Today is the beginning of an historic vote for SLA. Today we vote on a proposed new name, the Association for Strategic Knowledge Professionals. I thank all of you who have reviewed the alignment information, and I urge those who have not yet had an opportunity to do so to take a look at the alignment portal on the SLA Web site and review the information about the alignment project and the name research.
I have had an opportunity to speak with many of our members during the past two years about SLA’s alignment project. In the past two months I have visited eight chapters to speak specifically about the name. I have also received thousands of e-mails and have tried to be responsive to many of these. I have listened to both those opposed and those in favor. I am not surprised that the passions run high on both sides.
After a recent talk on the alignment, the first question went not to me but to the corporate sponsor of the event. The question was, how did they react to the alignment findings and the name? The first said he, “could not do his job without the help of the information professionals" who, in their company, are intentionally titled researchers and not librarians. The other said that when he presents his strategic plan on which tradeshows his organization should allocate funds for exhibiting, he never uses Special Libraries Association, but rather “a business information show.” He does this because his employers do not understand the word ‘special’ and they are seeking a broader audience of information providers, not specifically librarians.
One long-time member recently summed up her reason for voting yes for the Association for Strategic Knowledge Professionals. She said that when she first heard the name she was not sure about it, and maybe a little on the negative side, but after she considered the research she realized that this was not about her, and it was not about any one of us individually. It was about all of us in this profession and most importantly about the future.
That was a powerful observation for me. This is not about what any of us individually call ourselves. This association is big enough to advocate for all members and prospective members, all who use a range of diverse titles. In fact, that is what we have been doing for 100 years; advocating for information professionals.
We have talked about the skills that we have and how valuable we are to our institutions. But we continually struggle with the same two words, “special” and “libraries.” Some seem to think if we would just work harder at this, rather than spending money on research and time on trying to change our name, that somehow those people out there, those making decisions on our future, will suddenly understand and see the light.
Some members tell me that their management “gets it” and are very supportive of libraries and librarians. They see the value and that is great. Unfortunately, as we have seen from the number of institution closings and layoffs, that is not the reality for many of our members. My own institution, Sandia National Laboratories, decided to close its library two years ago because “everything is available on the internet and on the desktop.” Sadly, too many times this has been the reality. The person bridging the gap between information and knowledge and delivery of knowledge services in person, and to the desktop, is left out.
We have been told that this association is giving up on librarians. That is very far from the truth. In fact, we want to be successful in our advocacy of our members and describe the value that they provide to the institutions they serve, whether they are physically located in a library or are embedded within an organization, whether they are called librarians or knowledge managers. We want to place the emphasis on the people and their vast skills, and not on the location. We are an association of professionals, not an association of institutions.
Some have said they do not like the word strategic and that they are not strategic. My answer there is that we must be strategic and understand the strategic goals of our institutions and we must align our work with those goals to make the institution successful. This includes the people providing research services, as well as catalogers and IT professionals. If we fully understand the strategic direction of our organizations, we are able to contribute to their success.
Others have said they don’t like the word knowledge because we supply information that others turn into knowledge. I say why not have an aspirational goal? Why don’t WE strive to provide the added value that turns information into knowledge? Decision makers value the analysis that we provide. I believe it is essential that we use the skills we have to add value to the information we collect. Let me return to John Cotton Dana and his own words,
It seems evident enough from all that has been said, that the old type of library must modify itself in accordance with the new needs which the evolution of knowledge and the growth of print has created.
John Cotton Dana, 100 years ago, referred to knowledge and not information. For years, SLA used the tagline “putting knowledge to work,” not putting information to work. With our proposed name we are continuing on this path, striving to provide knowledge. We are taking a risk here. We are putting ourselves on the line and proclaiming that we are the key to the future and that any successful organization must have knowledge professionals on their staff.
There have been questions about the research and the process for choosing a name. I can assure you that the Board and staff have tried at every opportunity to be open in our communications. Our members and other information professionals were part of the research from the very beginning and have taken part in every phase. There have been numerous opportunities for input since the first results were communicated in June 2008 at the SLA Annual Conference, all the way through the past weeks.
You elect a Board to represent you, to make decisions that they believe are in the best interest of the association. This Board has taken that responsibility very seriously. The needs of our members and of the knowledge profession overall have been uppermost in our minds.
I was told that I should be neutral in this name discussion. I believe that would be abdicating my responsibility as a Board member. You, as members, need to know where your elected officials stand on this issue. And where we stand is united in our support of this name and the direction it sets for the future. I am encouraging you to vote yes on the proposed name, the Association for Strategic Knowledge Professionals. Although the name is a small part of the overall alignment project, it is a very visible part. It will allow us to move forward and become a larger, diverse organization of knowledge professionals; an organization that does not leave librarians behind in any way but opens us to new ideas and experiences and gives us a better opportunity to convey the added value that we provide in our work. Let’s take this risk. I believe it is worth it, and I believe we can live up to this name.
"We cannot support the status quo, we need to move forward"
"Growth and success are linked to breaking the old rules"
I say we need to break some of the old rules and move forward to our second century with the Association for Strategic Knowledge Professionals.
The Alignment Tribe President Gloria Zamora talks about building the "Align in '09" tribe.