In her October 28, 2021 MLAConnect post, MLA President Kris Alpi, AHIP, FMLA, shared with MLA members that MLA and the Special Library Association (SLA) were exploring possible areas of collaboration. Members of the executive committees of both organizations met, and on November 9–11, the full MLA board discussed the context in which collaboration with other associations may bring value and the specific potential merits of joint activities with SLA.
MLA board members established these important guiding principles regarding what potential collaboration should enable:
- Enhance MLA’s ability to perform its vision and mission, specific to health information
- Bring value to MLA members and to the individuals and institutions MLA touches
- Increase MLA’s ability to provide education and networking opportunities
- Increase MLA’s effectiveness at promoting the value of information professionals
- Be fiscally responsible
We considered whether collaboration between MLA, an association dedicated to health information, and SLA, whose identity is the diversity of its members and components, would meet these principles.
While we as health information professionals operate in a health sciences environment and contribute to positive health outcomes, our areas of expertise and the challenges we encounter because of where we work, what we do, or who we are, would likely benefit from a broader or deeper expertise from professionals outside the health ecosystem. That could be true in certain communities of practice, education content, microcredentialing, and networking, as examples.
MLA board members generally agreed that the benefits could be substantial, especially when the areas of collaboration are clearly defined. The outcome of the board meeting was a decision for MLA to keep talking with SLA and get specific.
We are exploring two areas of collaborations:
- A joint 2023 conference: A larger conference with an expanded program that would address the broader interests of attendees and a larger exhibitor presence. In addition to providing MLA and SLA attendees with a more valuable experience, a joint meeting would also achieve economies of scale (less cost than two separate conferences) that would benefit both MLA and SLA as associations. Any joint conference would include the traditional MLA conference program of keynotes, contributed content, exhibits, exhibitor presentations, socials, and networking events.
- MLA’s technology platform: MLA’s vision for the technology platform that the board approved several weeks ago is for information professionals to share a broad space for communities, collaboration, professional development, and communications with participating organizations such as SLA. The experience would maintain the identity of each association and provide personalized experiences for each individual consistent with sharing agreements between the participating organizations. This bold approach would increase the value to the members of all participating organizations, including members’ ability to participate in activities outside of your member organization. This too would achieve economies of scale.
In the coming weeks and months, we will expand our dialogue to assess feasibility, open broader discussions with our respective members, and aim for a decision point during the first quarter of 2022 on each of those potential collaboration areas. Timing is key, as neither organization has as yet identified a 2023 location and that the runway for technology creation and transition would lead us into early 2023.
I am so thrilled that MLA members embrace positive change and energize their elected members of the MLA board to be leaders of innovation and transformation. I am also grateful to the MLA headquarters team as they continue to expertly advance us. Our strong culture dedication and healthy collaboration are powering our success.