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Legal Research

: Jason the Content Librarian

Why I voted Yes on the SLA name change

By Jason


A few years ago I was asked to speak at an Enterprise Information Management conference in San Francisco. It was very exciting, the first time I had been asked to speak somewhere. I was slated to speak on the second day, but after attending the first day of sessions I was very nervous. It became quite clear that I was very likely coming from the smallest organization of all the speakers, a mid-size law firm, of about 500 people. One of the people I had been hanging out with gave me some great advice that has always stuck with me. He said that I have something important to say, no matter what type of organization I come from.Great advice. And in just a few days I learned a lot from him.

Later I found out some interesting things. This person managed the intranet for one of the largest corporations in the world. This person was an expert at managing knowledge in an enterprise. This person had received a Masters Degree in LIBRARY Science. This person was not a member of SLA, ALA, or any other library organization. These organizations, according to him, did not address his professional development needs.

See, as much as SLA members want to talk about how great is to be a librarian, and the importance of the word “librarian”, the fact remains that there are “librarians” out there who’s whose needs are not met by any of the traditional library organizations, and SLA, the organization that should meet their needs, is not either.

Now the question before us is should we change the name of the organization from Special Libraries Association to the Association of Strategic Knowledge Professionals?

Now, obviously simply changing the name of SLA to the Association of Strategic Knowledge Professionals is not going to immediately bring people like the one I described into the fold. But it’s a start, and a good one. I think it describes more accurately and more thoroughly the entirety of membership of the organization. This new name encompasses librarians, information professionals, knowledge professionals, information centers, information architects, taxonomists, indexers, and more.

There has been much written and much debate over the new name. And except for a few posts and posters, and tweets most opposition to the name has been respectful. I was finally moved to post my thoughts after reading a post at the Embedded Librarian. And while his points are fair I must disagree with some of what he wrote, and I think this highlights the difference between our positions.

The most telling section from the post is this:

Librarianship is a ?big tent? ? and we need to make it bigger. The profession is open to all who share our competencies, interests, values and ethics. The whole profession is undergoing dramatic changes and I see positive examples in all sectors. All librarians need the alignment leadership that our Association is providing through research, professional development, and peer to peer collaboration. Now is not the time to abandon librarianship, now is the time to expand it. We should welcome all who share the ideals, interests, and competencies of librarians, and encourage them to call themselves librarians too. We should educate executives about why they need to hire and promote librarians. But we will not be able to do that if we abandon the term ?library? in some form.

This paragraph summed up opposition to the name for me. Essentially it argues that we should expand our tent by forcing those who would seek entry to our organization to adopt the name Librarian – and everything that we librarians say they should. Or as I said in a tweet a few weeks ago “disappointed some would rather force everyone to bow to label ‘librarian’ than acknowledge new directions for info & knowledge pros”.

This attitude is not how you expand an organization or make a big tent. Telling people they are librarians and will accept that name and our definition of it will not build the inclusive organization I think most of us would like.Despite the fact that we may think of them as librarians other knowledge workers may not think of themselves that way. And while some librarians may not like the phrase “knowledge worker” others may like that name. But I think the name “Knowledge Professionals” can be a common thread or at least lead us to get us thinking of each other as tied together by the type of work we do.

Will this name change and the alignment get the colleague I mentioned earlier to join this organization? I don’t know. But I know it’s the best bet I’ve seen.

I am a Librarian. I am a Strategic Knowledge Professional. And I will continue to be both, proudly, no matter what the results of this vote are.

Full post as published by Jason the Content Librarian on November 19, 2009 (boomark / email).

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