Business Law

Message from the President: The News from New Orleans

Leigh Hallingby, SLA NY Chapter President 2010 |

The official "conference issue" of the SLA-NY newsletter will come out in September 2010 at which time we will hear from our six New York Chapter scholarship recipients and, we hope, from many others who are inspired to write about their experiences in the Big Easy. Of course, our newsletter editor Toby Lyles would be delighted to be overwhelmed by articles from attendees.

Since New Orleans is so fresh in my mind I thought I might use this June newsletter as an opportunity to provide a general overview from the conference as context for the articles to come in September.

Of course, we can all be so proud that SLA chose to go to New Orleans after Katrina as a way to help the city’s crucial tourist and convention industry, just as we met in New York in 2003 after 9/11. And help the city we did, as the Convention and Visitors Bureau estimated that SLA spent about $5 million in the Big Easy.

And speaking of feeling proud, on opening night, when the SLA awards are presented, not one, but TWO, esteemed members of the New York Chapter were inducted into the SLA Hall of Fame: John Ganly and Guy St. Clair. As soon as the Association posts their 2010 awards bios on the website, I will be sure to let the membership know. In the meantime, please join me in congratulating Guy and John on their achievement, which represents a huge amount of dedication to and work on behalf of all levels of the Association over many, many years.

I counted about 50 members of the NY Chapter whom I ran into over the course of the four conference days. Hopefully there were many more whom I do not know to recognize or with whom I just did not cross paths. Despite this substantial representation from the New York Chapter, attendance of about 3,500 in New Orleans was down substantially from Washington, DC, where it was over 5,000. This was not a surprise, given the economy and a venue that is relatively expensive for most members to get to. The vendor numbers were positive, with 243 exhibitors (23 of whom were new) occupying about 400 booths. Of course, 2009 attendance was boosted by the once-in-a-lifetime SLA Centennial.

On the brighter side, the conference numbers should bounce back up next year when SLA is in Philadelphia, conveniently situated in between the two largest U.S. chapters of DC and NY, and also home to a substantial chapter in and of itself. So if you have not yet done so, please be sure to mark your calendars for the "City of Brotherly [and Sisterly] Love" from Sunday, June 12 – Wednesday, June 15, 2011. The keynote speaker on opening night will be the eminent New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, who is certainly one of the most impressive thinkers about our present and future worlds. His speech should be a rousing start to a terrific conference.

Another major speaker in Philadelphia will be Jim Kane, a "loyalty strategist" who was so well received by the SLA audience at the Leadership Summit this past January in St. Louis. Our own SLA-NY Board member and Communications Director Lynn Schlesinger is on the Philadelphia Conference Planning Committee. So if you have any thoughts or suggestions, please forward them to her.

During the closing session in New Orleans, Executive Director Janice LaChance and Treasurer Dan Trefethen, presented information about the current status of SLA. Unfortunately, financially it is not a pretty picture. Of course, this puts us into a "club" to which we do not want to belong, despite some great company in there with us. Here are some of our own details: SLA set its 2010 revenue goal to the same level as 2009. But revenue is down. As the number of traditional jobs for information professionals, SLA membership has dropped, and revenue has dropped along with it, because of a new dues structure where those earning more modest incomes may pay lower dues. Since there has already been a 30% reduction in the size of the SLA staff, the organization will now need to “put everything on the table” in terms of other ways to balance the budget.

CEO Janice LaChance also pointed out that even when the economy improves, the previous model of the annual conference being a revenue generator that could carry the Association through the whole fiscal year, is, alas, not likely to return for professional associations such as SLA. In this high tech age, vendors have many new options for promoting their products and will probably have smaller budgets for trade shows. As Janice said, "this is not just an era of change, but the change of an era." The good news is that SLA’s goal is to live within its reduced means and not to dip further into reserves, and the Association also plans to develop new business models for the realities of the new millennium. Additional good news is that there is a terrific group of dedicated current Board members and Board candidates for 2011 who will do everything in their power to make SLA a strong 21st century organization. (Please attend our Happy Hours at MEC on Wednesday July 21st and Thursday August 19th to meet the two President Elect candidates.)

Happily, our own local New York Chapter is in much better financial condition than the global SLA, and we do not need to contemplate any cutbacks in our local services and programming. We have just released our Strategic Plan for 2010 – 2012, and I have just appointed a Vendor Partnership Committee, the first of several committees to deal with implementation of the planks.

Like all SLA conferences, the one in New Orleans featured terrific sessions of all types on all aspects of the information profession, as well as wonderful bus and walking tours of New Orleans. Since, of course, like all conference attendees, I had to choose from an embarrassment of riches, I am SO looking forward to the September issue of the SLA-NY newsletter where I can vicariously experience many of the sessions that I was not able to attend. I hope you will please stay tuned along with me for much more news from New Orleans.

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