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ISSN 1483-9288

Wired West: Volume 14, no.1

SLA-WCC Members Partake in a West Coast 25th Anniversary Celebration

By Rebecca Martens

On the evening of Wednesday, November 24, 2010 approximately 50 members of SLA-WCC gathered together at the Terminal City Club in downtown Vancouver to celebrate 25 years of special librarianship in Western Canada.  As promised, it was a night of nostalgia and vision.  I had the privilege of attending this event and, as a graduating student at SLAIS, was thoroughly inspired by the enthusiasm and involvement of these devoted information professionals.

The evening began with a cocktail hour, complete with scrumptious appetizers, breathtaking views of the Burrard Inlet and the North Shore Mountains, and boisterous conversation as colleagues reunited with one another and with the numerous special guests who shared in this momentous occasion with us.  Included in this list of special guests was a plethora of former SLA-WCC presidents, Jane Evans of LexisNexis and Cindy Romaine, SLA President, who contributed her own insights and perceptions on the past, present and future during the second portion of the evening.

Following a brief ceremony in which she was awarded the chapter’s Outstanding Information Professional Award for 2010, Patricia Cia led this second portion.  Patricia moderated a five-member panel of information professionals, three of whom have themselves been recipients of the Outstanding Information Professional Award in recent years.  Jan Wallace of UBC’s David Lam Library, Carol Williams formerly of the BC Securities Commission, Barbara Holder of FPInnovations-Wood Products Division, Debbie Schachter of Vancouver Public Library and Peter Tyrell of Andornot Consulting all shared their insights into the past 25 years of SLA-WCC and what the next 25 might possibly bring – something that all of the panellists agreed is one of the most challenging predictions they have ever encountered.

The first question that Patricia posed to the panellists dealt with their predictions for advancements in special librarianship in the past 10 to 15 years, to what extent these predictions came to fruition and which trends surprised them most.  What surprised me most was the similarity in all of the panellists’ responses, namely that they hadn’t been able to predict so much of what has happened in our field, with technological advances playing a major role in this.  Another common thread in these responses was the need to adapt to this unpredictability and the subsequent need to continually redefine who were are as information professionals and what exactly it is that we do – and learn how to explain this to people outside of the industry.  It was also interesting to note how the perspective of Peter Tyrell, the baby and self-proclaimed techie of the panel, differed from other perspectives.  Peter’s extraordinarily high expectations and considerable degree of accuracy in the realm of technological advancement included such things as RFID, image recognition technology and gestural computing, a technology that is being implemented in many modern video gaming systems.

From here, the conversation moved towards a discussion of the trends that have really taken hold among information professionals in recent years.  As you might expect, the big topic here was the use of technology to foster community-building, with a notable emphasis on technologically-assisted collaboration and the proliferation of Web 2.0 and open-source software.  Patricia noted that just because we may not work in a public or academic library, community-building remains a crucial component of our work, with many of us having the benefit of being involved in an array of communities within our individual organizations.  To this, many of the panellists agreed that we can learn much from becoming involved in these communities, both in giving to and receiving from them, and that this involvement will lead to greater collaboration and cooperation, establishing a more secure place for information professionals in their individual organizations.

The issue of establishing relevance with one’s organization continued into the panellists’ responses to Patricia’s third question – what do you predict will be issues of importance within special libraries in the next 25 years?  Both Jan Wallace and Carol Williams noted the necessity for information professionals to be flexible and willing to adapt in order to carve out their roles in their organizations.  Barbara Holder echoed these sentiments, stating that the users will define what they need and if we cannot meet these needs, we ourselves will no longer be needed.  Some of the ways in which the panellists suggested we maintain our vitality to our organizations include staying abreast with technology; becoming lifelong learners by continually upgrading our skills through workshops, conferences, online courses and even second Masters degrees; and developing stronger relationships with our IT departments through collaboration and cooperation.  While all of these responses were valuable and accurate, I think Cindy Romaine’s struck me the hardest; summarizing what all of the panellists had discussed, Cindy suggested that what this really boils down to is attitude: we must embrace transformation if we are to remain relevant and vital in our organizations.

The evening concluded with Patricia’s final questions – what advice would you provide to new information professionals and what do you wish you’d known from day one?  This was an excellent question to tie together all of the many topics that had already been discussed.  The key theme that emerged from this question included the need to be confident and competent in our many roles as information providers, employees, colleagues, and supervisors.  This can include working on being more flexible and open-minded, learning new skills and abilities, finding your inner competitive spirit, and perhaps most importantly, believing in what you do.

In closing, I must extend my gratitude to Andrea Freeman, SLA-WCC’s Vancouver Director, and her event planning team for organizing such a terrific and memorable evening and for providing me with the opportunity to work alongside them.  A huge thank-you also goes to Patricia Cia for agreeing to moderate the panel and to the panellists who provided a vibrant and engaging discussion: Jan Wallace, Carol Williams, Barbara Holder, Debbie Schachter, and Peter Tyrell.  Finally, I must also thank LexisNexis for sponsoring this event and FPInformart for sponsoring all SLA-WCC programs, making the evening a resounding success!

Rebecca Martens is a recent grad from the University of British Columbia’s School of Library, Archival and Information Studies.  She currently resides in Victoria, BC.

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