Call me what ever you want, but don’t call me late for dinner.

Laurie Kagann by Woodridge Public Library
Laurie Kagann, a photo by Woodridge Public Library on Flickr.

Last week was SLA 2013. I was down in San Diego to attend, participate in some stuff, wear a black velvet blazer… you know… typical conference stuff.

Lots of thoughts are swirling in my head from it… but the main thing I just want to get off my chest now is this: Stop the name madness.

There’s a proposal to Joint Cabinet about maybe possibly polling the members to see if they are maybe perhaps open to someday exploring whether or not we could potentially want to change the name of SLA. Is it 2009? Or 2002? Or that one way back from the 90s?


The pro-name change people feel “librarian” is holding the association back. It’s stale and gives the old school image of a woman in sensible shoes and a cardigan ready to shush your ass. They think that means books and bibliographies and a lot of other outdated stuff. That’s not us, so the name needs to go.

My question to them – is that if I’m not a librarian, what am I? One of my colleagues, who’s a corporate librarian focused on CI & KM noted that she often ends up at the L-word to describe what she does, because it’s something her users can grok. It’s got baggage, but it also has a lot of meaning. I don’t really do much with books, or bibliographies, or a lot of the traditional stuff, but in my woods being a Librarian carries some gravitas. More so than “Information Professional” or “Information Analyst”. I’m not alone in this feeling. When I mentioned the motion to the Transportation Division members, there was a collective moment of “WTF, didn’t we just go through this? Aren’t there bigger issues to focus on?”

Bigger issues? Oh yeah… SLA membership is down. This is a time where we all need to advocate for special libraries and for special librarians. We need to work together to update competencies, improve marketing and communication, and show are value. One of the worst thing about the AskPro Incident is that it obscured the valuable research of the SLA Alignment Project. Let’s do something with that research, get the ball rolling, and then maybe change the name. The name is just the window dressing.

My partner came down with me for the first days of SLA to see me get that award. It was hist first library conference – he designs computer chips for a living. After hearing some of my discussions with other SLA members about the name, he said it was sort of silly. “IEEE and ACM are just IEEE and ACM. Nobody really thinks about what they mean. They’re brands like IBM. Why isn’t SLA like that?”

Why? Because it’s easier to argue about the name, wag fingers, and ride the “INNOVATE OR DIE” line than work on sustainable, meaningful change.

So yeah… I’ll keep working on making SLA a better org and getting good people to do good stuff. If the name changes, I hope it’s fast, painless, and cheap. Otherwise, we have better things to do.






3 responses to “Call me what ever you want, but don’t call me late for dinner.”

  1. Chris Zammarelli Avatar
    Chris Zammarelli

    Is being in an association for librarians hurting my career as a librarian? How does the association move the profession forward by masking the fact that it’s an association for librarians? How do we attract new librarians, people who went to school to become librarians, if we’re saying the term “librarian” needs to be banished from the name of a professional association for librarians? As you said, there are a lot of other issues SLA needs to discuss right now (like the high cost of the conference), and a name change discussion would be a distraction from the real issues.

  2. Kendra Avatar

    I feel the need to reiterate – when I’m talking about SLA, I’m talking about us, the SLA membership. I don’t want people to think SLA staff are pushing this nor do I want SLA members to abdicate any responsibility.

    Which brings me to the issues we need to tackle, such as recommendations from the Alignment Project, the whole Loyalty with James Kane thing that really has been a dud outside the pilot units (hey pilot units, I’m pointing fingers at you for not sharing your experience and guidance with the rest of us!), and how to make the conferences a better value. The onus is on us the members to be more involved. Ask the questions and work on the answers. I saw a lot of finger pointing. Hell, I’m pointing fingers!

    We just need to spend this energy productively.. like on programming or marketing or research. Then if there’s actual evidence that a new name is the silver bullet, will I be convinced. As it is now, it really seems like a lot of people who feel stuck by the baggage of “librarian” and seem to be squashing this conversation by going for the third rail out of desperation.

  3. Chris Zammarelli Avatar
    Chris Zammarelli

    Man, I forgot about the loyalty project. It feels like we keep starting these intitatives, like the alignment project and the loyalty project, and then what happens to them? As you said, the alignment project took a hit because of the last name change debacle, but it’s still useful info. And James Kane’s project sounded cool at the time, and now it’s two years later and what’s going on with it?

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