What’s in a name? SLA vs. ASKPro

Patty_Hearst.jpg, originally uploaded by ojo maravilloso.

Today, my professional association, currently called SLA, or Special Libraries Association, announced their proposed new name: ASKPro, or Association of Strategic Knowledge Professionals.

SLA members have been waiting eagerly to see how the SLA Alignment Project would pan out. A similar vote took place in 2004 (when I was still an undergrad), and the members voted to change the name but rejected the proposed alternative, so we lived with SLA for 5 more years. Will ASKPro pass? I have no clue.

There’s been an interesting discussion about the name in the LSW FriendFeed room. You can see the ambivalence of SLA members, as well as the reaction of non-members. It ranges from apathy, derision for ASKPro, and derision for people who think ASKPro is rather silly. (That’s really the value of LSW, a whole spectrum of really opinionated librarians offering lots of food for thought.)

So will I vote to approve the name ASKPro? No idea. It’s too soon to say. I do want to just briefly go over some of my impressions:

  1. I’m not bothered by the exclusion of “librarian” from the name. Yes, I do work in a library but I know lots of people feel it’s holding “us” back. Whatever. It’s not that important.
  2. ASKPro and Association of Strategic Knowledge Professionals just screams, “We picked the snappy acronym and then forced the meaning afterwards.” True, “strategic”, “knowledge”, and “professional” tested well with the focus groups, but string them together and they don’t make sense. What is a strategic knowledge professional? I don’t know, but I know what a librarian is.
  3. I am a little shocked that “information professional” is not a part of the new name, has the sun set on “infopros”?
  4. I said this on Twitter – if we really are professionals, we don’t need it in the name. Having “professional” in our association name just seems insecure to me, like we’re not entirely convinced we actually belong in the professional world.
  5. From all of the testing, it’s clear SLA/ASKPro is targeting corporations and managers who might hire us, not the members, to the apparent exclusion of the members from academic institutions. Does this mean the organization no longer cares about academic librarians in small, special collections? What about government librarians? Are we then expected to go to ALA, who doesn’t really fit our needs, or are we essentially out in the cold?
  6. Is ASKPro meant to help members get better jobs and make more money? Or is it meant to increase the organization’s membership with a catchy name? (OK, I’m just being cynical.)
  7. “Strategic” makes no sense and is as jargony/vague as “special”. I guess it’s an update for a new generation? Will that make the name obsolete in 5 years?

I really want to see what more people say. So far, following the #slaname chatter on Twitter hasn’t yielded much insight either way. I’ll be listening.

(Oh and the picture of Patty Hearst is because I’ve always been enamoured with the other SLA and when I joined this SLA, decided to get the hydra tattooed on me. (Not just because of my professional association, but also because I grew up a couple of miles from the old Crocker Bank and that SLA was a part of my childhood mythos.) I guess it’s pointless now?