Category: SLA

Speak up. Create Action.


One of my favourite albums in high school was The DecibelsCreate Action. (They had a brief reunion in 2013. You might be able to see me dancing to their cover of “That’s When Happiness Began” by the Grains of Sand in this video.) The title track, “Create Action”, is a good anthem of actually doing something. Yesterday when I was writing about SLA signing on to COAR, this song popped into my head. (A nice departure from “Wichita Lineman” which is usually in there.) That’s it for the rock and roll lesson.

So the good news from yesterday is that this morning I received an email from Doug Newcomb, Deputy CEO of SLA, that the association has joined all of those other groups and signed on to the COAR letter denouncing Elsevier’s new sharing policy. This is fantastic and I really appreciate that SLA took this action. I will renew my membership this month after all! You know what I’m happiest about though? Not just that they’re taking a stand for members on an issue that directly affects our mission and values, but that they responded to my letter.

Building upon my earlier post about showing you’re a radical through action, one of the most important ways to affect change is to speak up and create action. I don’t know if groups like ALA, SLA, SPARC, the EFF speaking out against the new Elsevier policy will make them change their mind but not speaking up will definitely yield no change. It’s why I took the time to write to the SLA Board of Directors and the Public Policy Advisory Council to ask them and take action on the issue rather than just leave it at my snarky, dismayed tweet. The tweet alone would have just been a small public stunt that would be lost in the void and there would most likely not be any further action. Emailing a lot of people I knew who could and probably would actually do something created the action.

This is a skill I think we all need to develop – the ability to listen to our conscience and speak up. In the case of this issue, it wasn’t just saying, “Hey! SLA, do something!” but taking the time to figure out appropriate channels and craft a message they will be receptive to while still communicating my intent. It’s totally a “the change your want to see” idea. There’s still a lot of work to do around the issues facing publishers, authors, and libraries with regards to Open Access. (John Dupuis just posted a good summary of where we are with the Elsevier policy.) So create action.

SLA: Speak up, I can’t hear you.

flickr photo shared by Ape Lad under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-ND ) license

Update: On 21 May, 2015 SLA signed on to the COAR statement. Way to go, SLA!

This morning an announcement hit my inbox from ARL about a number of library groups denouncing Elsevier’s new sharing and hosting policy.  (I wrote about it recently, so I won’t really address the issue again now.) I looked at the list of signatories to COAR’s statement hoping to see my library association of choice (SLA), but wasn’t really surprised when I saw they were absent.  It reminded me of FASTR and how they were slow to speak out against it, though after some prodding they did. This situation is different because this isn’t directly about legislation or regulation, but about a major publisher’s policies (that kind of relate to regulation).

The realist in me understands why SLA hasn’t yet (and likely won’t) comment on the change in Elsevier’s policy. This has been a somewhat tumultuous year for the association as we collectively figure out what SLA means and what the way ahead will be. If you’re a member of SLA, please go read the SLA Recommendations Report and comment on it! These sorts of advocacy issues may be relatively straightforward and require little effort, but they are not really a priority for SLA right now. We have bigger issues. There’s also the fact that it’s difficult to speak against a large “vendor partner”, especially when SLA needs to strengthen its relationship with vendor partners for survival reasons.

At the same time, I want to belong to a professional association that speaks up about these kinds of issues. I want them to advocate for access to information. It’s in the interest of many of SLA’s members and our library users. Not only would making these statements support members who are working on these issues, it would also position SLA alongside many other library associations like ALA. It’s a form of publicity or marketing, showing that we are interested in access to research that impacts everybody. If you’re a member and want SLA to do something on the issue, I recommend contacting the Board of Directors. I wrote them this morning.

And this is where it gets difficult for me to see how I fit in with SLA if they don’t speak up on these kinds of issues. After reading the recommendations, I felt somewhat out of place within the association structure, but I am used to that. I’m also used to SLA being conservative when it comes to policy positions, but I’m tired of it. I think this constant inward focus and reluctance to push back against policies that negatively impact the core mission of library and information centers needs to stop, but I also don’t think SLA is in a place right now to do it. That makes me sad. Many SLA members look to the association for professional development opportunities. Advocacy, for the profession and our services, is one of these opportunities we’ve been neglecting. It would be great if members could cultivate the skills to speak up when issues directly affect our professional interests, and learn to communicate respectfully with our vendors partners to establish mutually beneficial relationships.

I’ve seen many energetic and enthusiastic SLA members drop their membership in recent years because the association wasn’t for them. I understand there will always be churn, but it shouldn’t be from Rising Stars and Fellows. When the people who were heavily involved with making the association strong and viable for the future fade out because they feel their energy would be better spent elsewhere, it’s worrying. Everybody has reasons – money, time, other commitments, but the disagreement on direction is I think the most troublesome because it’s the easiest to do something about. Unfortunately, this might be the thing that makes me fade away. I hope not because I truly do value my membership with SLA and have benefitted greatly from my involvement with the association, but if it continues to go in directions that go against my values I will probably go elsewhere.

#SLAleads Tips (not just for first timers)

SLA Leadership is next week in Memphis. I’m excited about it because Memphis is the home of Stax, Sun, and Goner records. I’m also excited because I get to hang out with the new crop of SLA leaders and get energized for the association. For newer SLA leaders (or not), here are just a few tips to get the most out of SLA Leadership.

  1. Be present. Participate a dine-around, make it to breakfast, and be sure to attend the Mid-South Chapter Welcome Reception. This is a small conference where you can make connections easier than larger conferences.
  2. The Buddy System. Chances are you will know some people at the Leadership Summit – somebody from your unit, a board member, or somebody you happened to click with previously – but you might not. Making a connection early on in the conference can help you navigate all of the information about SLA governance. I suggest Tom Rink. That man knows everything SLA and is usually very happy to share. Or you can hang with me. (I don’t bite!)
  3. Make a new friend. One step beyond the buddy system is making sure you talk to new people. Actively try to mingle. Yes it can be difficult, but this a mix of people who have shared interests and goals. If you are new to SLA Leadership, this is how you can meet you conference buddy. If you’ve been around a few years, this will help you get new ideas and new connections.
  4. Listen! A lot of information about how SLA runs and operates is presented at this conference. It can be confusing at times, but listening can give you great insight into what the SLA board and HQ are up to.
  5. Speak up! Have a question? A suggestion? Share it with the wider group. Chances are you’re not alone, so speak up.
  6. Be in the room. Attending the sessions and meetings is important, but so is paying attention. While there often is a good back channel discussion on Twitter, don’t get too bogged down in your screen and be active in the room.
  7. Connect with new Chapters or Divisions. If you hear another unit doing something that you think sounds interesting, follow up with them about it. Or maybe you have a similar problem and can work together on a solution? SLA has a broad range of groups, connect with them to make your unit thrive.

So I’ll see you in Memphis!