Business Law

A First Time SLA Conference Attendee Gets Future Ready

Clara Cabrera | Scholarship Winner

Clara Cabrera is a Research and Reference Specialist for the law firm Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr. Clara received her MLIS from Pratt Institute in 2009. An active member of the SLA–New York chapter, she has previously held the Library School Liaison and Joblog Coordinator positions. Clara was awarded the 2011 Rising Star award by SLA.

Collaboration to accelerate the availability of useful information.
Adaptable skill set that anticipates and responds to the evolving marketplace.
Alignment with the language and values of the community you serve.
Community that connects stakeholders in mutually beneficial relationships.
So how does someone starting her second career and new to the library profession get to the best seat in the house of the SLA annual conference? This is how I got there along with some of my thoughts on being “Future Ready.” Prior to 2009, I was working for a small financial publishing company, having spent 2007-2009 working full time and attending graduate school to obtain my Master’s degree. Scheduling and finances being what they were for me, attending a library conference was difficult to swing. I did hear and read about friends and colleagues attending conferences and knew I was missing out on a great experience.

After being an active officer of the SLA student chapter at Pratt, I became actively involved in roles at SLA-NY. I attended local chapter events; I even organized a few events and meet many fellow information professionals along the way. I was nominated for the 2011 Rising Star award – an award that five new information professionals from across all the chapters receive. For the record, the best part of receiving this award is that I was nominated by people that I have worked alongside as a volunteer. None of the activities I have been a part of could have been successful without the parts played by so many others. The award provides entrance to the full SLA conference and an awards ceremony at the opening events of the conference, and the award winners each take part in a panel of fellow Rising Stars and newly inducted SLA Fellows.

The panel discussed the four pillars of Cindy Romaine’s concept of “Future Ready” – described on the Future Ready Blog as:

Collaboration to accelerate the availability of useful information
Adaptable skill set that anticipates and responds to the evolving marketplace
Alignment with the language and values of the community you serve
Community that connects stakeholders in mutually beneficial relationships

Working with Webb Shaw, Director of Editorial Resources of J.J. Keller – sponsor of the Rising Star Award – each of the Rising Stars were paired with a Fellow and we discussed how the elements of being “Future Ready” relate to our experiences in the profession. Leoma Dunn, of the Kentucky SLA chapter, and I paired up to discuss Collaboration.

Since we discussed how these pillars were part of our professional experience as new and veteran professionals, I’ll briefly mention the comments we made in discussing Collaboration. Since I think my biography reads of my collaboration in this field, it was fairly straightforward for me to discuss how collaboration played a part in my professional development. In my graduate years I found collaboration opportunities in both informal classmate study groups and student associations/groups. Collaboration is evident in my current work place
  • in intra-departmental communication and reference tracking tools, such as email and SharePoint;
  • in departments within the same branch of our corporate organizational structure (Technical Services, Knowledge Management, Content Management);
  • with other firm departments, such as Business Development, Legal Talent recruitment, and Information Technology groups;
  • with suppliers/vendors; and, of course,
  • with the End User.
In the professional arena my collaboration experience has been in professional associations (SLA and others) and within informal meet-ups of professional people who share the same information professional space, but may differ in the job titles or firm in which we work. It also extends to the professional literature which I see as the “published format of collaboration” in which we follow and find out what other professionals are doing in the field (such as blog commenting or letters to the editors for print publications).

My panel partner Leoma discussed her own unique experience as President of the Kentucky Library Association, which includes public, school media, special, and academic librarians, and how the collaboration of these varied libraries help with each library’s own issues. Leoma works in the academic setting and has found that the nature of academic culture, where you have to present and work with others as part of your job, is more open, inclusive and naturally lends itself to collaboration.

Both Leoma and I referenced a great transcript (found on the CEO’s Corner page of of Janice LaChance’s presentation on collaboration at the ICAL conference in Delhi, India, in 2009. I recommend everyone read this speech. LaChance provides specific examples of collaboration at work in several U.S. library environments that really informed our understanding of collaboration at the larger multi-institutional level.

I enjoyed my participation in the panel on being “Future Ready”: meeting some of the other great new professional talent in the field, and the veteran knowledge workers that I had the honor of sharing the table with. Since the panel took place fairly early on in the course of the multi-day conference, I spent the bulk of my first time conference experience popping in and out of various sessions that piqued my interest, and vendor sponsored events that highlighted some upgrades to their products. Overall, I had a wonderful learning experience, and look forward to future conferences.

I could not have had these great experiences without SLA and J.J. Keller, the award sponsor of the 2011 Rising Star award. I owe a great thanks to SLA New York Chapter for nominating me for the Rising Star award and for also awarding me with a chapter scholarship to attend the SLA Conference. Thank you.

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