Rounding up SLA Conference 2019

Having just returned from SLA 2019 we sat down with Lynn Epstein and Nick Collison to get their key takeaways.

Last month InfoDesk was pleased to be represented at the Special Libraries Association’s (SLA) Annual Conference in Cleveland, Ohio by our COO, Lynn Epstein and Senior Global Strategic Account Manager, Maria Barlev. Lynn has been attending SLA since 2006 and says, “Each year I’m surprised by the new things I see, hear and learn, and this time was no exception.”

InfoDesk were excited to be sharing a booth with our partner, cSubs, for the first time this year. “To have their expertise in content subscription management to lean-on and share with our audience really added to the value of the conversations we were having at the stall,” said Lynn.

We sat down with Lynn Epstein and Nicholas Collison, Director of Content and Library Support at cSubs, and also a Fellow of SLA, after the conference to get their insights and share their experiences. Three key trends became apparent.

1) The changing face of library teams

The traditional knowledge management team has changed (and will continue to change), due to the pervasiveness and frequency of new innovations and technology across the industry. Never is this clearer than when attending an event full of librarians and knowledge management professionals.

“Traditionally knowledge, or more specifically, library teams were substantial and indispensable functions within organizations. They would be made up of specialized experts, and generally be on a much larger scale than they are now,” said Lynn. Over the last decade, there has been a significant reduction in library teams influence and size within businesses. More often nowadays, an individual or small team is tasked with managing the entirety of an organization’s information supervision.

This can be attributed to a number of reasons according to Nick, “It’s obvious that technology has played a role in the decreasing size and budgets of library teams, but there are a few other factors at play too. Specialization of roles is one; rather than a traditional Library team you now have Competitive Intelligence teams, Market Intelligence teams, Research & Development teams, and everything in between.”

He went on to say, “I think the most concerning reason for the decline of Special Libraries as a business unit, is their ineffectiveness at articulating to their organization the value and crucial insights they provide.” It’s undeniable that these teams play a crucial role in the organization, so it’s critical that they align their value proposition to wider organization objectives to get buy-in and support.

2) The power of the partnership

Another sentiment that was echoed by the pair was the power of the partnership. This became apparent with InfoDesk and cSubs working in such close proximity at the conference and could be used to draw insights across the industry as a whole.

Having worked together as strategic partners for three years, each group has an intimate knowledge of the other’s capabilities and skills. “This means that when talking to interested parties throughout the conference, InfoDesk and cSubs can leverage their respective skills to deliver a more comprehensive and thorough solution,” said Lynn. “Not only do these relationships complement each other, they almost become synergistic.” The ‘value add’ comes from the ability to speak to different aspects of the supply line, rather than focusing on your own particular business specialism.

From a macro-perspective, the relationship between InfoDesk and cSubs could be seen as a crucial objective for vendors and suppliers across the wider knowledge management industry. “I think it’s critical that knowledge vendors in today’s industry utilize the strategic relationships available to them,” says Nick. “There is a wealth of skills available within the knowledge industry and to turn your back on a supplementary skillset is senseless.”

It’ll be interesting to see how the shift in building and utilizing strategic vendor partnerships will impact the industry as a whole over the next few years.

3) The SLA Community

The last but most significant of the takeaways from the conference was the quality of those in attendance. “From suppliers, to vendors, to library teams, to sponsors – everyone was in high spirits, open to collaboration and just generally interested in what was happening around them,” said Nick.

“I always get the most satisfaction out of seeing those customers that I might not have had a chance to talk to face-to-face for a while. It’s like catching up with old friends,” says Lynn. “The insights and ideas we get from our user community at events like these are always welcomed and helps us ensure the products we deliver match the user needs.”


As always SLA was a great opportunity to keep a finger on the pulse of industry innovations, trends, and the latest news. As identified by both Lynn Epstein and Nicholas Collison, the face of knowledge management is changing but that change provides so many opportunities for collaboration, partnerships and ultimately a stronger industry. If anything, SLA 2019 reinforced what a great community of people the Library and Knowledge Management are and how exciting the future looks.

InfoDesk and cSubs are looking forward to a great SLA 2020.

See you there!