Sunday, March 4, 2007

SLA Summer Adventure Baltimore 2006 | A Taste of Special Libraries

By Melinda Snarr, MLIS

In the past, I’d only ever been lured to Baltimore by those crab cakes that make the city famous. However, (last) summer I was drawn there by an entirely different force: the Special Libraries Association’s Museum, Arts, and Humanities division’s programs at the annual conference.

The division presented topics like seeking grant funding for special libraries, digitizing collections, and managing organizational history and cultural assets. Like the one and only crab cake sandwich I ate during this trip, the MAHD programming was fantastic. Monday
MAHDness, the division’s open house at Camden Yards, was also a great opportunity to network in an informal setting. I made connections with museum librarians from around the country and engaged in interesting and timely conversations, including one with the librarian at the Historic New Orleans Collection about disaster planning and recovery.

While I was right to assume that I would gain a lot from the MAHD programs, I was pleasantly surprised by just how relevant so many other sessions were to my primary interests in museum librarianship, preservation, and archives. The Military Librarians, Education, News, Leadership and Management, and Information Technology Divisions presented a veritable feast: copyright in the digital age, website preservation, digital collections, digital archiving, collaboration tools, and more!

I left the convention center each evening feeling full from the insights, ideas, and controversies I encountered throughout the day. As such, I got my first real taste of the challenges and opportunities I’m likely to face after graduation. The perspectives of so many diverse practitioners, including the vendors, felt like beneficial supplements to my regular iSchool diet. Despite spending four long, busy days at the convention center, I still wasn’t able to sample everything I would have liked. Luckily, the wise people at SLA provide some excellent services for its hungry constituents: podcasts of several sessions and a conference blog.

As with any good smorgasbord, I left SLA sated after having sampled widely. In diversifying my palette, I expanded my intellectual and professional horizons so much more. At SLA, I learned about the diversity of work settings and job functions available through special libraries. Although I came for the Museum, Arts, and Humanities, I realized that there are many other equally interesting career possibilities to consider. Now that I’m back in Seattle, I’m remembering how good that crab cake sandwich was. More importantly, since whetting my appetite in Baltimore, I’ve become more committed to exploring the many opportunities that special libraries offer.

Snarr is the Archives & Preservation Club Co-Chair 2006-2007, and submitted this report on the conference experience for publication on the SLA-UW web site as a condition of receiving the Frost-Gershenfeld Travel Scholarship. Learn more about the UW SLA student chapter at

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