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So, SLA have just announced their proposed name change: Association for Strategic Knowledge Professionals, or ASKPro. And I like it. I think.
What I am unsure about is the word ‘strategic’. While I think it works very well in the full name, one glance at the shortened version, and I’m immediately suspicious that ‘strategic’ was added purely because they wanted a word that started with S. This then leads me to question its value – is it there because it has a real, significant meaning to SLA members, or simply to make a snappy acronym?
And ASKpro? I think I love it. I really do. But I have this tiny, nagging suspicion that it’s one of those names you think are really cool at the time, but then 5 years later, you’re still stuck calling your dog “Woofalo”, and it’s getting embarrassing in the park.
These are only my first reactions and, for reasons stated here I will probably be voting for the change. But I think I need to ponder on it for a while, read the reasoning behind it, and generally decide how I feel about having ASKpro on my CV.
Actually, that feels pretty good. ASKpro. Yeah
You may (or may not) know that the Special Libraries Association (SLA) board has just voted on a name change for the association. The proposed new name will be disclosed to members later this week, and they will then have chance to vote on whether to accept the change or not.
This is part of SLA’s Alignment Project, which is aimed at enabling members to demonstrate the value of their skills, work, and services to their stakeholders. One of the crucial points which has been consistently made is that many people do not understand what librarians do. I think that everyone in the profession has, at some point, encountered the ‘you need a master’s to stamp books?’ response. Now imagine that response coming from the person who pays your wages; who controls funding for the library/information service.
I think it’s fairly obvious that we need to learn how to communicate effectively with these stakeholders, and a change in vocabulary is a large part of that. As this post points out, it’s not about dumbing-down: it’s about talking to our users and stakeholders in language they understand. To increase understanding – isn’t that a central tenet of librarianship as a profession?
I don’t know what the new name will be, and I don’t know if I’ll like it, but I’m fairly sure that I’ll be voting for change. Why? Because I think it represents an admirable step towards meeting our users in their spaces, using their vocabulary. I think it will show that we are not a hide-bound profession, hiding in the comfort of our dusty books, but forward-thinking, and ready to embrace change. It’s true that change isn’t always successful, but SLA have done substantial research to minimise the risks of failure. And, quite frankly, I’d rather be part of an organisation that is willing to take risks for the potential benefit of all, than one which refuses to reconsider its self-image.
It is – for once – a beautiful day in Manchester, and I came to work full of the joys of autumn (note: I am not known for loving Monday mornings. my text to John on the subject got the grumpy return ‘it’s Monday. before noon. are you ill?’).
The crisp autumn air, the sunshine – it inspired me to think ‘yeah! this is gonna be a good week! I’m gonna work so hard! I’m gonna kick some serious EAD ass!’ (apparently unexpected sunshine makes me american. and militant. who knew?)
It’s now 13:50, and I have yet to do anything that would seriously count as work. Sure, I’ve read my emails, answered a few queries, checked up on twitter, dabbled at a couple of things, but real, solid work? the kind you can tick off your to-do list with a great feeling of achievement and relief? nope.
So what happened? where did my oomph go? Well, I have a sneaking suspicion that it went on just those things listed in the last paragraph. I have a tendency – as I suspect many people do – to ease myself into the day with the non-threatening, mundane tasks: checking emails; sorting out calendar and to-do list for the week; making tea. And then I have queries to answer – very important, I’m not denying that, but it does all mean that I tend to start my day full of bittiness. I dabble here for twenty minutes; spend half an hour on this; ten minutes on that; and by the time it’s all done I’ve lost my drive. I’ve started my day with the comfort of small, fairly easy tasks, and that’s become my mindset. It’s surprisingly difficult to get stuck into a big, thought-provoking project which needs several hours of your undivided attention after you’ve been flitting.
So maybe I need to re-think how I structure my day (and yes, I know that I am very lucky to be able to choose the structure of my day without manning service points etc). maybe – and this seems like a huge step – maybe start with the big things. Even just an hour or so on a big piece of work could have me truly thinking for the rest of the day. Start with something to challenge me, beyond the ‘skim — delete — skim — delete’ that is my usual morning routine. And then once the challenge has been conquered, when I’ve achieved something substantial, then it’s onto the emails and the dabbling and the dallying. Maybe I’ll even get through them without losing my drive and my focus.
It’s going to take quite a change in mind-set, but I’ll give it a go! So please, people, don’t tweet anything interesting until about 11am from now on, ok? I might not be there to listen.
So, here’s my obligatory ‘why I became a librarian’ post. Actually, this is one that I’ve been looking forward to writing. Now that I am a librarian, it seems the only possible thing that I could be. I have described it a vocation: that overwhelming feeling that this is where I belong; this is what I should be doing. And the strange rush of love for the profession – the unutterable privilege of being allowed to do this every day, the sweet elation of recognition from colleagues and peers; a demonstration that the profession loves me too.
And, with hindsight, it doesn’t seem at all strange that I should have become a librarian – if anything, what’s odd is that I didn’t realise it earlier. The signs were all there: books in alphabetical order from a very early age, with home-made dividers; nose always in a book; first degree in English; a desire to classify and categorise; an almost compulsive need for things to be correct and complete. But I never spared a thought for librarianship until one dismal Christmas. After my MA in English I was working in a horrible, stressful, go-nowhere job, and desperately casting around for something to do with my life. Teaching was out: I’d tried it, and realised that I was utterly unsuited to it as a career. I didn’t fancy journalism; couldn’t afford a PhD; and was thoroughly fed-up with the commercial sector. I’d made all sorts of vague plans and promises about trying the civil service, maybe doing some retraining as, well, something-or-other. Then I suddenly said ‘I think I’d like to work in a library’. And I never looked back.
Reflecting on it now, I cringe at how incredibly naive I was about librarianship as a profession. I wasn’t quite at the ‘stamp books and shush’ level, but I wasn’t much further on, and I knew nothing about the culture of the profession. I applied for the MA in Library and Information Management at MMU, and a friend mentioned that she’d seen an advert for a Graduate Trainee at the John Rylands Library at the University of Manchester. With no idea of how important a Graduate Traineeship was, and certainly no idea how sought-after the traineeships at JRUL were, I applied, and got the job.
I won’t say that I loved every minute, but I will say that it was the most amazing, exciting, and exhilarating work experience I had ever had. After all-too-short a year, I moved on to MMU for my deferred MA, where I discovered (whisper it) that I actually quite enjoyed research. After that, it was ‘oh, applying for these jobs will be really good experience, even if I stand absolutely no hope at all of getting them.’ Well, I got one: as Copac Challenge Fund Support Officer at Mimas. I’ve been there just over a year now, and my job title has changed to ‘Content Development Officer, Library and Archival Services’ to reflect the fact that I now also work for the Archives Hub. It’s been an incredible year. I’m exceptionally lucky to be working with a group of highly talented, dedicated, and very very nice people, who have given me support and encouragement, as well as the freedom to express myself and experiment.
I’ve also been very lucky to get involved with the fantastic folk at SLA Europe. Again, not something that was part of the career plan (I don’t think they’ll be too upset if I admit that I’d never heard of SLA before I applied for the SLAE ECCA), but it has been invaluable for my personal and professional development, and I’m delighted that I’m going to be continuing my involvement with them.
Where next? No idea. Seriously, none at all. I love the multitude of options that are available as an information professional, and I never have been very decisive. My career development so far has been purely serendipitous and, while I realise that this is not perhaps the best plan for the future – and certainly not something to say in my chartership portfolio! – I’m happy at the moment to see how things develop, and take my chances as they arise.
Well, here it (finally!) is – my blog. What’s taken me so long? Well, believe it or not, it was the problem of a name. Yes, it has taken me nearly a year of agonised thought to come up with ‘Bethan’s information professional blog’. Inspired, isn’t it?
Trust me, I had come up with more elaborate alternatives, only to be thwarted, here, here, here – and elsewhere! And those are titles that don’t include the word ‘librarian’ – trust me, think of an adjective, add librarian to it… someone’s already out there blogging.
But do I even want ‘librarian’ in my blog title? Don’t get me wrong, I love being a librarian, but I love being other things too. I don’t work in a library at the moment, and am currently involved in an archival project. This is within my first year as a professional, and I have no idea where I will go from here. Hopefully, this blog will be with me, and representing me as a professional, for many years, so I need a sustainable title. [Fiona Bradley wrote a nice blog post about this] ‘Information professional’ may not be perfect (and I know that many in the profession profoundly dislike it), but for now it seems to me that it’s the most suitable description of What We Do. I’d be happy to take suggestions for alternatives!
I eventually decided that, nice as it would be to display my wit and erudition in my blog title, it wouldn’t really matter. I don’t think I’ve ever seriously judged a blog by its title – it’s the content that counts! I realised that I was missing out on things that I wanted to talk about, just because of my own pig-headed indecisiveness and trepidation. Well, no more!
So, what am I going to blog about? Anything that takes my interest, pretty much. This is a professional blog, so posts should be vaguely information/library/archives based, but they could come anywhere in that fairly broad spectrum. I’ll probably start in a nice, gentle, non-threatening way with the Library Roots/Routes and Reading Habits memes that have been going around the twitosphere. If there’s anything you particularly want to see me blogging about (though I have no idea why you would!), or any bad, boring blog habits you don’t want me to fall into, let me know and I’ll think about it. Maybe