Congratulations to Julia Bhojoo, winner of the 2022 SLA Rising Star Award

Our DigiComms Chair, Julia Bhojoo, was one of four members who was awarded the James M. Matarazzo Rising Star Award. We asked Julia a few questions following the Award Ceremony – you can read more about her SLA journey below.

The Rising Star Award is bestowed annually to recognize outstanding new SLA members who show exceptional promise of leadership and contribution to the association and profession. Nominees must have one to five years of professional experience as an information professional and have been an SLA member for five years or less. 

President Catherine Lavallée-Welch introduced Julia at the SLA Virtual Awards Ceremony with the following message:

By day, Julia is an early career information professional at Kingsley Napley, a U.K. law firm. But outside of work, she is better known for her involvement in supporting other organisations with her technical and web skills. As SLA Europe’s Digital Communications Chair, she has revamped its website, produced designs and content for marketing material, and lead its YouTube channel. In addition to supporting SLA Europe, she is also the Website Officer for EARLL, a professional network for new and early career librarians based in London.

From working in the legal sector, Julia founded LawLibWiki to assist other law librarians and legal information professionals with sharing knowledge and resources. Julia also volunteers her web skills to charities through The Media Trust, with a particular focus on supporting disability charities to improve the online experiences of visitors to websites and mobile apps.

Julia is a member of the Diversity and Inclusion Group of the British Association of Law Librarians and the BAME Network of CILIP, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals. Both groups within these professional associations are to provide a forum for librarians and information professionals from Black Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds to share their experiences, support each other, and develop their network.

How did you hear about SLA and SLA Europe? 

Absolutely by chance! I had only been in my second role (another law firm in London) for a few months when my then-manager, Gwil Wright, reminded me that we hadn’t spent any money from our training budget and asked me whether I was interested in attending any conferences or professional development events. 

I had already booked my place at BIALL’s conference that year, but what I was really looking for something outside the legal information world that would expand my horizons (both professionally, but also outside of London). Luckily for me that year was SLA Europe’s first-ever Conference, which was being held in Cambridge. 

Joining another professional association was a big ask (as I was already a member of CILIP, CLIG, and BIALL) so I decided to investigate what SLA and SLA Europe were all about. The short answer was that I wanted to meet other information professionals who were working in other sectors as I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to stay within law firms (how wrong I was!) but what really impressed me was the conference programme and after attending, I was really encouraged with how supportive and welcoming everyone was.

What made you become involved with SLA Europe?

It’s a story often told, but the information professional world can be a small world! 

At the SLA Europe Conference, I got to chatting with Géraldine Clément-Stoneham, who recognised the law firm I worked at and asked whether I knew Gwil since they had worked together at Linklaters (another law firm in London). That was her in! She mentioned that SLA Europe was looking for new volunteers and if I wanted to learn more that I might find it helpful to chat with some of the other SLA Europe members.

Well, who better to chat with than the 2020 President, Seema Rampersad? I had connected with Seema via Twitter prior to attending the conference but it was after her talk with Simon Burton (2019 SLA Europe President) and Hal Kirkwood (2019 SLA President) that I learnt more about SLA and SLA Europe as an organisation and what the goals were for its future. Seema presented the Digital Communications Committee as a volunteering role that would be a good fit for me as I mentioned my experience with social media and WordPress. 

The rest, I should say, is history! Since joining the DigComms Committee, I’ve launched our YouTube channel, created a separate WordPress website for the second SLA Europe conference in 2021 along with marketing materials using Canva, and revamped the SLA Europe website for our 50th Anniversary this year.

Did you always want to be an information professional?

Not really! During uni, I thought of entering the publishing world or possibly joining the civil service but neither really held much of an appeal for me. After graduating, I came across an ad for an Information Assistant role at a global law firm and decided to apply, quickly realising it was the best of both worlds – government and law combined with research and current affairs.

What’s your current role? And what advice would you give to others looking to join the information professional world?

I’m an Information Officer at Kingsley Napley (my third law firm!) and I’m the lead on our current awareness service. It’s still a research-intensive role but I’m looking forward to supporting future knowledge management initiatives. I also have a fantastic team who have a wealth of experience and they have been fantastic colleagues since I joined virtually last year. 

My main advice is to make use of any professional associations you join and to not be afraid of networking – information professionals are a friendly bunch! Surround yourself with people you want to learn from and who support or encourage you to get you where you want to be. Both my team, past managers and colleagues, family and friends, as well as the SLA Europe Board (especially Claire and Amy for nominating me), have been fantastic in helping me build both my professional experience and personal confidence, and I owe a lot to them for getting me where I am today and receiving the 2022 Rising Star award.