Center City Philadelphia is an attractive, historic, energetic, and interesting place that proved to be a perfect setting for the SLA 2011 Annual Conference. It opened on Sunday evening, June 12, 2011, with the awards ceremony and the keynote address. As a member of SLA-NY, I was thrilled and proud to watch two of our young New York Chapter activists walk across the stage to receive Rising Star Awards: Clara Cabrera and Lisa Chow.
New York Times columnist Tom Friedman (TF) was the excellent opening keynoter. A few take-aways from his talk:
- His NYT predecessor James Reston had about 7 "competitors" for his opinion columns, whereas TF has millions, given the number of bloggers who are also writing the equivalent of opinion columns
- TF believes that the single most important competition today is between you and your imagination and that the future world will divide between high imagining and low imagining countries.
- The 19th century belonged to England and the 20th to the USA, but TF is not yet willing to cede 21st century to any country that censors Google. This is not a winning strategy. China, take note!
- In a "flat world," the basics of behavior and judgment matter more than ever. Communication is so easy that bad behavior spreads instantly around the world. There is no such thing as a local story any more.
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Other sessions I selected to attend from the vast array, but provided too many details to elaborate on, were: Tracking Public Opinion around the World; Capitalizing on Content to Grow Competencies; Health Care Reform; and The Power of Perception: Dealing with Change.
As a way to get to know the host city better, I always attend some events in the most appealing venues in town. Fortunately, there was an embarrassment of riches on Monday evening. First the Museums, Arts and Humanities Division (MAHD) of SLA sponsored an opportunity to visit the Print Room at the famous and fabulous Philadelphia Free Library, where we were treated to wonderful prints of old world Philadelphia. Following that was the International Reception at the nearby Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, which is the oldest museum in America and also a landmarked building. My terrific trifecta ended at a reception that the Financial Times sponsored at the glorious Union League Club, which was founded in 1862 as a patriotic society to support the Union and the policies of President Abraham Lincoln.
Of course the Info Expo was a feast unto itself, including exhibits from a vast array of vendors displaying their latest products and services. One theme I noticed on the stops in the exhibit hall is that content and database vendors are increasingly offering easy templates for creating newsletters to create attractive ways to display and update information for end users.
The SLA conference ended on Wednesday afternoon with the annual membership meeting. The Treasurer Dan Trefethen delivered some sobering information about SLA, like many organizations, having a smaller membership, budget, and staff. The good news is that SLA is adjusting in a responsible way to the financial realities of the 21st century. And the other good news is that the Philadelphia conference was a big success, with a significant jump in attendance over 2010 in New Orleans, and met its financial goals. I think it can also be said that the conference met the attendees’ goals for stimulating sessions, vendor product updates, and professional networking, along with some good food and fun!
Stay tuned for much more reporting on the Philadelphia conference in the September 2011 issue of this newsletter. Our six conference scholarship recipients―Clara and Lisa, along with David Adler, Kelly Amabile, Alyson Clabaugh, and Christina Meninger―will all be providing articles on their experiences there.