Christina's LIS Rant

I’m a librarian dammit

My primary professional society, SLA, has been going through this big “align in 2009″ business. They’ve decided we need a new name because CEOs of corporations don’t understand what librarians do. So here it is:

Association for Strategic Knowledge Professionals
which will go by ASKpro

rrrrright. So now people know exactly what we do. Oh I am *so* tired of people thinking that renaming their position or the place in which they work will make people love them. We are the most pathetic crowd.

Some of the comments from my colleagues on listservs, friendfeed, and on twitter are hilarious. I pointed out out that most people in my part of the country kind of swallow the k when saying ask. But anyhoo.

Comments

  1. #1 John McKay
    October 15, 2009

    Will there also be an Association for Tactical Knowledge Professionals? What the hell is Strategic Knowledge?

  2. #2 John Dupuis
    October 15, 2009

    Dammit, Christina, I’m a librarian not a bricklayer!

    But, seriously, I’m torn. I haven’t been a member of SLA for a couple of years and part of what influenced that decision was the gradual movement towards a more corporate direction.

    On the other hand, I do understand that a lot of people want the name to reflect a broader understanding of what “information professionals” do under the incredibly diverse SLA umbrella.

    On the third hand, chucking one vague, non-inclusive name/acronym for another doesn’t really serve anyone’s purpose.

    As Michael Fosmire (I think) said on PAMNET, SLA should follow the lead of so many scitech societies and keep the old acronym without really worrying about what the letters stand for anymore — IEEE and SPIE being the two best examples that come to mind.

  3. #3 Thomas
    October 16, 2009

    Hi Christina,

    I agree with John. I think ACM is also a good example of an org that has kept its letters without worrying what the letters stand for. I think we should just add knowledge professionals (or knowledge management professionals) to the description.

    “International association of knowledge professionals, information professionals, and special librarians in corporations, business, science, government, and academic institutions…”..

  4. #4 Waldo
    October 16, 2009

    CEOs know what strategic knowledge is, even if SLA members don’t. And I’d wager most people either has no idea what “special libraries” are or think that they are the archives-like place with the papyrus, or rare books, or DIY pamphlets from 60s counter-culture organizations or whatever, not corporate libraries, etc. The S and L of SLA is not adequately communicative to outsiders, and carries the baggage of “libraries”. “ASKPro” is of course terrible, but so would be ASLPro or anything else in this vein. But back to the issue of not knowing what strategic knowledge is: maybe the problem is that SLA members haven’t bothered to learn the vernacular and processes of the organizations they are part of and to use that to advocate their work. If people are making sense of what you do by trying to interpret your description-based name you have failed. If you think you need a name descriptive of what you do rather than what you are called in the first place, you have failed. Seriously. And you look ridiculous.

  5. #5 Ken
    October 16, 2009

    I don’t need a “description- based name” but I also don’t need a ridiculous sounding name of a conference I want my CEO’s to pay for. It was hard enough to get money to go to an SLA conference, but at least it had library in it. ASKPro is ridiculous. My money will not be spent on an association with that name. I took a small poll in my office and no one liked it. The comments were “that’s awful” and “that’s too long and too hard to say.”

  6. #6 Thomas
    October 17, 2009

    Christina,

    I think you mentioned it in another place about the loss of money due to a change in the name/logo that is already printed on tons of materials. If the name change goes through to Ask-a-Pro (lol!), then supporters of the original name can create a new organization that happens to be called the Secret Librarians Association and use the current SLA logo. I think this name is appropriate since apparently no one knows what we do anyway.

  7. #7 Christina Pikas
    October 17, 2009

    heh, or make it AskaPro, SL,A – “secretly librarians, assorted”

  8. #8 Joe
    October 18, 2009

    The acronym-only approach was tried several years ago & failed. At that time the name Information Professionals International was proposed, and failed due to lack of sufficient votes, even though it was the favored name.

    Working as I do in an academic special library, with connections primarily to other academic and government libraries, I find the “strategic knowledge” phrase to be so much pointless jargon. Even my division’s corporate members have chimed in against it! It may well resonate with board members and what the SLA administration is calling “C-level” executives, but it doesn’t do a thing for all the non-corporate folks who also consider SLA to be their primary professional association, nor for their primary client groups. One of our members tells the tale of changing their unit’s name from … Library to something-or-other Knowledge Center. People would call, they’d hear “Hello, this is the Knowledge Center” and either hang up or ask what had happened to the library. Their unit name changed back to … Library in short order.

    What’s wrong with library, anyway?

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