This is a guest post written by two librarians at the U of Calgary about the proposed name change for the Special Libraries Association. In November the membership will be voting whether to change the name of their organization to ASKPro (Association of Strategic Knowledge Professionals). I have no stake in the matter, but Justine Wheeler and John Wright are heavily invested as the Directory of the Business Library and the Head of the Military Museums Library here at the UofC.
I’ve been reading the discussion about the SLA proposed name change with great interest. I must admit when I first heard Association of Strategic Knowledge Professionals (ASKPro), I was hesitant. My main reservation being that the moniker “librarian” is a strong, identifiable brand that is working quite well in academic special libraries – at least in my opinion. Nonetheless, the profession is moving and *needs* to move to a more inclusive understanding of knowledge work.
I thought I’d ask a student assistant in our library what she thought of the name. She thought it sounded “haughty”. Hmmm. Are we trying to put on ‘airs’ or over value ourselves, or is this yet another perfect example of how we and others devalue and misunderstand our work?
As I’ve been mulling this over, I keep coming back to an experience I had at the beginning of the semester. I was asked to present at a PhD orientation. I was given a short amount of time to discuss the library services and resources available to help PhDs conduct their research. When the Associate Dean Research introduced me she said something pretty close to: “the people at the Business Library are so great, we think of them as colleagues not librarians”. Hmmm. At the end of the session one of the PhD students asked me: “what is your background, you seem to know so much about business”? Hmmm again. I had after all been speaking on the topic of business research not business theory. Was it that surprising a business librarian could speak authoritatively on researching business topics? Whatever marketing plan we as a profession have had, it just doesn’t seem to be working. There remains a disconnect between what we do and how we are perceived.
So where am I now? I love the title librarian and I love being a librarian but I believe we do have to take a different approach to promoting our value and what we do. By encouraging those with different skill sets into our association we can expand our own skills, gain exposure to new ideas and create much needed collaboration in the information and knowledge field. By aligning ourselves with those who are, or should be, our colleagues and collaborators we might even be able to raise our profile and change how we are perceived - thereby strengthening, not weakening, our "brand". Doesn’t sound too bad…think I'll vote yes.
John counters with:
I disagree completely - I think being a librarian engenders tremendous goodwill and political capital that can be leveraged. Changing the name just seems to be running from a series of identity issues without resolving them. If anything it makes things more nebulous and waters down who we are as a profession (with standards) and as a function for an organization even more. I think of what happened in the Canadian and US public services and think this would accelerate a diminishing of the profession by a major employment group. The UK Charter model would be a better step, IMHO. I think we need to own librarianship and update the word, and in that I agree with the underlying motives for the name change, if not agreeing either with the name or the imperative to change the name. In short, we do need to own what we do differently - I completely agree with you; I just don't think this is the way.
Want to chime in? Please do!