Interview with Kate Arnold, President-Elect of SLA

Kate Arnold is the first non-North American President Elect of SLA. Here she discusses why the information profession needs to 'reframe' itself.

At this year's Internet Librarian International, Information Today Europe caught up with Kate Arnold, President-Elect 2013 of SLA - an organisation for information professionals with more than 9000 members from 75 countries. Kate is the first person from outside North America to hold the office of President-Elect.  

Kate has over 20 years' experience providing and managing the delivery of specialist information and research services (both virtual and library based) and has worked across a variety of sectors, including the BBC, the NHS, and Cancer Research UK. She has twice been president of SLA Europe.

During her campaign, Kate made it clear that she wants to ensure that SLA lives up to its international vision. Information Today Europe found out more.

Information Today Europe: Tell us about how the nomination process worked - what inspired you to throw your hat into the ring?

Kate Arnold: I was nominated by colleagues within SLA and it was a huge honour to be asked! As the first non-North American ever to stand for President, I feel that it really shows that SLA is acknowledging a more international perspective and that's very encouraging.

ITE: It must have been a hard decision to make - a lot of work is involved in campaigning, and then in the role of President itself.

KA: Personally, I feel that we're at a critical time for the profession. I think there is a lot to be gained personally from the President's role, and also there is a lot that that person can contribute back to the profession. I had a good understanding of how things worked from previous roles on the Board of SLA so that was a big help.

ITE: How important is it that you will be the first President of SLA from outside North America? 

KA: Just the fact of me getting elected shows that the importance of the international perspective to the information profession. I hope to be able to make people even more geographically aware. A lot of members work for global organisations and there are some great examples of best practice in terms of how we can work more virtually, and therefore be more inclusive for international members.

ITE: Can you give us some examples?

KA: It can be quite simple things. During my election campaign, for example, the candidates were able to use webinars as a way of communicating with members. So it can be things as simple as being aware of differing timezones around the world so that as many people as possible can join in.

ITE: What were the key messages of your campaign?

KA: A major theme for me was ‘Reframe', by which I mean the importance of seeing things in a different way.  This applies both to how we, as information professionals, see ourselves and to how others see us. I think part of this reframing is about the association engaging with members to help them get the most out of their membership. And for the association as a whole, it's about shaping a new strategic vision which feeds into the annual conference, member engagement, and collaborations and partnerships.

ITE: What do you see as the main challenges that the information profession faces?

KA: There are lots! A major element is how we present ourselves - communication is a big issue. I've talked a lot about 'reframing' what we do. It's important to adapt and change how we present ourselves to the outside world. We have the skills but we don't always communicate the value that they hold. We need to create a language and a platform which resonates with people outside the profession, which makes clear what our 'value add' is. It's not about measures like how many books we issue.  And I think our professional associations have an important role to play in helping with this reframing - if we don't do that, then we're missing an opportunity.

Another challenge is ensuring that we underline our relevance to people who have ‘information' roles but may not think of themselves as information professionals. Again, it's all about communication.

Find out more about SLA here.