New SLA Fellow Dennie Heye has started to interview other SLA Fellows to find out what we can learn from them. The fourth in this series is with Kate Arnold. Kate is the first non-American President Elect of the SLA and is also an SLA Fellow.

Kate Arnold

As Fellow, you have been recognized for your work to enhance the SLA and the profession. I always feel that as Fellows, we are standing on shoulders of giants. Who within the profession was the first to inspire you?

Nora Paul, whom I met in 1999 when I took her inspirational new media and library leadership course at Maastricht University. She was the first person I met in the library world who realised what a big change was about to happen to us thanks to new technology. She outlined the list of role swaps we were about to undertake as news librarians! Amazing how right she was:

  • From waitresses to tour guides – moving from serving up information to pre-packaging it, and adopting a more pro-active role.
  • From transactional to transformational – from do you have … to helping out in production/news areas.
  • From clerks to coaches – more for news librarians, but still relevant for others – from keepers of dusty files to consultants helping other organise information.
  • From I have it, to I know who has it – encourage the practice of sharing and improving knowledge.
  • From supplicant to pitchman – from I’m not worthy, can I serve you? To come here, got stuff to offer, more confident about what we can offer.

If you think about the future of our profession – what keeps you awake at night and why?

I worry about our ability to communicate – specifically enabling members to converse in appropriate vocabulary with users and bosses. We’re not great at explaining what we do in words that resonate with users and bosses and I’d like us to change that. Then perhaps our skill set and experience will be valued more appropriately.

When it comes to innovation, a lot of companies are trying to stay ahead of the competition by disrupting themselves from the inside out. For example, Netflix disrupted their profitable DVD mail order business by starting a movie streaming service via the Internet. Do you have ideas how information professionals could start disruptive innovation in their organizations?

By going out of our comfort zone and getting involved in discussions on innovation within our organisations, because info people occupy a neutral, holistic position in organisations. We know so much about what everyone is doing and current and future trends in our industries. All of which are vital components for creating disruptive innovation.

 If you were given a chance to go 10 years back in time, what would you do differently in your job and professional development?

Job wise I would have taken an HR change management role in the BBC over the intranet role I actually took 10 years ago. This would have provided me with strategic management experience earlier than I actually got it.

When it comes to professional development – I would have continued with speaking at conferences, something I tailed off doing from 2003 onwards, and regret. Luckily my President Elect role is compensating for this!

In order to remain relevant in the future, what should SLA start doing? Stop doing? Do more of?

Start doing – all of SLA needs to engage with membership more. This was one of my election campaign topics. Board and HQ needs to engage and listen to the membership. This has started to occur with Deb Hunt’s presidency, and there was positive feedback from Leadership Summit attendees. We need to find a way of gaining the engagement we saw with Cindy Romaine’s Future Ready Blog.

Stop doing – working in silos in SLA. All too often we think less about ‘oneSLA’ , and more about what can my division or chapter do. We need to develop a more holistic view and consider how do we do things to benefit one SLA and its members.

Do more of – policy and advocacy work. We’re doing bits and pieces of work, and actively participating in IFLA, where we are part of a bigger group advocating for change. With Open Access and other issues becoming more prominent we will need to consider if we should do more policy work.