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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.