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Quick Wrap-up of the SLA Annual Conference

Before the Info-Expo OpenedNearly two fortnights ago, the SLA Annual Conference wrapped up in Philadelphia.  4,301 people attended the conference, including members, vendors, etc.  This was more than the number of people that attended the conference in New Orleans and increased the energy of the conference.  (Note: 1,116 members registered for the entire conference.  139 members registered for only one day.  Additional members attended as vendors or attended a CE only.)

The conference had last been in Philly in 2000.  Like 2000, the closeness of everything – convention center, hotels, food and night life – was a positive.  Second home for many attendees became the Reading Terminal Market, which was across the street from the convention center.  Every convention center – and SLA conference – should have that quality of food nearby!

2011 SLA FellowsHowever, we don’t come to the conference for the food, but for the opportunity to learn from each other and from the presenters.  The Sunday keynote was given by Tom Friedman, who wrote The World is Flat. Ned Potter and Don Hawkins have written good summaries of his presentation.  Friedman’s key point was that “average” is no longer good enough.  If your job can be outsources or replaced by technology, it will be.  For us – librarians and information professionals – that means that we need to focus on those things that are uniquely ours and not those things where we are competing with lower cost options. In talking with an LIS student recently, I used readers advisory as an example (i.e., making book/media recommendations).  Yes, there is a benefit if librarians are involved in recommending literature, etc., but there are services that provide that as well as social networks where people can turn to for assistance.  Is there some other services where we should be focusing instead?  Every information professional will think of something different (e.g., digital literacy) and that is okay.  The key is to recognize those areas that are our domain and which cannot be diverted to someone else.

While our heads were swimming with Friedman’s words and their implications, conference attendees dove into a myriad of sessions.  Two that I enjoyed – and learned from – were “60 apps in 60 minutes” given by Joe Murphy and Scott Brown and “All of Your Copyrights are Ours”, which speaker Dorothea Salo retitled “I own copyright so I pwn you!”  (“pwn” is a term used in gaming and it basically means “own”, but with more intensity.)  (Salo’s slides and notes from Don Hawkins.)

With one-third of U.S. cell phone users currently using smartphones and a prediction that 50% will be using smartphones by the end of the year, as well as the growing number of tablet devices, apps are increasingly important.  We need to be able to talk about apps and perhaps even recommend apps, which makes presentations like “60 apps in 60 minutes” even more useful.  Murphy and Brown talked about a wide range of apps, including ones that were good for travel as well as business and personal productivity.  Some people in the audience were even downloading apps as they were being mentioned!

Dorothea Salo and Christian MillerNo notes can capture Dorothea Salo’s passion, so it is unfortunate that her presentation wasn’t recorded for later viewing.  She is an advocate for us exerting our rights and exercising fair use.  She also believes that we – librarians – should not be copyright police.  What is implied in her presentation is that we all need to understand copyright lawYou can’t know how to exert your rights and exercise fair use if you do not know what is in the law.  Understanding the law will also help when reviewing publisher and database provider contracts, so that you know when they are creating licenses that limit what is acceptable under the law.

The final keynote was given by James Kane, who is working with several SLA chapters on a loyalty project. (notes, notes, handout/workbook) I know that some people association the word “loyalty” with brand loyalty and shopping, yet every group/network/association/etc. is affected by loyalty.  Kane divides people into four groups – antagonist, transactional, predisposed and loyal.  (His handout gives details about each category.) We want people to be loyal, however, we have people in SLA that are predisposed, transactional and antagonist.  What does that mean for the Association and how can we increase loyalty?

Where Ben Franklin's home had beenDuring Kane’s presentation at the Leadership Development Institute (LDI) on Sunday, he noted that 6% of SLA members are loyal, based on a survey he conducted.  He believes that the Association should have 20% of its membership that describe themselves as being loyal. His work with several chapters will help them increase their number of loyal members and then allow those chapters to teach the rest of us what they’ve learned.

The annual business meeting for the Association was also on Wednesday. Our treasurer, Dan Trefethen talked about changes in dues allotment, which will affect every SLA unit. He followed up to unit leaders in email with this recap:

Although we have suffered a 30% reduction in revenues over the past couple of years, we have continued to pass the same allotments per member to the units.  This has continued despite the fact that the sliding scale member rates have caused our dues revenue to drop dramatically, faster than our membership headcount has dropped.   In effect, the percentage of dues revenue going to the units has been increasing.  In 2006, the units received a 20% increase in their allotments from that year’s dues increase, and have continued to receive the same fixed amount per member despite the restructure of our dues rates.

In Philadelphia the Board of Directors approved an adjustment to how the unit allotments are calculated.  In 2012, a new method of calculating allotments will be implemented: units will receive an amount for each of their members that is proportional to that member’s dues rate.  We will all share in equal proportion the amount of dues revenue that we receive.

For instance, a member paying $200 for their basic dues will earn today’s full allotment rate for each of his/her units:  $14.40 for a chapter, $12.00 for a division and $7.20 for a caucus.  A member at the $185 rate will pass through 93% of the full allotment to the units (since $185 is 93% of $200), so the amounts would be $13.39 for chapters, $11.16 for divisions and $6.69 for caucuses.  And so on.

The Board also voted to eliminate the minimum dues allotment.  This action will primarily affect smaller chapters (no divisions currently receive the minimum allotment).

Trefethen has provided unit leaders and unit treasurers with additional information, so they can begin to understand the effect of these decisions. Unit leaders are encourage to talk to him about any questions or concerns that they have. Hopefully units will begin to share ideas on how they will mitigate the effect of this (e.g., raising the fee non-members pay to attend SLA events).

McGillinsNo conference is complete without networking, and there was lots of it in Philly thanks to every unit that provided a formal opportunity for people to talk, as well as all of the informal opportunities that presented themselves. These events were also wonderful occasions for people to meet those that they had gotten to know via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. before the conference.  There were many “ah…I know you” moments.

And that is likely my last take away from the conference – the importance of social media. A few years ago, people shared massive amounts of information through their blogs and some people even “live blogged” the conference.  Now people share information via Twitter and other social sites as it occurs.  While this means that there is a rich Twitter stream of information, it also means that there aren’t those meaty blog posts of the past that provide rich details about the sessions.  At this point, there have been more than 14,000 tweets with the SLA2011 hashtag. Those tweets are available through Twapper Keeper. This a useful archive, but you don’t get the context which can be very important.

Our reliance on social media is going to increase, especially as the number of mobile devices increases.  That means that if you want to follow the online conversations during SLA 2012 (and the Leadership Summit), you will need to be using social media.  If you aren’t, don’t wait…get started now!

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