The tension between “memory” and “complacency”

Disclosure: I will own up to my deep seeded worries (perhaps paranoia) that libraries are in a vulnerable situation and we need to assert ourselves back in relevancy, particularly for special libraries. It’s not so much justification, but more of a reminder of our value and aligning (yes, that word) our message with that of our organizations and communities.

This month, it seems like one of the big issues I’ve been having professionally is finding the balance between memory/history and change/innovation in my library community. I don’t think these problems are unique to SLA or the transportation library world. It’s also not a generational thing. When is providing context for the “why” things were done go from explanation to excuses? Now, I’ll also recognize that a lot of this is my own attitude, and that I see lots of opportunities for growth and improvements. (This has to do with my paranoia.)

It is important to have institutional memory and to know who made the decisions and why. What was going on at the time? Who were the people involved? The context really shapes the outcomes. My frustration, and what I need to work on, is really when do we say, “Ah, so that’s why it happened that way, now how can we move to this other place?” A lot of times, providing detailed explanations for the past seems to not really provide excuses, but sort of muddy the waters. It’s hard, as somebody who wants to see change and innovation, to hear a long account of the past without thinking that the teller implicitly thinks it should still sort of be that way. Now, a long exposition with some sort of proposal for the future would allay my concerns, but that is rare.

So how can I temper my frustrations? I’m not advocating changes for the sake of just being different, but I don’t want to see us pass up opportunities because there might be difficult roads ahead. Is this something that I’ll get over with age, or will I always be pushing against the past?

In some ways it seems like libraries can’t win. We’ve been told over and over that we must innovate. We must change or die. We must stay relevant in today’s world. So some take that charge to heart and we push ahead, only to be told we need to look at the past and we need to take on more archival responsibilities and be more of what we had been, but our stakeholders didn’t seem keen on. Does that make us a victim of our own marketing? Is there room for both sides? I’d like to think so. Finding the balance is going to be tough though, and I need to learn to mellow out and keep doing my think I suppose.

Polls are Open! Vote for SLA or ASKP

Today is first day of voting much anticipated SLA name change. Have you voted yet? Polls close December 9 and the results will be announced on December 10.

I blogged my initial thoughts on “Association of Knowledge Professionals” a month ago when it was announced. SLA leadership has since abandoned the ASKPro branding because, well, it’s a little embarrassing. (Lots of people pointed out the acoustic similarities between ASKPro and ASSPro. It was a distraction?)

So what has happened in a month? Not much. People have been very passionate on both sides. The recurring theme within the “Yes” camp has been that we need to modernize/innovate/change to stay relevant. I don’t think anybody can really disagree with that, though I’m still not convinced that ASKP is they way to do it. Sure, SLA is 100 years old and considered by some to be stale, but honestly I imagine ASKP to sound just as stale (or silly) in another 5 years when a new set of buzz words take the corporate world’s fancy.

I also find it interesting and somewhat troubling that there hasn’t been any official commentary from SLA about why people might vote no. They want us to exercise our rights as members, but the official SLA blog has only had a number of posts by respected SLA leaders about why we have to vote yes. There is one post, by John J. DiGilio, aka iBraryGuy, about his issues with the new name, focusing on the importance of the organization. Today he wrote that he voted Yes out of optimism and hope. I agree with a lot of what he has to say, but not his final decision. If the SLA Board is supposed to be there to enact the will of membership, then the discussion should reflect the attitudes of the members. I don’t think that’s been the case, but I also might be naive in assuming the board is there for the members.

I can’t vote Yes. I would like to. I credit the writings of SLA Leadership for making me feel somewhat guilty for not liking the new name, but in my mind I still think the Association of Knowledge Professionals is not a good option. I wish the engagement with membership was greater and started sooner. I know they have lots of research, but at the end of it, I still think membership was left out until the end. We we left out of the process and the discussion. If I had 18 months to think on the Alignment, I would probably be much more comfortable with the name. Why did they wait until October to really start member participation? I know Divisions and Chapters had their Alignment Ambassadors, but very little came out until the very end. Time to communicate and share ideas would have been appreciated, though perhaps something of a quagmire. I agree with many that the research is invaluable and will really help the organization and the profession. It’s a shame that they haven’t used the research to foster more participation and communication with the membership

So, with a heavy heart I voted No. I urge everybody to vote as they feel they should. Hopefully people who vote Yes won’t think of me as backwards for not liking the name. If the name change passes I will continue to be a member of SLA or ASKP. The organization has been too valuable to me and I think it would be short-sighted to leave. Either way, I hope the Alignment process and research will lay the foundation for a dialog of members about what we’re doing and how we fit within the organizations and the organizations we work for. That is important regardless of what we call ourselves.

Cynics in Libraries, or how I grew up.

Did you know the #slaname debate is still raging? OK, that might not be the best word, but it’s still going on. There is still some chatter in the LSW FriendFeed room. I am pretty much over the whole thing. Not SLA, but the debate and the name. I don’t think there’s going to be any major changes because of it.

Leadership could have done a better job presenting the research to the membership. Some members overreacted. It was nice to have some SLA leaders take the time to help me, as an academic librarian, see how I fit into this new alignment, but why wasn’t it readily obvious?

The point of this post is that at one point, I lost a little respect for a lot of people along the way. I mentioned this to one of my colleagues, and he said essentially that I’ve grown up and that I’m really done with library school now. I guess he’s right?

Oh, and Internet Librarian has been lots of fun, I’ll post about it later.