SLA: How YOU Doin’? Part 3: Fact, Fiction or Political Nuance? We Are Professionals?

My first posts about the SLA2014 conference in Vancouver focused on the environment, the business and more. What was interesting to me was that there was also an undercurrent of disquiet among a number of people who were either in leadership or had been in leadership positions at one time or other. A lot of it seems to stem in particular from whatever went on at the Leadership Summit earlier this year. I wasn’t there, so that’s where it gets a bit complicated for me at least.

Before I go any further, I have to say that I thought about all of what I am discussing in this set of blog posts with ideas thrashing about of how to work toward positive energy and solutions to issues with SLA. It can’t be done alone, but it also can’t be done with people overtly, covertly, and subversively  undercutting each other. With that in mind, here is a photo I took near the end of the conference looking out from the Convention Center.

Storminess in the distance almost a metaphor for some of feeling of the SLA Conference in Vancouver

Storm clouds in the distance almost a metaphor for some of the feeling of the SLA Conference in and around the Vancouver Convention Center


He said, she said, she said, they said…
Oh no you/they/she/he didn’t! Oh yes you/they/she/he did!

Apparently some things were mentioned about leadership responsibilities at the Leadership Summit in Memphis. All sorts of conversations have been going on since that time and during the conference where more discussion was held in all sorts of places about the financial, operational and governance situation SLA is now in. As I understand it the Division and Chapter cabinets also dealt with some of the issues but I wasn’t at their meetings this time around so I cannot comment on the proceedings. Perhaps those who were there can chime in, but here we go with he/she/they/you said whatever.

A few folks (who, like me, also weren’t at the Leadership Summit)  expressed thoughts during the Vancouver conference  of who said what, when and why. Others who were at the Summit have told me some of that was not true or never was said or was not heard as it was stated. <SIGH> This carried over into the Vancouver conference such that some people went to a dinner as a large group but did not go to a meeting of the same group the next day because of the topics to be discussed. In retrospect I think one or more of the topics should not have been discussed at that meeting and instead more appropriately at the annual business meeting. I got caught up in the discussion like everyone else, so tsk tsk to me too! Well, people from that group know exactly what I am referring to but this is not the forum for me to comment further on it. However, I will likely say more in an appropriate other place where they can discuss or ignore as they wish.

Anyway, in addition to those actions, some of the same people who skipped the meeting did show up at the annual business meeting. While there they dissed the proceedings about the very topics discussed or avoided at the business meeting – with a bit of validity, I am sorry to say. It was too bad we could not have some professional discourse during the business meeting, to agree or to disagree, but get on with solving the issues at hand instead of sniping and demonstrating skills at passive/aggressive behavior.

All I know is that I no longer can be confident in anything I’ve heard except when I have been witness to it – I know, simple logic, but I’d like to believe that my wonderful colleagues would be truthful with me one way or other. Apparently this is not the case, and that is disappointing.

We know there are issues and questions around the sale of the SLA HQ building, as well concerns about decisions being made about and for the Association by the SLA Board of Directors and SLA HQ. Well, that is what they are respectively elected and paid to do what they do. They all need to be held accountable, as do elected leaders of the recent past, and all of us as voting members who had some influence on the issues as well. I had hoped some of these concerns would be addressed during the annual business meeting in a concise, logical way and not dragged out. Well, instead of that potential lengthy discussion, it was avoided all together. Yes, things were gone over at Leadership Summit according to the summaries I have read, but many in the business meeting audience WERE NOT THERE or may not have had seen any of the summaries distributed by a few unit leaders. As I discussed in my previous post, in the business meeting nothing really happened. OK, let’s say it didn’t happen to the depth a number of us expected.

So where does that leave things? Up in the air I’m afraid, with factions of one sort or other holding their ground, being perturbed or even strongly ticked off about one thing or other. You would think we were talking about things in another well known and much larger library association. Let’s see what happens over the next few months, what the pending first annual report to the membership says, what actions do take place, the results of those actions, and hope that this all settles out over time for the best.

I’m sure I’ll have some more thoughts, so stay tuned for a possible part 4 though it could go in a completely new direction. Check in and see!


One response to “SLA: How YOU Doin’? Part 3: Fact, Fiction or Political Nuance? We Are Professionals?

  1. Thank you\, Richard, for these candid and probing posts regarding the recent SLA Annual Conference. They have really resonated with me and I have been following your thread with great interest. In the interest of fair and full disclosure to your readers, I am a member of the SLA Board and the Association’s Treasurer. So I am going to chime in from two perspectives here: first, as a Board member, and second, as a long-time member of SLA generally.

    From the Board perspective, you have given us much to consider. In recent years, our closing Business Meeting has taken on the format that you saw this year – three short speeches from the President, Treasurer, and CEO, followed by some sort of program. Comments from the membership have been heard earlier in the week, during the open Board Meeting (where two open comment periods are set aside). It has been quite sometiime since I remember more of a question and answer period at that last meeting. Perhaps we need to rethink this approach. Though the Open Board meeting was well-attended, there were not a lot of comments from the membership. I am all for anything that increases dialog and transparency. You make some great obesrvations here and I thank you for your hopeful resignation at the conclusion of this latest entry. You can bet the Board will discuss your thoughts here!

    Now, taking off my Board hat, I would like to speak as a general member of SLA. I have had the honor of watching our Association transform itself over the years. I have not always agreed with the path it took, but my commitment to SLA and support for its leaders has never waived. With any association, there will always be a degree of political intrigue and minor partisanship. Our organizations are microcosms of our society after all. However, in no time during my membership, can I recall the degree of partisanship and backbench politicking being so strong or disruptive. Having fair and open dialog is one thing. But what I have witnessed as of late borders on disrespect and purposeful divisiveness. What I witnessed happening at the back of the room during this year’s Division Cabinet Meeting, while open discussion was taking place on the floor, was nothing short of sad and reprehensible. I joined SLA for the strength and support of its community. Seeing members of that community find humor in turning on their colleagues certainly gave me great concern.

    We are all being told right now that all professional organizations are struggling these days to redefine themselves and their value iin a hyper-connected, mobile world. SLA has been working hard to secure its future and vitality. The worst thing we can do at this point, whether we are members of the Board or members at large, is to forget that dialog, mutual respect, and common concerns were what this Association were built upon. What kind of Association will we have left if we kick these pillars from beneath our foundation?

    Clearly, I am in this for the long haul and I remain steadfastly optimistic that we are on the right path. No one said it should be easy or that we should all agree on everything. But we are out our strongest when we work together and strive to bridge our differences. If we can conquer the things that divide us, we can conquer anything tomorrow throws at us.

    As always, I thank you for bringing the discussion home!

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