In catching up on my blog reading, I came upon a post written by the CEO of the Special Libraries Association (SLA). This group serves information professionals that don't exactly fit in the traditional public, school or academic library settings. Members are often employed in businesses, legal firms, government agencies, museums or anywhere else a collection of materials needs to be managed. A lot of them are solos in their positions without a team or other peers. They do the research and the information management themselves. Some SLA members are also independent researchers for hire, much like professional genealogists.
The SLA blog post that stood out to me was the recap of 2012 events and accomplishments put forth by the group. Here is the link. Please read the post, then come back here so we can talk. Go ahead, I'll wait:
SLA in 2012: Laying the Groundwork for an Essential Association
So...what do you think? Do the statements, observations and intentions made there translate to the major genealogy associations? I'm going to pull some sentences from the SLA blog post to tell you what I think...
"An Essential Association"
SLA knows its value and tells us so right in the title of this post. Do major genealogy associations view themselves as essential? Do they walk the walk? I've seen them exist. Provide some value. But be essential to my genealogical life? No.
"The vibrant associations of tomorrow will be the ones...that stop speaking in nouns like conference, magazine and Webinar and start thinking in verbs like transform, renew and inspire."
I often joke that if you want to see where genealogy as a field will be in five years, look at there the library field is right now. That humor never goes over well, but it's true. Genealogy just embraced Webinars in 2012, and they're already in the rear-view mirror at SLA. I'm not knocking the Webinar format, just saying that SLA has been using it for years. On the information highway, who is in the fast lane and who is traveling at 45MPH with their blinker on?
Does the genealogy community think in verbs? Do you want them to? You can probably guess my answer.
"(Our upcoming 2013 website) should be a go-to resource to help information professionals network, learn and collaborate...not a place to store items that are viewed and downloaded a handful of times each year."
I can think of some go-to/can't-live-without websites in genealogy, but none is an association website. SLA is making me want to be a member, because you know there will be some real treasures in that chest.
..."Our magazine, Information Outlook, (is transforming) from a printed publication to an online digital product that can be viewed on tablets, laptops and smartphones. (It) will be easy to bookmark, share and search, helping transform it from a static reference tool to a mobile resource for ideas and inspiration."
TAKE MY MONEY NOW! No, really. I'm still receiving printed genealogy publications in the mail with articles like, "Why you need an online presence." I've had an online presence since 1994. I want the digital product that will give me ideas and inspiration!
"The changes we're making are not one-off attempts to breathe new life into familiar products and services; rather, they are part of a comprehensive effort to redefine SLA, to change it from an association organized around a common profession and interests to one that enhances members' careers, their peer relationships, and their professional development."
The Special Libraries Association knows its members. It knows that they want. It knows what they need. It knows what to give them in order to become indispensable in their lives. They do speak in verbs. They continuously move forward. They are all about improving and ensuring that their members do, too. Collaboration is everywhere there.
How does this compare to the major genealogy associations? What do their end-of-the-year blog recaps say? Do they even have recaps? Do they even have active blogs? Do you see where I'm going with this?
Here's where I'm going with this:
1. It's time for professional genealogists to learn from other types of information professionals. There's much more in common than you realize. You can go outside the genealogy community to enhance your skills and development. You can also bring back to the genealogy community and share with them what you've learned.
2. There are significant gaps between major genealogy associations and those catering to other information professionals. Brand identity, self-awareness, technology adoption, forward thinking. Even the use of verbs.
3. Major genealogy associations, societies and individual professionals can all benefit from the examples in the SLA blog post. Really. I see so many takeaways that can be applied to genealogy. I hope you see them, too.
4. It's ok if you think I'm a nut job for the opinions I've expressed in this post. Just understand that Curt Witcher gave a fabulously inspirational keynote on innovation and meeting the needs of others at the 2011 RootsTech Conference. D. Joshua Taylor also gave a powerful speech on the need for genealogy organizations to be indispensable in their own communities at the 2012 Federation of Genealogical Societies conference. They used many of the action verbs also included in the SLA blog post. So if I'm crazy, then they're crazy, too. I'm taking everyone down with me.
I might be talking to a wall here. Maybe what I need and expect from an association when I hand over my membership dues is not what others need and expect. If so, that's ok. It's just that this SLA blog post really showed me the differences between A and B. There's a big gap there. Maybe it doesn't bother others as much as it does me.
Genealogy is part of the information highway. There are also lots of other subjects, fields and people on the same information highway. We are all going the same direction, but at different speeds and angles. Which lane are you in? Which lane do you want to be in? Me? I'm going to mingle with some associations and colleagues that speak in verbs and push my professional development into the high-occupancy vehicle lane. Beep beep.