Many apologies for taking extreme liberties with Bard again (To Blog or not to Blog? That is the question). This is all part of my attempt to come up with magnetic headlines to bring in readers.
Anyway on to the meat of this topic. The SLA (formerly The Special
Library Association) has just (10 minutes ago) proposed a name change
for the one hundred year old association.
I should immediately declare my hand and say that I was involved in
(perhaps scarred by would be a more appropriate description) a previous
re-branding task force which ultimately led to a name change vote at
the Annual Conference in New York in 2003. Needless to say the name did
not get changed on that day, although it was a close run thing, falling
short of the two-thirds majority required by just a few votes.
Since then the information world has become even more fragmented
with all kinds of information roles that don‚Äôt have the ‚ÄėL‚Äô word in
their title. Knowledge Manager, Intranet Manager, Competitive
Intelligence Manager, Information Resources Manager are just some
examples of the 2,000 different job titles held by SLA members. This
new breed of information professionals need to feel that the SLA is a
suitable home for them as well, of course, librarians working in
Even more import are the research findings of a two year project lead by Fleishman Hillard (a leader in international marketing and communications). They
tested a range of information profession related concepts and words and
showed conclusively that anything with the ‚ÄėL‚Äô word such as librarian
or library were not perceived as valuable by senior managers. To quote
Janice Lachance from her recent Sticks and Stones article in the latest
issue of Information Outlook ;
Like detergent, the word ‚Äėlibrarian‚Äô is an accurate description of
function, but not a value proposition. It says what you do for living,
but it does not say what you can do for your organisation. Moreover,
the research shows that ‚Äėlibrarian‚Äô is perceived as being dusty and
antiquated-two words that should not be connected with either a
profession or a professional association that prides itself on being
ahead of the curve.
Working as I do at the British Library, which under the leadership
of Lynne Brindley has established itself not only as a forward looking
organisation engaging with cutting edge technology such as the award
winning Turning the Pages, but has also proved itself to be of significant cultural and economic importance for Britain. To which the Business & IP Centre by supporting new businesses has contributed in its own small way.
However, from my previous sixteen years managing a specialist
information service in a corporate environment, I recognise the problem
of using the ‚ÄėL‚Äô word in a commercial and business context. In my
experience senior managers and directors are far more impressed with
colleagues who are providing insights and identify trends, creating
competitive advantage, anticipating industry changes, facilitating good
decision making, providing value-added intelligence, sharing knowledge
and using innovative technologies. Needless to say these were all terms
which tested positively in the Fleishman Hillard research. And although
in many many cases this is exactly what specialised librarians are
actually doing, unfortunately their senior colleagues are likely to be
judging them on their job title instead.
Below is the full text of the email anouncing the proposed name change:
Cotton Dana, who founded SLA a century ago, wrote, ‚ÄúThe name Special
Libraries was chosen with some hesitation, or rather in default of a
better‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ We, as special librarians and information professionals you
have elected to SLA‚Äôs Board of Directors, believe that validated
research has identified a better name, one that will help all of us
communicate our value in the workplace.
excited to propose that SLA change its name to the Association for
Strategic Knowledge Professionals, or ASKPro. We encourage all SLA
members to voice their opinion on this proposal by casting an
electronic vote in a special referendum that will begin on 16 November
and end 9 December. The result will be announced on 10 December.
of this proposed name began when the board concluded in June that the
alignment research conducted over the past three years revealed a clear
challenge posed by SLA‚Äôs name: executives who make hiring decisions
and allocate budget dollars do not understand what it means.
Furthermore, they do not recognize or appreciate the contributions that
special librarians and information professionals are making now or the
potential they hold for building more successful organizations in the
future. This disconnect endangers the jobs of our members, and we are
determined to act.
The proposed name is the result of the same rigorous process used in the Alignment Project research .
We began by compiling words, terms and critical concepts that both
information professionals and executives agree best articulate the
value and potential of the information profession and the association.
We also received and considered input from members around the globe via
Twitter, blogs, e-mail, FaceBook and listservs after the annual
conference. The result was a long list of potential names. We then
began eliminating names if they caused confusion, were too close to
names already in use, posed legal difficulties, or could have different
meanings in various countries. We also eliminated names that did not
have good acronyms or shortened versions associated with them.
that the name that emerged, the Association for Strategic Knowledge
Professionals, strongly ties special librarians and information
professionals to the strategic goals of their organizations, increases
the perceived value of their services, and stresses their
professionalism. We also want to emphasize that by changing our
organization‚Äôs name, we will not change the name of our
profession. It is important to note, that in fact, SLA members have
more than 2,000 different job titles.
settling on our proposed name, we subjected it to a survey of U.S. and
U.K. information professionals and executives in human resources,
marketing, information technology and strategic planning in the
corporate, academic, healthcare and government sectors. The results
prove that the proposed name will help us accomplish some important
- It was well liked, fit well with a description of the association, and was judged relevant and credible.
felt it promotes our members as invaluable assets to their
organizations; information professionals said it made them more likely
to join the association.
abbreviated form, ASKPro, was very well received and also fulfilled the
desire frequently stated in member discussions for a name with a
meaningful acronym or shortened form.
of changing SLA‚Äôs name has been much discussed in recent months in a
variety of SLA chapter and division listservs and other forums, and
board members have heard individually from many members. We have
compiled a list of some of the most frequently stated questions and
opinions and responses to them. In some cases, we have borrowed
heavily from the words of members, and we thank all of you for your
input. We hope you will take the time to read this document before
continuing the conversation.
receive notification on 16 November that the e-vote system is open and
have until 9 December to cast your vote. Please note especially that
when and if the new name is approved, it will be a matter of months
before the association can put it into use because of various legal
requirements, the need for a new ‚Äúlook,‚ÄĚ and other technicalities.
representatives, we are dedicated to your success, and we firmly
believe that adopting a new name for SLA will further that goal.
Ultimately, however, it is up to you to vote on a new name for SLA‚Äď the
Association for Strategic Knowledge Professionals (ASKPro)‚Äďand launch
us into our second century.
Gloria Zamora, President, and the SLA Board of Directors