SLA 2012 in Chicago: A Retrospective

By Susan K. Cardinal, University of Rochester

If you need to learn something on a deeper level, I highly recommend teaching it to someone else.  I’m feeling more grounded in chemistry after my second year of co-teaching the pre-conference Continuing Education (CE) course “Chemistry for the Non-Chemist Librarian” with Judith Currano.  The eleven students in the class got to play with molecular model kits, building, drawing, and naming simple organic molecules, as well as doing some separation experiments using Sharpies and coffee filters, and making raisins dance (or, in this case, twitch nervously) in seltzer water.

On Sunday, I took a (CE) course called “Website Analytics and Usability,” taught by Kate Marek from Dominican Republic.  I learned that it is best to be selective about the data that you collect about users visiting your site and that this can be determined by your goals.  There was a discussion about balancing patrons’ privacy with the advantages of Google Analytics tools.  I was amazed at how deeply you could drill to learn about individual visits.  The guru of web statistics is Avinash Kaushik (

Usability work complements statistics because it helps explain why people are doing what they are doing.  In the afternoon, we saw some usability testing modeled on Steve Krug’s book “Rocket Surgery Made Easy.”  After observing, we were able to do some hands on testing.  I loved getting some actual work done while attending a conference!

In the evening, the conference began with a keynote address and award ceremony.  Guy Kawasaki, co-founder of, talked us about enchanting people.  He is a clever, enchanting presenter and has shared his slides and presentations at

The next morning at the Chemistry Division’s “Academic Round Table,” each table picked one or two topics to discuss.  At my table we discussed “Creating Data Services.”  We talked about electronic notebooks (ELNs) and ways of learning about the data needs of a department.  Some participants indicated that researchers become more aware of their data management needs after participating in data profiling interviews.  The chemists need to know local policies about who owns the data and discover some safe storage practices. has a nice list of searchable repositories, and one librarian at my table has begun collecting data management plans.  Other tables discussed different topics, including:

  • Reinventing spaces
  • Marketing – we aren’t just a warehouse of books
  • Emphasizing finding relevant information as opposed to searching for information when teaching
  • Becoming embedded
  • Enabling virtual collaboration
  • Tips for holding successful workshops and clinics
  • Future of databases indexing articles with substance structures and reactions
  • New models for open access publication
  • E-textbooks


Later in the morning, I learned about the organization of the NSF and how researchers should look to their program instructions, not just to their Directorate, for information required in their data management plan.  When reviewing annual reports and final reports, NSF will be paying close attention to whether or not the researchers are following their plans.  NSF reviewers get nervous when they see URLs used as identifiers because many URLs are not persistent and may change.  I was surprised to learn that some researchers don’t know the difference between making a copy and making a back up file.  This session also introduced us to a site that assists researchers in generating data management plans, called the DMP Tool (  However, we also learned that some organizations are concerned about the security and privacy of the DMP Tool. 

 At the “Chemistry on the Go” session, I learned about mobile versions of CRCNetBase, SciFinder, ACS Publications, Springer, Spresi, RSC, and Elsevier’s “Reaction Flash.”  Publishers are creating mobile versions for every journal and database, just as they created Web sites in the 1990s.  A few of us concluded that the mobile versions were for their biggest followers and fans, but not as useful for an institution.  In another session I found out that there is an EndNote Mobile app in development that sounds very useful. 

For those of you who eager to learn more about apps, there was a session called “60 Apps in 60 Minutes:  Likewise, there was another session, “60 Sites in 60 Minutes:”

At the “All Sciences Posters and Reception,” there were several posters about my current concerns, outreach to graduate students and data services.  I’m feeling encouraged to meet with research groups.  Overall there was too much valuable information at once, so I’m hoping that some of the posters will be available online.

The 2012 SLA meeting in Chicago was a fun meeting by the lake, visiting with friends and learning more than ever!  If you’d like to learn more, please visit the SLA Chemistry Division website at