well as hear about their successes. I've also been privileged to tour some very fine special libraries, which is always a treat. Giving keynote presentations has afforded me the chance to promote SLA's international credentials and to highlight some of our recent achievements, in particular the report co-produced with the Financial Times (FT) on the evolving value of information management. There is considerable interest in, and enthusiasm for, this report and its findings across the information profession.

In this column, I want to share with you some of what I learned and experienced on my recent trips. Each event had its own identity and culture, but there were some common themes and challenges. Learning from one another how best to deal with these is the hallmark of a good professional association.

Travels and Topics

In late March, I was lucky enough to attend the SLA Arabian Gulf Chapter's 20th annual conference in Doha, Qatar. The programming was excellent, with speakers from across the world sharing best practices on open access and information literacy. More than 500 delegates and 50 exhibitors attended the conference.

Attending a conference in another part of the world always offers the opportunity to experience new ideas. I particularly liked the networking breaks between program sessions, which allowed attendees to meet with one another and reflect on the program discussions, all with excellent refreshments on hand. I also liked the way questions at the end of sessions were handled. in addition to raising your hand and asking a question, you could write questions on cards that were circulated at the start of the session. The question cards found favor with the presenters--it was a lot...

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