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SLA Meets in the Emerald City
Posted On June 16, 2008
The Special Libraries Association (SLA) is holding its 2008 Annual Conference this week June 15–18 in Seattle. The board of directors holds meetings before and after the main conference and there are some tours scheduled for June 19. The theme for this year’s event—the 99th year for the venerable organization—is Breaking Rules, Building Bridges. SLA CEO Janice Lachance says the theme describes accurately what info pros must do to be successful in the rapidly changing world of information—embrace change and build networks. Yes, the profession is under siege, and SLA is determined to help its members rise to the challenges.

The opening session on Sunday night featured Vinton G. Cerf, Ph.D., vice president and chief internet evangelist for Google. Cerf’s keynote was to be delivered in a new format, with well-known talk-show host Charlie Rose conducting a live interview with Cerf in front of all SLA conference participants at the SLA 2008 Opening General Session, which is sponsored once again this year by LexisNexis. This posting was written before I had a chance to hear Cerf, so for details and photo coverage check the InfoToday blog (

For the fifth year in a row, a team of Information Today, Inc. editors and writers will be covering as many aspects of the conference as we can handle—including keynotes, sessions, business meetings, the exhibit hall, and social events (my personal favorite). Look for these team members to be taking lots of notes, conducting planned and impromptu interviews, and snapping lots of digital photos—Marydee Ojala, editor of ONLINE; Barbara Brynko, editor of Information Today; Don Hawkins, columnist and IT consultant; Dick Kaser, VP content; and myself. Count on us to include some of the fun moments as well as the serious content.

We’re curious about how the conference will be followed by Twitter ( At the moment, there’s a small amount of activity (actually, it was down for maintenance when I checked—a common occurrence of late I understand). As part of SLA’s Innovation Lab, and for the first time at conference, SLA says it is using Twitter to make the conference experience more collaborative. If you aren’t on Twitter, you’ll need to create an account. The sla2008 Twitter account is a "re-tweeter." When followers of sla2008 post Tweets using the hashtag #sla2008, the Tweets will be posted to the sla2008 account. The username of the person who sent the original Tweet will appear at the start of the message followed by a ":".

The SLA Innovation Laboratory ( was just launched and provides members with more than 100 free software applications. Members can also access free ebooks, videos, and tutorials. And check out the new "23 Things."

The Facebook event site ( has some 279 guests but not very many posts at this point. The SLA 2008 conference wiki ( has information on Seattle, in case you haven’t planned your sightseeing yet or need to find a restaurant. SLA also has a blog. In addition to participation from SLA staff members, the planners solicited interested bloggers to agree to share their conference experiences.

The event will feature a closing keynote address from Seth Godin, well-known blogger and author of a number of books including Permission Marketing; Small is the Next Big; Purple Cow; and Unleashing the Ideavirus. I’m really looking forward to hearing him. For background, see the interview with him in the June issue of SLA’s Information Outlook.

In between opening and closing events—and a new closing reception—the conference will offer dozens of sessions to choose from with many learning opportunities. Of particular interest are the new Spotlight sessions sponsored by Thomson Scientific that specifically focus on the conference theme—topics include knowledge management, corporate social responsibility, gaming and learning, and one called Transformational roles: Breaking rules, with an outstanding group of panelists.

There are also numerous networking opportunities, needless to say. If you see any of the ITI bloggers, please say hi. And give us your comments on sessions of interest or cool products in the exhibit hall—we’d love your input.

Going Green

Following former vice president Al Gore’s presentation at last year’s conference in Denver, SLA staff and the SLA board of directors were approached in 2007 by the members of the SLA environment & resource management division who asked that the association investigate strategic ways SLA could "go green" in 2008 and beyond. In January 2008, SLA announced it would begin efforts to become an environmentally sensitive organization at the membership, board, volunteer leadership, and staff level—calling its initiative "SLA: Knowledge to Go Green."

SLA then worked with exhibitors and conference sponsors as well as attendees on how they could participate in this initiative. This year there is free wireless internet access throughout the conference center, allowing attendees to access handouts electronically and eliminating the need to print paper copies. Conference programs have been printed on recycled paper. Rather than bottled water, pitchers and glasses will be used in sessions. SLA passed out free reusable water bottles, and water coolers are available throughout the conference center. It seems so fitting to "go green" in the "Emerald City." As Stephen Abram put it, "We’re going green because it matters!"

Exhibitors are doing their part. Dow Jones says it is featuring handwriting analysis—using recycled paper—rather than physical giveaways like mugs, pens, etc. It is also using recycled rental carpet and eliminating printed documents in its booth in favor of electronic. EBSCO is another company that has given serious attention to going green. It created the GreenFILE database and makes it available for free at

Paula J. Hane is a freelance writer and editor covering the library and information industries. She was formerly Information Today, Inc.’s news bureau chief and editor of NewsBreaks.

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