Special Libraries Association (SLA)
The Special Libraries Association (SLA), founded in 1909, now represents thousands of information professionals in more than 80 countries. An organization of specialists, the foundation of SLA was described in this way in a landmark 1914 article in Special Libraries by John Cotton Dana:
A few large enterprises, private, public and quasi-public, discovered that it paid to employ a skilled person and ask him to devote all his time to gathering and arranging printed material out of which he could supply the leaders of the enterprise, on demand or at stated intervals, with the latest information on their work.
Through the changes that have occurred over the years, its mission has remained to provide dedicated information. Special librarians are information resource experts. They collect, analyze, evaluate, package, and disseminate information with the goal of facilitating accurate decision-making in their client, whoever and wherever that client may be.
Since 1919 SLA has been holding its conferences independently from those of the American Library Association in recognition of their particular focus. At APA, we too have found that it pays to be where this group is. "These information professionals don't represent our traditional, academic audience," noted Alvin Walker, Manager of Product Development for PsycINFO®, "but they give us a window on an incredible variety of places and ways our data are used."
APA staff at SLA have met librarians and other information professionals from a mind-boggling number of fields. Although corporations, especially pharmaceutical companies and law offices, are always well represented, attendees come from every interest from HR, to seminaries, to the Park Service, to polling organizations, to, well, you name it. "We've been surprised again and again," says Alvin, "by who is using our data. As their need for database access is often more sporadic than academic librarians or clinicians, this is an audience that makes use of our just-in-time APA PsycNET Direct® products for when they need a search on a topic or that one supporting article." Alvin recounted a conversation he had with a law librarian who stopped by to say how useful she had just found our data. A lawyer from her firm had called her from court asking for information on one-parent custody and child mental health, and she'd been able to run a search and send her client the research within minutes.
This year's conference occurred in mid-June in Philadelphia, and more than 4,300 information professionals attended. Anne Breitenbach conducted the APA training, with the focus of the session almost exclusively on the new databases, PsycTESTS™ and PsycTHERAPY™. This was one of our first opportunities to show an audience the databases in their near-final format, and there was a lively discussion. As a group, they had a great deal of experience with other streaming video and test products that made them a particularly useful group for comment — and being able to tap into that breadth and depth of knowledge early in the process was invaluable.