Cindy-mercial: Given five minutes (more or less) to introduce myself to my colleages, I went with an infomercial theme.
What other popular icons lend themselves to membership organizations?
cindy dot romaine at romainiacs dot com
SLA asked candidates for the Board this question: “What are the top two issues facing SLA and our profession and how would you address them?” Here’s my response:
As I start to formulate this response, I am standing in the Intensive Care Unit at the hospital. My mother-in-law has checked herself into the hospital. The doctors and nurses are trying to determine what’s wrong through a series of diagnostic tests, pointed questions, and even poking around a bit. It is really disturbing not to know what is wrong–just that it hurts.
At the same time, it’s comforting to watch everyone work. They have assigned roles and functions, and they are a good team. The ICU team members aren’t the bench players – these folks work efficiently and smoothly. I feel like we are in good hands.
Determining the issues confronting our Association is a bit the same. We have formed committees and assigned some of our best talent to look at the profession, the association, and our role. SLA has already devoted time and resources to the diagnostics of our situation, specifically, through the Strategic Alignment research that Fleishman-Hillard conducted over the past three years. The Strategic Alignment identified, among other points, that:
- librarians and information professionals represent a culture of continuous learning and knowledge sharing
- information professionals provide value-added intelligence to create a comprehensive understanding of issues
- information professionals facilitate good decision-making
But I’ve gotten ahead of myself. I believe that the two underlying issues confronting SLA are:
1) the economy and 2) the evolution of the library
Regarding the economy, we are going through what New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman calls the “Great Disruption” – a time when “the market and Mother Nature both hit the wall….” Here is Friedman’s crucial question:
“We need growth, we need ways to raise people’s standards of living, but what will be the new ways we should focus on—post-The Great Disruption—that will allow us to grow people’s living standards in a more sustainable and regenerative way?”
I’ve noticed that SLA members and units are responding in positive ways to the anxiety that the economy has created. There are programs for Career Agility (by the San Andreas Chapter), Doing More with Less (by the Southern California Chapter), and How to Evolve with the Changing Landscape by yet another Chapter. Chapters and Divisions are also providing networking which is fundamental for job leads, encouragement and gaining insights.
2) Regarding the evolution of the library, in coining the phrase “The Great Disruption,” Friedman could just as easily have been referring to the effect that the new wave of social networking tools, user generated content (UGC), the atomization of information, and the glut of information has had on the information profession. Information is pouring onto the Internet by the terabyte, be it yoga hamsters or functional specifications. Somebody has to be in charge as the paradigms evolve, and that somebody is the information professional. Frankly, it should be comforting for Internet users to know we are here, and maybe that’s part of the story we should be telling.
It’s all very complex. Like the ICU technicians I talked about earlier, it’s hard to determine what information will be useful in moving us forward. My mother-in-law had a lot of tubes inserted and monitors beeping, but the doctors made sense of it and put her back on the right road. By Mother’s Day she was perky again, and as we say out west, this wasn’t her first rodeo. She’s had tough times before and got through them. So will we.
When asked about her well-known affinity for SLA, long time member Barb Spiegelman told me that every year, when she enters the Info-Expo at the Annual Conference and looks around at the vendors, the buzz, and the attendees, she can’t help but smile. “These are my people,” she said happily.
I know what she means. I find it so energizing that almost every conversation at the Expo is about libraries, about advancing the profession, about how to deliver information at the right time. I’ve been looking forward to the 2009 Conference for a few weeks now. It’s my chance to talk to people with great ideas about the issues of the day, and to feel good about where I fit in. It’s nice to reconnect with the other members of our “tribe.”
One of the great things about the Internet is the way it pulls people together into self-directed groups. We can follow our favorite bloggers, join mailing lists, surf in web circles, and join Facebook groups, all at our leisure. My thinking is that we are searching for “our people” every time we join one of these electronic tribes.
For example, I recently signed up to join a “twibe.” Another tribe for librarians is on LinkedIn. And of course, there are several different communities at SLA. At every turn, I’ve met librarians who share some of my passions, and it feels great!
Seth Godin, marketing guru and keynote speaker at last year’s SLA Annual Conference, has a new book titled Tribes: We need You to Lead Us. He writes that being part of a tribe is something people hunger for. “Tribes are everywhere now, inside and outside of organizations, in public and in private, in nonprofits, in classrooms, across the planet. Every one of these tribes is yearning for leadership and connection.” (p. 8)
Godin says that great leaders create movements by empowering the tribe to communicate. “They establish the foundation for people to make connections, as opposed to commanding people to follow them,” he tells us (p. 23). To me, making connections is a key part of leadership, because the more feedback we get from people we trust, the better the consensus we build.
We seem to be living in the Golden Age of Social Networking, where it is possible to search the entire planet for tribes we’d like to join. Of all the tribes that I am actively part of, my SLA membership is the biggest. Being part of the SLA tribe builds professional meaning, exposes us to new ideas and new trends, and challenges our tendency to settle for the status quo.
So my question for you is, what tribes are you a member of? Who are your people?
cindy dot romaine at gmail dot com
Some days, hope is what keeps me going. I hope that these tough times will soften and resolve into a market that is more sustainable. I hope that the promises of the green revolution becomes real, soon. And I hope that librarians and information professionals get through this rough patch more robust than ever.
It’s mid-April and the long, cold winter is fading in the rearview mirror. Maybe the coming spring is a metaphor for general business conditions? First the crocus bloom, then the daffodils, and next come the trilliums.
Likewise, the new administration has infused some energy and enthusiasm into Congress and federal stimulus money appears to be trickling out of Washington, D.C. and into the states. Call me a crazy optimist, but maybe the worst is over?
The English language has many colorful phrases that express our ability to get through a crisis. We find a “safe harbor” or even better, we “ride the storm out.” I always liked that phrase, because it expresses a certain optimism about our expectations for the future. This too shall pass.
But I’m deliberately not taking a fatalistic approach. Nietzsche was famous for proclaiming “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” I’m not so sure that’s the right message for today. Business conditions have buffeted our profession to the point where getting stronger isn’t the only answer. We have to get smarter.
Recently, I talked to a member of the NYC chapter of SLA, where many people have been laid off. In discussing the situation, my colleague said that people had come to the realization that the jobs they lost will not return even when the economy picks up again. Those jobs of the past are gone now and will only reappear when they have morphed into something new.
“I am coming to the conclusion that the market and Mother Nature both hit the wall here in 2008/2009. We need growth, we need ways to raise people’s standards of living, but what will be the new ways we should focus on—post-The Great Disruption—that will allow us to grow people’s living standards in a more sustainable and regenerative way?”
Friedman, while referring to the economy, could have just as easily been referring to the effect that the new wave of social networking tools have had on the information profession.
So here’s my question: Are you feeling the Great Disruption? How are you adapting to it? It takes courage to move forward. How are you doing this? I need to know!
cindy dot romaine at gmail dot com
A New Era of Service
Hi, my name is Cindy Romaine. I’m an information professional in Portland, Oregon. I’ve got some opinions that I’d like to share concerning the issues and opportunities facing information professionals.
I am intrigued by President Obama’s call for service and the need for personal responsibility in making public institutions work effectively.
President Obama talks about public service, such as volunteering for hospice or Habitat for Humanity, but the way I look at it, there is room for us to contribute through our professional organizations to make a positive impact on the social fabric. Through our professional organization we can mentor students to help them gain the experience they need to make tough decisions. We can encourage our peers when they are hit hard by the economy. And we can advocate for fair and transparent information policies.
Service to the goals of my professional organization, Special Libraries Association (SLA), is one of the reasons that I am running for president-elect.
Pay it Forward
I have benefited from some great mentors throughout my career. They helped me develop my skills and stay active in the profession — more active than I ever thought I’d be. Now it’s my turn to give back to those mentors by passing along and paying it forward.
What about You?
I’d like to kick-start a conversation here. How do you contribute to uplifting others through your profession? What motivates you to participate? To give back?
cindy dot romaine at gmail dot com