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SLA Toronto in the 2000s

After the popularization of the home computer and online web in the 1980s and 1990s, the roles and responsibilities of librarians and information professionals went through many changes. They began focusing on new information integration policies and the implementation of new information systems, and were taking on new responsibilities in the corporate and non-traditional settings.

With the rise of Globalization in the 2000s, a discussion started on how to integrate information processes and activities on a global scale. “In the global economy, this is due to the expansion of hi-tech industry corporations based on knowledge of modern scientific and technological achievements, advanced technologies, and the conditions of promotion of technological innovations in national and world markets” (Stupkin 306). As multinational corporations continued to expand, so did their information integration and dissemination needs. Special librarians and information professionals in the 2000s had to work on new information integration policies that reflected the demands of a global market. They had to consider all forms of information including grey literature.

Grey literature can be defined as literature produced by various sources but not controlled by any commercial publishers. This can include reports, newsletters, and conference proceedings. Grey literature is not a new trend in the 2000s but until then, the users were rarely mentioned, nor the potential development of consistent cataloguing. With the rise of digital databases and shared information sources, it became necessary to address the issue of grey literature. In a 2005 case study, researchers found that “a large amount of grey literature remain[ed] uncatalogued, which make[d] finding and using it difficult” (Ranger 58). In this 2005 case study, grey literature usage was reported at 1-90% in Government libraries and 5-50% in Corporate Libraries. With the popularization of online access in the 1990s and 2000s, and the rise of the open access movement, grey literature will not be going away any time soon.

Librarians have always needed to plan and lead projects, and in the 2000s, project management was a recognized skill of information professionals in corporate and other non-traditional library settings. As new library management technologies and systems were developed in the 2000s, Special Librarians were seen as the most suited to lead the project. They were put in charge of projects that required people from many different departments to work together: “This will consist of people from the library, the IT department, and also from the software suppliers. It is important to set up regular meetings between the library staff and the IT staff, as well as having several meetings with the suppliers” (Pedley 44). Librarians were starting to be seen more as managers and leaders in non-traditional library settings in the 2000s, and were experiencing many changing responsibilities as a result of the technological advances of the 1980s and 1990s.


Cool Things we learned about SLA Toronto in the 2000s from our chapter’s archives…

1. Recognize any familiar faces?



2. Past President Jane Cooney (1976-1977) very happily holding a bottle of wine! Check out her past president interview to learn more about her time in the role.



3. Another past-president appearing in our archive photos! Mary Fisher (1988-1989) speaking at an event. You can check out her past president interview, too!



4. You cannot have a proper SLA celebration without cake! Our 50th anniversary cake on a fancy tray – and a reminder of the cake we had a few months ago for our 75th anniversary!


2000s cake 2

(Note: some SLA Toronto members are very partial towards cake!)

2000s cake 3



5. The member directories became a “who’s who” and were made available in print and on the web.

2000 whos who


6. Inside the who’s who was a lot of useful information, including lists of all the global SLA chapters. Did you now that the chapter boundaries reached Africa? And wouldn’t it be nice to be part of the Hawaiian chapter?

2000s chapter boundaries 1

2000s chapter boundaries 2


7. Outsourcing became a more prominent topic, as can be seen in an advertisement within the Who’s Who…

2000s outsourcing


8. And we’re still looking for these ideals in our search engines today!

2000s search


9. Rich, detailed, full-bodied…information that is just like tea. Definitely sold on Mergent’s resources!

2000s tea info

—Caroline Chung, Cassandra Lopes, and Tara Kutlesa


Works Consulted

Stupkin, V.V. “Review of globalization and integration processes in library and information activities” Scientific and Technical Information Processing 34:6 (2007): 305-318

Ranger, Sara L. “Grey literature in special libraries: Access and use” Publishing Research Quarterly 21.1 (2005): 53-63

Pedley, Paul. “Implementing and Project Managing a New Library Management System.” Business Information Review 17.1 (2000): 43-9

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#SLAToronto75 – We continue to Celebrate!

Much has been happening over the summer and into the autumn to continue to celebrate SLA Toronto’s 75th.

The authors of the decade-by-decade trips through the SLA Toronto archives have been doing an amazing job. The most recent update was Cool Things from the 1980s.

What was cool in this decade?

First, the modern version of the Internet came into being.  

The 1986 salary survey showed most members, 23.7 %, had a salary of between $30 – 35, 000.  

Of course compact disc storage and display cabinets figured big – everyone had set aside money in their budgets for the Micro Computer Workstation System!!

Some pretty funky Courier covers appeared as we worked out our branding.

If you haven’t already been following these posts, do so, as they are interesting and well-written. Kudos to the authors, Caroline Chung, Tara Kutlesa, and Kristina Fry.

Still to come: September – 1990s, October – 2000s and November – 2010s.

The Membership Drive ran until the end of September. Some lucky new and renewing members had chances to win a one-year FREE membership or a FREE SLA Toronto workshop.

Finally, there was the Past-President’s Afternoon Tea, which took place at the end of September.

—Katie Thomas
Katie Thomas is co-editor of The Courier


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SLA Toronto in the 1990s

The 1990s were an incredibly exciting time for Special Libraries and the information field. After the burst of technological innovation in the 1980s and the popularization of the home computer and the internet, information accessibility was never the same.

By the 1990s, the cultural war between print and online resources of the previous decade had invariably been decided and special librarians directed their focus to web accessible information.  Computers were staples in middle class homes, and more and more information was being uploaded and accessed through the internet. Most people think that the rise of web accessible information should have made everything simpler, but special librarians knew that “as the choices multiplied, so did the complexity of choosing where and how to look for electronic information” (Chignell, Gwizdka and Bodner).

The complexity of online information was a problem and the initial solution was Online Search Engines. However, the first  web search engines (AltaVista, HotBot, Infoseek) had many issues that made this problem of accessibility even harder. These initial databases could not provide relevant, accurate information for the searches and  would have periods of downtime and low coverage of the World Wide Web, as it was referred to then (Lawrence and Giles). Special librarians took on the task of making online information more accessible by developing meta-search engines which searched multiple search engines at once (Chignell, Gwizdka, and Bodner).

Another huge innovation of the 1990s was the rise of Company Intranets enterprise portals. With the internet firmly established, businesses began seeing the benefits of company information being stored and accessed online. This internal internet would only be open to “a select group of users — the employees” (Farmer and Warburg). However, this brought up concerns of privacy and security, which drove special librarians to learn how to create safe and protected online spaces for their corporate users.

We found a lot of materials in the SLA archives that showed the huge emphasis on online information and web accessibility, and the 1990s really shaped how we access information today. While the digital landscape has greatly evolved over the last 20 years, you can see that the foundation and structure for today’s Information Metropolis was built in the 1990s.


10 Cool Things we learned about SLA Toronto in the 1990s from our chapter’s archives…


 1. Job opportunities were becoming more focused on information resources that were accessible via the Web. Check out these postings from the Metropolitan Toronto Chairman’s office, Canadian Plastics Institute, Deloitte & Touche, and Royal bank of Canada.

 1990 1.1

1990 1.2


2. The days of Ask Jeeves, Yahoo and other search engines were on the way, and special librarians needed to become proficient in online searching.

 1990 2


3. Feedback was being gathered on the format of Courier, programming, and meeting times to ensure SLA Toronto’s activities were working well for its members. Below are the results from their 10 Second Survey.

 1990 3


4. One of the benefits of being an SLA member, even today, is the networking and mentorship opportunities for current or recently graduated students, as well as professionals who are further in their careers. Back in the 1990s, there was a Take Student to Lunch programme that gave students the change to see the workings of a special library.

1990 4


5. How much money were librarians and information professionals making? Take a look at these salary surveys…

1990 5


6. Keeping it classy! Special Librarians Day was celebrated with a Toronto Symphony Orchestra concert and of course t-shirts!

1990 6

1990 6.2


7. Librarians were branching out into the world of freelance and starting their own businesses.

1990 9

1990 7.2


8. This is one way to get people to go to Conference!

1990 8


9. Intranets and KM work were on the rise as things became digital and Internet-based…

1990 7.1


10. The Courier editors continued to tradition of cartoons and keeping it fun!

1990 10

—Caroline Chung, Cassandra Lopes, and Tara Kutlesa



Works Consulted

Chignell, M. H., Gwizdka, J., & Bodner, R. C. (1999). Discriminating meta-search: A framework for evaluation. Information Processing & Management, 35(3), 337-362. doi:10.1016/S0306-4573(98)00065-X

Lawrence, S., & Giles, C. L. (1998). Inquirus, the NECI meta search engine. Computer Networks and ISDN Systems, 30(1-7), 95-105. doi:10.1016/S0169-7552(98)00095-6

Farmer, D., & Warburg, S. G. (1996). Intranet as an audit resource. Computers & Security, 15(5), 413-413. doi:10.1016/0167-4048(96)82621-6

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SLA Toronto in the 1980s

The 1980s was a decade full of political change and technological innovation. And like every profession, special librarianship had to adapt to the times. Librarians have always had a concern with their self-image: one story even gives an example of a sub-librarian at the Library of Alexandria, who complained to his superiors that the hieroglyph for librarian contained at least one element that suggested a certain inferiority that he felt was unwarranted. No correction was made, potentially ensuring centuries of librarians with professional identity crises![1]

While not all librarians may share this concern with professional self-image, one thing all librarians can identify with is adapting to a continually evolving professional landscape. One reason we, as librarians, might experience ongoing professional identity crises is the rate of technological innovations and their impact on our jobs.

The eighties saw the development of what we now know as the modern version of the Internet. It was also the first decade when computers became commonplace in the household. The major conflict in academic libraries during this time, called ‘the cultural wars’, was over the role of print and digital resources in the library. This conflict almost certainly existed in all types of libraries, which emphasized the “broader debate over the role of computer and related technologies in society and, more specifically, the future of the book and print culture in the information age.”[2]

As you’ll see below from some of the materials we discovered in our archives, the SLA Toronto Chapter was dealing with this conflict head-on. Although our professional identity has often been under duress and has been heavily impacted by technological developments, we can only take our knowledge and the experiences of our more advanced colleagues to continue to push forward. Given the recent conflict with e-book publishers and libraries, as discussed by Toronto City Librarian Vickery Bowles, these issues are clearly not behind us but are rather an embedded part of our evolving role as information and knowledge curators and providers.


10 Cool Things we learned about SLA Toronto in the 1980s from our chapter’s archives…


1. The SLA continued to publish directories of all of their members, including a full section on their non-profit members:





2. The cover pages of the Courier continued to evolve:



3. An advertisement to purchase the newest edition of the Canadian Thesaurus for the bargain price of a whopping $85.00!



4. Strawberries, huckleberries, and liberries! Oh my!



5. This seminar on book publishing would probably still draw a huge crowd almost 30 years later.



6. The 1986 Salary Survey had some interesting statistics on job distribution in the field:





7. Desks specifically designed to fit your ‘micro’ computer. I’m sure there’s still a market for this…



8. The Library of the Future is within your grasps with the help of CANEBSCO Subscription Services:



9. Compact Disc Storage and Display Cabinets…



10. The divisional distribution of SLA members in the 1980s:


—Caroline Chung, Tara Kutlesa, and Kristina Fry



[1] Stevens, Norman D. 1988. “Our Image in the 1980s.” Library Trends 36 (4): 825.

[2] Shreeves, Edward. 2000. “The Acquisitions Culture Wars.” Library Trends 48 (4): 877.


Works Consulted

Chung, Emily. 2015. “E-book prices marked up too high, libraries protest.” CBC News.

Lewis, Marilyn P. 2002. “The Effects of Technology on Midcareer Librarians.” Library Trends 50 (4): 717-724.

Roberts, Stephen A. 2003. “Financial Management of Libraries: Past Trends and Future Prospects.” Library Trends 51 (3): 462-493,497.

Shreeves, Edward. 2000. “The Acquisitions Culture Wars.” Library Trends 48 (4):877-890.

Stevens, Norman D. 1988. “Our Image in the 1980s.” Library Trends 36 (4): 825.

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The 75th Celebrations Continue

It has been a busy few months for the SLA Toronto 75th celebrations. 

More Past-President interviews, the Decade by Decade trip through the SLA Toronto Archives continues, our hugely successful 75th Anniversary Gala Celebration on May 21st, and our 75th Anniversary Membership Drive is going full steam ahead. The festivities continue in September with a Past-President’s Afternoon Tea.

Catch up with the past and read some of the great interviews of our Past-Presidents. Five more interviews have been added since last our last issue and include Stephen Abram (1990-1991), Juanita Richardson (1995-1996), Heather Wilson (2000-2001), Pam Casey (2007), and Laura Warner (2012).

 ** Past-President Quick Quiz ** 

  • Who can bake a mean pie AND introduced the student stipend for attending conference?
  • The “Job Skills for Future Library Careers” LinkedIn group was started by whom?
  • Whose valuable lesson was the “art of improvisation”?
  • The SLA Conference was in Toronto in 2005 – who was the Conference Chair?
  • Who knew they wanted to be a librarian since grade 6?

 In our Decade by Decade trip through the archives Ten Cool Things from each decade are highlighted every month. Newly added are “Cool Things” from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. 

Discover the 1950s where a cryptic crossword could be found in every Bulletin. The decade was characterized by a growth in jobs and libraries associated with technical and scientific information. 

A “Cool Thing” in the 1960s include a job advertisement for the Toronto Public Library with salary starting at $4000 and (compared to 2015) a generous four weeks holiday. Food remained a theme throughout the decades with a 1969 dinner meeting featuring Boneless Stuffed Cornish Hen at $1.50 a plate! 

The “Information Age” started to make an appearance in the 1970s with groovy looking library furniture and rotary dial phones in colours other than black. 

The highlight of our celebratory year to date has to be the 75th Anniversary Gala Celebration which took place on May 21st. 

A grand success by all accounts. The sell-out crowd was treated to champagne and delicious hors d’oeuvres, speeches by our President Bernadette Roca, Past President Erin McDonald, Andornot representative Peter Tyrell, and our special guest, Dee Magnoni, current candidate for President-Elect of SLA. 

All assembled were treated to music by Juno Award winning jazz musicians, Steve and Lee Wallace, with lots of chances to win the many raffle prizes handed out. 

A BIG thank you to our generous 75th Anniversary Gala corporate partners – EMIS and andornot. 

And, a special thank you to the 30 SLA Toronto VIPs – you rock!! As Kimberley Silk noted on Facebook: “Past presidents received a rose corsage, and VIP guests received a bag of goodies including a miniature of their favourite book, chocolate, and a personalized thank you note.  A real class act, my friends.” 

Photos from the event can be found on Facebook. 

Continuing into September, don’t forget to take advantage of the 75th Anniversary Membership Drive. 

Between March 31 and September 30, 2015, all new and renewing members will be entered into a draw for a one-year FREE membership and a FREE SLA Toronto workshop of your choice. 

More details and how you can enter the Referral Raffle (including an Indigo gift certificate and an additional FREE SLA division, caucus or chapter) can be found on the website. 

What a great offer!! 

Finally, coming up on September 27th we are having a Past-President’s Afternoon Tea. More details in the next issue of The Courier. 

Follow all the 75th Anniversary on Twitter #SLAToronto75.

Katie Thomas
Katie Thomas is co-editor of The Courier

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SLA Toronto in the 1970s

The 1970s, especially the late 1970s, were a time of economic change. Businesses became more focused on “efficiency, the elimination of waste, and quality delivery.” These developments created a greater need for library services, especially where special libraries were involved.[i]

As discussed in the SLA Toronto 1960s post, SLA abandoned its efforts to merge with ASIS in 1971. SLA members were under the belief that ASIS members viewed the term special librarian with contempt, but SLA perceived information scientist as too vague. However, even though the two associations decided to remain independent from one another, SLA members would increasingly become involved and align themselves with the information sciences.[ii]

Special librarians were primed for the “Information Age” that started to make an appearance in the 1970s. The 1970s saw significant growth in bibliographic databases, predominantly the development and growth of WorldCat, a union catalog, by the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC). As technology advanced in the 1970s, as it continues to today, special librarians established themselves as valuable resources in connecting people with information.[iii]

Special librarians were progressively establishing their transferrable skill set and this was becoming further recognized outside of the field of librarianship. In 1970, President Richard Nixon appointed Catherine Kitty Scott, a past president of SLA, to the inaugural National Commission on Libraries; she was the only librarian on the panel and she would remain so for 6 years. Scott was later inaugurated to the SLA hall of fame. She is noted as recognizing the importance of being an active SLA member and mentor.

There were many notable members during the 1970s. Carolyn Anne-Reid, Russ Murphy and Gertrude Lamb, introduced the Clinical Medical librarian program, in which medical librarians would leave the physical space of the library to visit patients and provide them with information services. This initiative was likely the catalyst for many similar embedded librarian programs that we have today.[iv]

Special librarians were certainly poised strategically for the coming of the “information age,” which introduced information sharing technologies that were created, utilized, and implemented by special librarians.


10 Cool Things we learned about SLA Toronto in the 1970s from our chapter’s archives…


1. Clearly special libraries continued to prevail during the 1970s – organized as ever, directories of all the special libraries in Toronto were still printed and bound.


2. “Technical” “Bibliotalk” “Online” – times are a-changin’


3. The requirements for a “Systems Librarian” at the University of Toronto back in the 70s:


4. What we wouldn’t give for a vintage card catalogue cabinet!!


5. Today, a similar advertisement might say “If you want to search Google… Go ahead.”


6. Some things don’t change!


7. Coffee, donuts, books, librarians – count us in! What a great way to strengthen the SLA community!


8. We are so lucky to have great connections with our student members today! (Check out the Student Corner posts in The Courier).


9. These organizations have clearly benefited from employing special librarians – many of our Chapter members work at these organizations today.




10. Four words – “Stick on name tags” – It’s the little things!


—Caroline Chung, Tara Kutlesa, and Kristina Fry



[i] Stephen A. Roberts, 2003, “Financial management of libraries: Past trends and future prospects,”
Library Trends 51, 3: 462.

[ii] “Information Outlook: The Magazine of the Special Library Association.” 4,5.

[iii] Rebecca B. Vargha, “Special Libraries.”

[iv] Horton, “Whither,” 150.


Works Consulted

Horton, Valerie. 2013. “Whither library consortia?” Collaborative Librarianship 5,(3): 150.

“Information Outlook: The Magazine of the Special Library Association.” 4, 5.

Roberts, Stephen A. 2003. “Financial management of libraries: Past trends and future prospects.”
Library Trends 51, 3: 462.

Vargha Rebecca B. “Special Libraries.”



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SLA Toronto 75th Anniversary Membership Drive

To celebrate 75 fantastic years, SLA Toronto Chapter is hosting a Membership Drive!

SLA Toronto burstBetween March 31 and September 30, 2015, all new and renewing members will be entered into a draw for a one-year FREE membership and a FREE SLA Toronto workshop of your choice.*


Did someone encourage you to join?

Let SLA Toronto know and they will be entered in the SLA Referral Raffle. Referees will have the chance to win an Indigo gift certificate and an additional FREE SLA division, caucus or chapter.

When you register, send an email with the name and contact information of the referee to Membership Chair katejohnson200 @

* This excludes the 75th Gala and the Annual Holiday Social, and cannot be applied as a refund to events that have already passed. To use your free registration, simply contact the registrar for that event directly.

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Past President Interview: Laura Warner (2012)

laura warner interview 1Name: Laura Warner.

Year of Toronto Chapter Presidency: 2012.

Laura began her career as a media librarian with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and is currently the Director of Knowledge Services at Navigator Ltd. She earned her Master of Library and Information Studies and Master of Public Administration from Dalhousie University in Halifax.

Who were the members of your executive?

Kimberly Silk, Christine DeLuca, Bernadette Roca, Erin MacDonald, Heather Brunstad, Jennifer Burns, Stacey Piesner, Greg Barber and Melanie Brown.

(Not pictured: Heather Brunstad, Jennifer Burns and Stacey Piesner)

laura warner interview 2

Can you tell us a bit about your decision to join SLA?

Laura told me that she joined SLA Toronto as a new professional shortly after graduation from Dalhousie. From Laura: “I had always been active in associations while at graduate school. I chaired the student chapter of the CLA and also contributed to the Halifax Library Association. When I moved to Toronto, I was keen to continue my involvement within the community.”

“I joined SLA Toronto in the summer of 2007, after moving here from Halifax. I looked up Daniel Lee – then president-elect of the SLA Toronto Chapter – and was motivated by his energy. I quickly became involved in the association. As a new professional, it proved to be a great strategy for learning and meeting other professionals.”

Why did you get involved in the Chapter’s leadership?

“I was a little green so volunteering for the SLA at the executive level was a great way to hone skills that I did not have the chance to develop in an entry level position. Also, if you care about your profession and the direction it takes, then becoming actively involved within the professional community is one way to shape that.”

Prior to becoming Chapter President, Laura was SLA Toronto’s New Information Professionals Coordinator and Tech Director.

What was your most memorable moment as President?

 “It’s hard to pinpoint one moment, as we had so many challenges and successes that year. Securing the Student-to-SLA award and being able to send [Stacey Nordlund and Heather Buchansky] to experience the SLA conference was significant. The membership appreciation event and the holiday social also stood out. Overall I’d say the AGM, as a moment of celebration and reflection.”

Laura also noted that her tenure as Chapter President saw a lot of collaboration with other associations, including SCIP and OLA’s Special Libraries division.

 What was the most valuable lesson you learned that year?

“Not everything will go as planned; so I learned the high value of the art of improvisation. Also, I learned the importance of delegation and not burning out. Luckily I had an amazing executive, who made it possible.”

What were the Chapter’s main challenges at that time?

“In the years following the recession, it was tough to secure sponsorship and funding as many corporations were taking a more fiscally conservative approach to their donations. With a little sweat, however, I believe we successfully overcame this challenge by communicating the value of investing in the information professionals. We’ve been able to build on that since.”

What issues do you see the profession, the Chapter and the Association facing in the future?

“As the deluge of information continues to expand, so does the importance of those who are skilled at organization and retrieving it. The role of professionals with our knowledge and skill set has become even more imperative to our clients. That being said, our greatest challenge remains: we need to better articulate our knowledge and abilities to those outside of the profession.”

For our professional organizations, “membership is definitely a hurdle. We need to help our colleagues understand the importance of professional development, networking and engagement.  Participating in associations is an investment in your own career.”


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Past President Interview: Pam Casey (2007)

Name:  Pam Casey

Year of Toronto Chapter Presidency:  2007

I have worked in the Information Services Industry for over 20 years, and I am the President of Information Now.  Information Now provides information research and training solutions to companies to save them time, money and make them more competitive.

I currently work for Kids Help Phone as a Resource Coordinator for the Good2Talk Project.  In my spare time I volunteer as the Co-Chair of the SLA Toronto West Programming Committee.  I have received numerous awards and recognition from SLA Toronto, OALT/ABO, the LIT program at Sheridan College and the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides of Canada.
In 2010, I spoke at the Ontario Library Association Super Conference on “Job Skills for Future Library Careers” and out of that session, I began a group on LinkedIn with the same name. As of October 24, 2013 the group has gone global and now has over 6200 members. This is a major achievement that I am particularly proud of.

Why did you join SLA? 

I joined SLA back in 2001 when I started working for the library at GlaxoSmithKline Canada.  I thought it would be a good spot for me to network and get to know other colleagues in the association.

How did you get involved in leadership? 

My first venture into leadership with SLA was with SLA Toronto as the discussion list manager.

Who was on your executive?

  • President – Pam Casey
  • President-Elect – Daniel Lee
  • Treasurer – Joy Shanfield
  • Director – Heather Ritchie
  • Events Coordinator – Sandra Craig
  • Membership Chair – Claire Lysnes
  • Secretary – Tylene Reaume

What was your most memorable moment as President? 

The joint event that we shared with ASLIS, TALL and THLA to celebrate Special Librarian Day.

What was the most valuable lesson you learned that year?

The most valuable lesson I learned as President was how to be a leader and get a diverse group of people together to work as a team.

What were the main challenges of the Chapter at the time?

Increasing membership in the chapter and getting the programs to run cost free.

What challenges do you think the Chapter and the Association still need to overcome? 

A lot of the challenges that we had back in 2007 are the same that face the group now.  The big challenge in my opinion is keeping the association as one group while keeping all of the meetings, transactions and decisions transparent, whether it is at the chapter level or at the association level.

pam casey 2

SLA Toronto Chapter 2007 and 2008 Executive Boards.  Left to right, Tylene Reaume, Faye Mitchell, Joy Shanfield, Daniel Lee, Pam Casey, Claire Lysnes, Heather Ritchie, and Britta Charbonneau.


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Past President Interview: Heather Wilson (2000-2001)

heather wilson 1Name: Heather Wilson

Heather began her career at an environmental consulting firm providing information services and managing a resource centre. She also worked at the Toronto Reference Library overseeing a busy fee-based research service. Following her work in public libraries, she worked as a research specialist at the Rotman School of Management’s Business Information Centre providing information on demand to corporate clients. Currently, Heather is the Director, Research Services for the Institute of Corporate Directors. In her position with the ICD, Heather provides research support, media monitoring, content for publications in addition to managing the Institute’s research service for members, ICD BoardInfo and an online library of governance resources.

Heather lives in Toronto with her husband Alex and the cat who adopted them, Seamus McCarthy. She has also been known to bake a mean pie.

Year of Toronto Chapter Presidency: 2000 – 2001

Why did you join SLA?

I joined as a student, which I guess a lot of people do. I went to the University of Toronto at, what was then, the Faculty of Library Information Studies, FLIS. I joined because the student memberships were relatively inexpensive; I joined ALA, SLA, the Medical Library Association, and a few others. When I left university, I got a job as a special librarian for a consulting company so I maintained my SLA membership.

SLA was the most relevant for what I was doing in my career. I was also a solo librarian at my new job. As a new graduate, there was so much I didn’t know so I really relied on the network to help me professionally. I relied on the association to fill out all those competency areas I needed to fill out in order to practice as well as I wanted to in my job. It was just so helpful to have people I could send an email to ask “what do you do in this situation”. I was lucky that the company I started working for was really supportive of professional development and they funded my attendance of SLA conferences, which were great professional development opportunities.

How did you get involved in leadership?

Right after I graduated, one of my former supervisors from when I was a student became president of the chapter. She called me almost right away to say that she wanted me on the executive committee. As a new graduate, I was on the Welcoming Committee, which we don’t have any more. It was a pretty easy job. The responsibilities were to look after the speakers who came to speak to the Chapter. I did the thanking and bought thank you gifts.

It really helped to have someone who knew me and believed in me to encourage me to get involved at the executive level. I stayed because I saw that it wasn’t as overwhelming as I thought it would be. Being part of the executive committee was also a really good way to meet people. I think it’s always difficult as a new graduate to actually feel comfortable in a room of people who already know each other. By being part of the executive committee, people got to know me. In those days, the committees were really large; there were about 20 of us on the executive committee. We used to meet about twice a year so it was great way to meet people.

Who was on your executive?

Caroline Kuchma – President Elect
Susanne Baker – Past President
Laura Knapp – Director
Kolette Taber – Treasurer
Heather Colman – Secretary

What was your most memorable moment as President?

I think there were a few things actually. The thing that I’m proudest of is introducing the student stipend for attending the conference. We got sponsors and we were able to send someone to Los Angeles for the SLA annual conference. It was a really good idea and it was something that was discussed before I came into the president’s role, but it was during my time that we implemented it. Getting the money and trying to figure out how we were going to select someone were the most challenging aspects. I think part of it was putting the time in to figure out all the details in order to implement the procedure. That was definitely a highlight though.

We also had a couple of partnership events while I was president. We had a joint chapter meeting (with the Upstate New York chapter in Buffalo, NY), which I don’t think has been done since. It was a really good event. It was a full day conference with a series of speakers and it was very successful. Then we had SLA content at the OLA Superconference that year. So there were a couple of opportunities to work with other groups, which was really interesting and fun. I think it’s something that will continue to happen as the profession changes and I think working with partners is really important.

What was the most valuable lesson you learned that year?

Time management. It’s very time consuming to be the president because you are the key point of contact for everybody. Being on top of the communications was a constant struggle. You couldn’t let it slide because it would bury you very quickly. I think that was the most important lesson for me.

What were the greatest opportunities that SLA afforded you?

I think there were a few! The networking opportunities were really important especially since I was a solo practitioner at first. It wasn’t just about professional development, it was also just nice to be able to tell someone what you were doing and be understood. Getting opportunities to do public speaking and doing presentations were great. You don’t necessarily get the chance to do that in your work life, so those were great experiences. Being able to go to the conferences were really great for my professional development especially early in my career.

What were the main challenges of the Chapter at the time?

You know, we didn’t have a lot of challenges. It was a fairly calm period and we had a fairly steady membership and we were doing well financially. I had a really good team of people doing programming and our programs were pretty well attended. It was interesting; we were just starting to see some of the changes that might be coming down the road. For example, we were starting to talk about stopping the printing of “The Courier” and just going to an e-format. We were just starting to see the impact of search engines, but none of it had really hit. It wasn’t a hugely challenging time for the chapter. The biggest challenge may have been just managing all of it and keeping it running.

How has the profession changed since then?

Well, I think it’s changed enormously. The impact of the internet has fundamentally changed what we do. I have been practicing now for 25 years and I’ve seen huge change over that period of time. The value of what we do isn’t diminished and we are in a unique position to deliver good, credible information. The external recognition of our skills is a challenge. I think it means developing a new vocabulary for how we describe our work.

I do research – reference work essentially – for members of the Institute of Corporate Directors every day and they are enormously grateful, but do they think of me as a librarian? I doubt it. They don’t see that aspect of what I do. It’s more about delivering the results. The role is the same, but how we describe it has changed a lot.

What challenges do you think the Chapter and the Association still need to overcome?

I think the role of the information professional is shifting. It’s called a Special Libraries Association not the Special Librarians Association, but special libraries as an entity are disappearing. How do you support people who do this kind of work when the physical spaces in which they operate are disappearing? I think a huge number of people in SLA are in academic libraries. They get support for professional development and are in specialized subject areas so they join SLA. So what does that mean for the association if it’s becoming much more of an academic space rather than a corporate library space?

Traditionally, SLA has really supported corporate librarians, but corporate librarians are disappearing. But then, how do we get people who are fulfilling the role of the corporate librarian but don’t identify as a corporate librarian or as an information professional to join? I think people aren’t getting as much out of the association because of these changes. I think it’s not just being there to provide support, but being perceived as providing support. I think the message that SLA is here to help support members professionally could be communicated better especially to new members.

What are you currently involved in with SLA?

I’ve been active in SLA – on and off – since my presidency. I haven’t been on the executive for a long time, but I’ve done other things. I’ve been to the annual conferences on and off over the years. I’m part of the 75th anniversary gala planning. One of the first things that I did when I joined the chapter was to help with the 50th anniversary, so it feels very fitting to help with the 75th anniversary. I’m really excited about it and it’s going to be a great party!

heather wilson 2

Photo: Mary Dickerson receiving the President’s award at the AGM in 2001.


Interviewed by: Mary Gu
Mary holds a BA in Psychology from the University of Western Ontario and a Master of Information from the University of Toronto. Mary has wide ranging interests in special and academic librarianship; currently, she is also a member of the SLA First Five Years Advisory Council for 2015-2016. In her down time, Mary is usually immersed in speculative fiction, graphic novels, podcasts, and trying out new recipes.

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