Welcome to the Fall 2009 issue, Chapter members and extended readership.
The last time I penned my column, I began by lamenting the unseasonable summer weather (cool and rainy) in Toronto, and I now mark the all-too-rapid passage of time by commenting once again on the weather. Toronto went on to enjoy an unusual ‘Summer in September’ (hot and dry), and I personally went on a brief vacation to marvel at the brilliantly colored foliage that presented itself in early October (captured visually, and by digital camera, in upstate New York).
A busy time for Toronto Chapter and for the Association
Most significantly, it has been an extremely busy time for both the Toronto Chapter and our parent association, SLA, since the last Courier issue.
For Toronto Chapter -
The Chapter hosted a slew of well-attended, successful events. Recent events include:
- A joint Summer Pub Night (networking event) with CASLIS Toronto, Aug. 25;
- The continuation of the Career Development series presented by Ulla de Stricker, with the presentation of Self Promotion, No Cringe (number 3 of 5) on Sept. 8, and Dealing with People (number 4) on Oct. 6;
- A Fall ’09 meeting of the Solo Librarians or Solos (Chapter subgroup), Sept. 22;
- An AGO Library Tour at the Art Gallery of Ontario on Sept. 29;
- An event titled Knowledge Management and Social Networking, Oct. 1;
- An Autumn Social gathering of the New Information Professionals (NIP) (Chapter subgroup), Oct. 22.
Still to come in the remaining months of the year are the following additional events:-
- The final session in the Career Development series, Looking Professional, with Ulla de Stricker and Rani Pooran, Nov. 10;
- The Annual General Meeting (AGM) of Chapter, followed by a wine tasting, Nov. 18;
- The traditional Joint Holiday Social, celebrated this year jointly with the members of CASLIS Toronto and FIAA (the Faculty of Information Alumni Association), Dec. 2.
For the Association -
The Association ratcheted up the level of activity for all its members and units with their October 14 announcement of the new name that is being proposed to replace Special Libraries Association (abbreviated to the short form or acronym SLA). I am sure that you are all aware of the proposed new name by now, thanks to the high level of responses and member reactions that circulated afterwards. Stated here ‘for the record’, the proposed new name is:
Association for Strategic Knowledge Professionals (abbreviated to the short form or acronym – ASKPro)
I personally commend the Association, its Board of Directors, and staff on this choice, and for their procedures in selecting the name and rolling out the change proposal. For the record, I am solidly behind the adoption of the new name because I believe in the power of the words in the phrase, and because I have great confidence in the Alignment research processes that have brought these words to the fore. As explained to the leadership group on several occasions, some words and phrases ‘resonate with C-level executives’ (CEOs, etc.), while others, such as ‘special libraries’ and ‘special librarians’ simply do not. Words that do not resonate with executives that fund our activities may be worse than neutral (unremarkable), may in fact be open to questions of relevance, and may actually work to the detriment of our profession’s image.
While on this topic, we are happy to announce that the Chapter recently appointed Rebecca Jones and Kim Silk as our ‘Alignment Ambassadors’. Welcome, Rebecca and Kim, and thank you both for taking on this important role. Chapter members, please watch for the publicity and insights that they will be providing on all aspects of Alignment, including the name change proposal. They also plan to have one or more Chapter events at which we can come together, learn from one another, and express our unique opinions.
You may be thinking … what can I do now? I would suggest that you explore the Alignment research on the Portal that has been created, and familiarize yourself with member reactions to the proposed name change via the wiki, blog, Facebook fan page, and Twitter space that have all been set up to handle this flood of communication. Once you are fully informed, you will certainly want to exercise your right to vote on the name change during the time period allocated for e-voting, November 16 to December 9, 2009.
Recap of my year as Chapter President, and the fulfillment of my goals
My Presidency’s historical theme -
As Chapter President in 2009, I had the unique opportunity to devise programming that was linked in with the larger SLA Centennial Celebration that was launched in January, and to explore the part that Toronto Chapter has played within this history for the 69 years of our own existence (1940-2009). For programming with a historical twist, we had a very successful official SLA Presidential Visit from Gloria Zamora in May, coupled with a Gala Centennial Dinner. At the Gala, Gloria addressed attending members, invited guests, and thirty-two past Chapter Presidents with a forward-looking talk about the next 100 years. Her passion that the future should be built upon the foundation provided by the Alignment Project findings was most evident. We looked back by displaying archival photographs of Chapter Presidents, members and area special libraries, as well as specially compiled listings of awards bestowed on Chapter members throughout our history.
I am currently completing a Timeline of Toronto Chapter historical milestones, and it will be shared with Chapter members, and provided to headquarters for their records. Pulling this material together gave me a great deal of insight into how the Chapter’s volunteers have fulfilled their roles over time, and how Chapter Presidents (my predecessors) acted and spoke ‘presidentially’. A side benefit has been to bring much better organization to the Chapter Archives that unfortunately had to be moved several times within the last few years. We will likely reach out to members once we have firmly identified gaps within our collection of unbound newsletter issues, print Directories of Toronto Area Special Libraries, etc. There are also some clues that can be followed to locate missing material, as some external organizations (e.g., CLA) may have been provided with copies of our Chapter materials for retention at their locales.
My overall objective was to provide relevant programming to meet members’ needs during these challenging times.
The first goal I set for myself was to deliver a year of varied and interesting Chapter event programming, and it was accomplished through the following individual events or event themes:
- The official visit from SLA President Gloria Zamora in May that culminated in our Gala Centennial Dinner, with its historical theme (above).
- The unique series of 5 events on Career Development delivered by Ulla de Stricker, a past Chapter President and the current Career Guidance Chair – most helpful to members, students, and non-members alike in these difficult economic times.
- The augmentation of our customary two seasonal networking occasions that are enjoyed jointly with CASLIS Toronto and other associations (August, December), by adding two additional Networking Nights for our members in February and April. These were valued by attendees seeking to become better known, and to get to know us better.
- A repeat of previously successful event themes, the Best of the Web (June) and Knowledge Management (October), the latter coupled this time with a Social Networking component. We had wonderful turnouts for both, and received enthusiastic feedback on the value of these educational events.
- An assortment of other events, including a hosted Click U Live (May), a year-end Annual General Meeting with entertainment (November), and a library tour at Art Gallery of Ontario (September).
- Two special events, a Reception to welcome Dean Seamus Ross to the position he took up in January at Faculty of Information, University of Toronto (March), and a biennial Volunteer Appreciation Event, at which we feted and thanked the invited 2008 and 2009 Chapter volunteers (June).
- Chapter subgroups meetings for their members, the Solos (in February, April, and September), and the New Information Professionals (NIP) (in June and October).
My second goal was to explore ways to bring more members into event planning roles. This year’s events were organized by a variety of volunteers from all levels of the Chapter reporting structure – the Executive Board, Advisory Board, Expertise Pool, and Volunteer Pool. Quite a few of them were first-time participants in the Chapter’s event programming activities.
At this time, I would like to thank those volunteers who organized events in the second half of 2009. (Organizers of events in the first half of the year were thanked in an earlier newsletter.) My sincere thanks go to following volunteer organizers:
- Greg Barber, for the Summer Pub Night;
- Pam Casey, for the Career Development series, sessions three through five;
- Kathryn FitzGerald, for the AGO Library Tour;
- Claire Lysnes, for the Knowledge Management and Social Networking event;
- Gayle Gossen, for the AGM and wine tasting;
- Sandra Craig, for the Joint Holiday Social;
- Amra Porobic, for continued Solos meetings;
- Laura Warner, for continued NIP social events.
Heather Wilson, also a past Chapter President, volunteered to assist me in my efforts to involve more volunteers in event planning by offering to create a Checklist of Event Planning tasks and timelines. We were jointly of the opinion that such a document would reduce the ‘mystique’ around ‘event planning’ concepts, and would serve as a ‘blueprint’ for our event planning volunteers. The Checklist should contribute to helping members of the Volunteer Pool overcome any reluctance they might have in taking on aspects of planning and running Chapter events. Heather did extensive research into Checklists that had been prepared by other associations and organizations, and also drew on her own considerable expertise with our Chapter’s event planning processes. Sandra Craig, Heather and I are now finalizing this document, and will make it available to next year’s Volunteers.
While we were engaged in this Checklist exercise, we also looked critically at the way in which we are currently organized to deliver programs to members. We all agreed that, for a number of years, too few members and volunteers have been carrying responsibility for event planning. I am personally delighted that President-Elect Claire Lynses has decided to increase the number of positions on the Executive and Advisory boards for 2010 that will share in the roles and responsibilities for the event planning and implementation. After all, our events are the most visible local service that we provide to members, and former surveys indicate that they have always placed a high value on relevant and stimulating event programs.
My third personal goal was to embark on the creation of a new Strategic Plan for Toronto Chapter -
When I set this goal, I erroneously assumed that there was no plan in place. I have since learned that Toronto Chapter created a number of strategic plans between its first one in 1984, called the ‘Long Range Plan’, and the latest one, the ‘Strategic Plan 2002.’ When we created and issued a full membership survey this fall, we took the very important first step in reviewing and refreshing the Chapter’s Strategic Plan. We are only now beginning to analyze the member survey response data and comments, so it will fall to the 2010 Executive Board to carry this initiative further. I speak for myself and for Jennifer Burns, Membership Chair, in thanking the members who responded to the survey, and contributed to shaping future Chapter activities.
Other indicators of a successful Chapter year
- Our membership numbers increased from 386 at the end of 2008 to 419 (my latest figures), and this is largely attributable to the fine job done by Membership Chair Jennifer Burns in reaching out to new members, and following up on lapsed ones.
- We supported our members during the economic downturn by providing more networking opportunities, by offering the career development series of events, and by providing information interviews to members who were seeking employment. Members also continued to avail themselves of ‘career’ the one-on-one career offered by the Career Guidance Chair, Ulla de Stricker. We approved one request for financial assistance with membership dues, and we publicized the policy of the reduced dues for lower income earners introduced by the Association this year.
- We strengthened our relationship with the iSchool (at Faculty of Information, University of Toronto), by holding a reception for Dean Ross; by contributing to iSchool events (the graduate conference Housing Memory, March 13-14, and the Management of Corporate and other Special Information Centres course exhibition, in its 6th year and now called iConnect @ iSchool, April 7, 2009); and by showing renewed support for the activities and needs of the SLA Toronto Student Group.
- We renewed our connections with the Faculty of Information and Media Studies (FIMS), University of Western Ontario (UWO), by inviting Dean Thomas Carmichael to the meeting of the two Deans with visiting SLA President Gloria Zamora, and to the Gala dinner that followed. We initiated a discussion with Dean Carmichael about re-establishing an SLA student group at his campus.
- We endorsed a member’s application to the highly-regarded leadership training institute, Northern Exposure to Leadership Institute (NELI), and funded the travel of our candidate, Jennifer Burns, to Western Canada when she was accepted to attend.
- With our Chapter Partner, FPinfomart, we co-sponsored awards that enabled two students to attend the SLA 2009 Annual Conference & INFO-EXPO in Washington, DC in June. The winning applicants, Kate MacDonald and Bruce Harpham, were selected by the Executive Board on the basis of the written statements and résumés that they submitted.
- We provided a year of free SLA student-level membership to the students who led their cohort in the overall course of study (Matthew Blacquiere at Seneca College, Library and Information Technician (LIT) program, and Christine Beamish, at the University of Western Ontario, FIMS), or in a special libraries course (Yvonne (Eve) Leung at the University of Toronto, iSchool, the Kathleen Reeves Memorial Award). We publicized their names at the Gala Dinner earlier in the year, and also invited them to be our guests at the forthcoming AGM.
- Executive member Claire Lysnes served on the headquarters-level Chapter Assessment Committee that surveyed the need to change the names of some SLA Chapters (geographical units).
- Immediate Past President Daniel Lee served on the Association’s Board of Directors, a position to which he was elected in 2008, while serving as our Chapter President.
Other volunteers to note
In June, Robert (Rob) Ambra and Shannon McMillan were named co-Chairs of the SLA Toronto Student Group for the academic year 2009-2010.
In the late summer, Julia Brewster resigned her position as Chapter Secretary with great reluctance after she accepted an employment opportunity in Western Canada and relocated to Calgary, Alberta. Jan Moffatt, the Chapter Secretary on the 2008 executive board, has consented to take up the vacant board position for the remainder of 2009.
Claire Lysnes is to be commended for filling all positions for the Executive Board 2010, and most of the Advisory Board ones by the early date she was striving for, and allowing the maximum amount of time in which to call for additional Nominations from members. She worked hand-in-hand with Daniel Lee, in his capacity as Nominations Chair. They also put a great deal of thought into re-working the reporting structure of the Chapter, expanding the number of positions on the Board, particularly those contributing to event planning (discussed above), and presenting these changes to the board for approval. Because no further nominations were received in the allotted nominations period, Claire and Daniel’s slate of nominees for 2010 will be acclaimed at the AGM.
To the current volunteers who have not ‘re-upped’ for board positions in 2010 (e.g., Laura Knapp – Partner Relations Chair, Michael MacSween – iSchool Student Liaison, Juanita Richardson – Awards Chair, and Heather Ritchie – Webmaster), I convey a special thank you for serving well in 2009! Other volunteers are staying on in their positions or taking on the fresh challenge of new ones.
Another Chapter Award winner!
We are very proud of Claire Lysnes (President-Elect) for the recognition she received for committed volunteerism to the Faculty of Information, University of Toronto. On September 14, 2009, the University of Toronto President, Dr. David Naylor, and Chancellor David Peterson presented the University of Toronto’s Arbor Award to Claire, for the duties and responsibilities that she assumed within the volunteer association FIAA (Faculty of Information Alumni Association) over a five-year period since she graduated from the FIS (former name) program of study.
Claire was lauded for the many fine qualities that she brought to various roles and initiatives for the alumni association. The selection committee mentioned the fact that she was simultaneously volunteering for another association, the SLA Toronto Chapter. Claire’s past efforts have certainly contributed to our group’s successes in a major way.
A wonderful accomplishment, and congratulations, Claire!
But for the contribution of our esteemed Chapter Partners …
The accomplishments of 2009 were in large measure made possible by the generosity of our 2009 Chapter Partners, CEDROM-SNi, Grey House Publishing Canada, and FPinfomart. We thank them most sincerely for enabling our major events, and for contributing in a major way to providing an SLA conference experience to the deserving winners of our Students-to-Conference award competition.
- The Official Presidential Visit, May
- The Gala Centennial Dinner, May
- The Annual General Meeting (AGM) and wine tasting, November
- The Joint Holiday Social, December
The Career Development Series of Events provided by Ulla de Stricker
Five topics, six sessions, in the months of March, April, May, September, October, and November
The FPinfomart Students-to-Conference Awards
I am reminding our members and readers to think of our sponsors when the time comes to renew or refresh services in your workplaces. The Partner web sites addresses are shown above. The Chapter web site and issues of The Courier provide additional lead-ins to their product lines and services.
From 2009, Onward to 2010
In conclusion, it has been an honor and a pleasure for me to have served as Chapter President in 2009, a year very deserving of the phrase ‘we live in interesting times.’ The Centennial Celebration, the call to Align in ’09, the proposed new name for the association, and the precarious (but improving) worldwide financial and economic situation come readily to mind. These ‘externals’ have shaped the Toronto Chapter year, and given us all a unique focus and a keen sense of purpose.
By and large, however, we have continued to strive for the goals that have persisted over our Chapter’s history – to provide the members with networking and educational opportunities, to exercise prudent management of Chapter finances, and to find a sense of fulfillment through volunteering among peers to support and strengthen the information professionals who align with us. (The latter sentiment can be translated to: I’m happy to have been a part of this ‘Gaggle of Librarians’ – with credit to Stephen Abram’s Facebook and blog, circa May 14, 2009!)
Thank you, one and all, for working with me this year to fulfill my goals as President. I end by wishing Claire and her incoming volunteers every success next year. I am confident that they will take on new, unique challenges and handle them superbly!
Joy Shanfield, MLS
President, SLA Toronto Chapter