October 15, 2009

SLA —> ASKPro?

It comes up periodically and gets a little more serious each time. The Special Libraries Association is asking members to approve a name change to the “Association of Strategic Knowledge Professionals,” or ASKPro.

Lots of SLA members say, “What’s in a name? It’s a matter of being recognized as what we are. Don’t take words too seriously.”

What is at issue is a struggle over the organization’s soul, not just words. This is because librarianship as a profession is undergirded by a framework of values, a framework that is referred to, along with a set of skills and institutions, by the words “library,” “librarian,” and “librarianship.” Some SLA members work in libraries and are called librarians, some not. Some work for government agencies, for academic institutions or non-profits, and some work in the private sector. There is a good deal of variation among SLA members regarding the nature of their work, the nature of their institutions, and the values that they are fulfilling through their work.

If SLA members vote to approve the name change, it may be a sad thing for some members, but, numerically, not for the majority. I would simply take it as a statement, by SLA members, of who they consider themselves to be. The vote, either way, will give the library community useful and important information about who consider themselves members of it and who do not. SLA members who want to be included in the professional solidarity we enjoy as librarians might need to let us know who they are, if it’s not spelled out in their job titles, because membership in their association would no longer imply anything that connects us.

And they may feel fine about that. I know I do.