A Follow-Up on the SLA Proposed Name

Since writing a long post a week and a half ago detailing my concerns with the proposed SLA name change, I have been struck by three things and thought a follow-up post was in order.

First, a few of the messages sent to listservs by association leaders have emphasized that the research results were posted to the alignment portal months ago, as early as January, for members to review and discuss.  This is true, and I have reviewed them.  But, unless I’m missing something, and I do hope someone will kindly point it out to me if I am – it can be difficult to keep up, the list of name choices leading up to the final 3 was not included in the posted research until AFTER the proposed name was announced. It certainly was not proactively put out into the discussion space via an announcement or blog post (i.e. something that could be pushed to the broader membership). As I mentioned in my earlier post, I think the alignment research results are valuable and I largely agree with the findings as presented. For this reason, I didn’t feel a particular need to speak up in disagreement with anything I saw in the research; I was fully expecting to support the name that came out based upon the research I saw.  Had I known the direction the name choices were heading, I would have spoken up sooner.

Second, some members have complained about a lack of member input and the response has been that we have the SLA blog, a FaceBook page, and listserv and Twitter discussions going on and that is a huge amount of communication. The problem is that it has come too late.  It was particularly disheartening to hear that the Alignment Wiki that so many people were engaging in was not considered “official” and is being attributed to a member who was simply interested in the issue.  (Specifically, see the comments after the article.)  In my opinion, the discussion that the members are having now should have happened earlier; it should have happened before the single name option was decided on and announced.  The fault likely lies on both sides for not engaging on a wider scale earlier.

As I mentioned in my earlier post, I am still undecided on my final vote. I do not like the proposed name and I have been vocal about that. It’s pretty clear that I currently lean toward a “no” vote.  But I am listening to both sides of the debate and am open to changing my mind; I likely won’t cast my vote until close to the end of the voting period.

My earlier post raised concerns about the implementation of the alignment research as it relates to the selection of the proposed name, as well as a concern that the proposed name will be just as inscrutable to “outsiders” as “Special Libraries Association” is. Based on the replies I received, both public and private, these concerns are not unique to me and seem to represent a solid chunk of members who support a name change, but question whether the one proposed is the best we can do, or indeed, better than the one we have now. I have seen additional listserv comments that raise similar issues.

At this point, I have not seen a clear reply from association leadership to the concerns of this segment of the membership.  Certainly, I do not require or expect a personal message responding to my posts.  But I do think that these concerns are a valid part of the discussion that are not being addressed. Instead, I continue to see posts to the SLA blog and listserv contributions that focus on the “why we need to change” aspect (with which I agree) rather than on the “how we came to this name from the research and why it achieves its goal” issue.

I will point out one notable exception to this is the fantastic open letter posted over the weekend by Michael Fanning, the SLA representative for Germany.  His in-depth discussion on why the unfamiliarity of the term “strategic knowledge” may actually be a benefit is by far the most thoughtful and compelling response I have seen addressing my concerns with the proposed name.  I have, in fact, printed the letter out so that I can give it a closer second read. I encourage everyone with similar concerns to read this entire letter.

Responses such as Mr. Fanning’s will do far more to “raise the level” of this discussion than those that simply re-state the admonition to “review the research” to those of us who have already done so.