My July visit to Washington, D.C., combined a great DC/SLA Chapter program, several library visits, and a quiet dinner with a friend and mentor.
I began my tours at the U.S. Department of Education, National Library of Education, where I met with Karen White and Pamela Tripp-Melby. The Library has a total staff of thirteen. Director Tripp-Melby works with White on outreach efforts, including presentations on services and resources for the evidence-based research that is conducted across the agency. The Library serves Department employees and the public. A major project is the cataloging of a textbook collection that dates from the 1830’s to the 1940’s and includes 28,000 volumes. This project highlights the extension of traditional library competencies into areas of special collections and digitization. Pamela leads Open Access for the Department of Education, and worked with other Department employees to draft their policy. A challenge in the Ed policy is the definition of research. Much Department funding goes to programming that may or may not produce a scholarly paper. Data and data storage also present unique policy challenges. With no central education data repository, researchers will need to store data in local repositories. Education data includes a significant amount of human subjects data, which must be handled with care.
Turning to SLA, we bridged the open access and data discussion with career opportunities for data librarians. Researchers need people who can manage this information. This is a career development opportunity for SLA and its units. Other emerging careers for information professionals include user experience and information architecture professionals. Indexers and catalogers are re-imagining themselves as metadata specialists. Special librarians have skills and knowledge of organizations that can be leveraged for new career opportunities. Understanding emerging fields and practices is critical, and our conference programming must reflect this content. A shift in our conference planning cycle to a competitive programming model could assist in delivering fresh, broad content.