I will qualify this post by saying that I’m not a “special librarian,” nor am I part of the Special Libraries Association as it exists today. I do think that the phrase special librarian has its issues, and I don’t consider myself an expert enough to properly weigh in on the historical and workplace-oriented effort to realign and rename SLA. However, I do find it important to me to have organizations that I feel would support me, and perhaps more accurately, that I would feel proud of being a part of, as I prepare to move from library school into the world of being an librarian and information professional.
The proposed name change to “Association for Strategic Knowledge Professionals (ASKPro)” is not getting there for me. I am sure that the organization, based on the positive things I have read from those who have volunteered many years of service, will undoubtedly remain supportive to its members and relevant for those that are a part of it. However, the “alignment” that this name change will supposedly be a large part in bringing about just doesn’t sit well with me; I feel that “Strategic Knowledge” smacks of boardroom “synergy” and other “paradigm shifting” words and phrases that are said all too often, while remaining meaningless and hollow. On October 8th, the SLA Blog featured a that began a series on “Action you can take NOW to increase your value in the Workplace.”
Item 1? Seek and Destroy Jargon.
One argument in favor of ASKPro that seems to be typical from my standpoint on the outside of this came from an email sent by Stephen Abrams, Vice President of Innovation and SirsiDynix, arguing in favor of the name change. It is rooted in a rather strict interpretation of the individual words that make up the title, and the tail end of the message sums up his argument nicely:
Strategic: “highly important to or an integral part of a strategy or plan of action”
Knowledge: “The sum or range of what has been perceived, discovered, or learned”
Professional: “A skilled practitioner; an expert.”
Now who would vote against that? We’ll soon see.
My problem with this argument is this: the words “Strategic,” “Knowledge” and “Professional” considered in isolation convey nice and supportive things about the people practicing them. Strung together, they sound like a desperate conglomerate of buzzwords. Additionally, the logic behind this is simply flawed. Not to be overly childish about this, but this line of thought also led to Taco Bell’s “Cheesy Beefy Melt.”
Cheese? Beef? Melty? What’s not to love?
Don’t get me wrong, I am not particularly attached to the phrase “Special Libraries,” either. But I just read that incorporating the word librarian into your job title is somehow career-limiting, and that is something with which I do not agree. I do agree that right now, the word librarian does carry some image issues, but I think it is wrong and frankly lazy to simply eliminate it instead of working, on behalf of all librarians (“special” or otherwise), to change its connotation through innovative and inspiring work. I aspire to be a librarian, and if that means advocating my essential role to an organization, and demonstrating the new information and knowledge contexts in which a librarian may operate in the 21st century, then I will be more than happy to do so.
The debate rages on:
- #slaname on Twitter Search
- Email explanation from SLA President Gloria Zamora
- Librarian of Fortune – Thoughts on the SLA Name Change
- Marcy Phelps: ASKPro – Why I like it
- Midwestern Girl – My lengthy thoughts on SLA Name Change
- SLA Blog: Opposing the name, but supporting alignment