What good is all of the culture and uniqueness represented by SLA and its members, if we don't utilize it to enhance the perception of the value we bring to our organizations?
Culture is what makes us what we are, defines us, and makes us unique. A list of competencies defines what each of us, individually, is capable of; culture explains where we come from in developing those competencies. Communicating the strength of our culture will have a positive impact on the perceived value of information professionals.
January is a month of back-to-back immersion in the cultures and dilemmas of two major associations for information professionals. The content of conference programs of the American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Conference and the Special Libraries Association (SLA) Winter Meeting makes it immediately obvious that the cultures of the two organizations are significantly different. At this year's ALA conference, a proposal for an ambitious long-term media campaign was introduced, with the goal of positioning ALA as the representative of librarians from public, academic, school and "specialized" libraries. After some rather pointed objections by yours truly, ALA representatives insist that it is not their intention to represent members of SLA. The project will require substantial outside funding, significant additional internal staffing, and program development. Assuming that it passes all of those hurdles, its existence will once again blur the image of the special librarian/information professional in t he minds of the public. It's more important than ever to find ways to stress the value SLA members bring to their organizations, and to differentiate us from traditional librarians.
"The Documentation and Special Libraries Movements in the United States, 1910-1960," by Robert Williams, in the Journal of the American Society for Information Science, volume 48, no. 9, 1997, examines the "splinter movements" in the information professions. The splintering was due, according to Williams, to "the inability and reluctance of the larger library profession to welcome nontraditional materials, new technologies, and subject-based personnel and approaches to the field," in other words, a culture clash.
The SLA Winter Meeting was dedicated to three …