If I were invited to send a letter to SLA’s members at this particular time in history, here is what I would say:
This letter is being sent to you a few days before polls open for the historic vote on the name of the association.
I am writing to you today because I will not be in my usual workplace during the 16 November – 9 December voting period. I will vote though, because we live and work in a society that is connected globally. Even though I will be at a remote location – on assignment for a client – SLA is an international association and is managed so that I can vote in the election from wherever I am.
To me, this happy state of affairs exemplifies what this election is about. I know the history of SLA pretty well, and I’ve researched and studied how decisions were made over the past 100 years. Until the last few years, any SLA election required a mail ballot, or the presence of members in a single meeting room.
We don’t have to do that anymore, because we are part of a society in which economic, technological, and sociological advances have eliminated such restrictions. We can all vote, and we can do so from wherever we happen to be at the time the ballot is sent to us electronically. We are a boundaryless organization.
Our membership should be boundaryless as well. The work we do – providing management and service delivery functions for strategic knowledge relating to whatever organization, group, team, task force, or other entity we’re associated with – is critical, essential, and highly desirable. Regardless of our job titles or individual roles in the management of strategic knowledge assets, we are the guardians of strategic knowledge for the organization. We have the decidedly honorable task of ensuring that strategic knowledge assets – however defined and however utilized – are maintained and accessed as well as they can be maintained and accessed. Excellence of quality in strategic knowledge asset management is not an exception with us – it is our fundamental purpose. It is why we do what we do.
With this election, we have the opportunity to take our dedication to excellence to a new level. When we have identified ourselves as strategic knowledge professionals, we will find ourselves recognized and acknowledged for the excellence and dedication with which we manage strategic knowledge assets for our employers. When that happens, an accumulation of professional barriers will be removed and we will be positioned as knowledge thought leaders in our organizations.
Let me share two examples. In one, a speaker at a recent public event described the pollution in two important bodies of water on opposite sides of North America. In his presentation, he spoke strongly about the need for knowledge sharing, for the development of a knowledge strategy through which the leaders of the various industries, academic institutions, government agencies, and other affected societal entities could pool their intellectual efforts, their intellectual infrastructure as it were, and devise a plan for dealing with the pollution and resolving the problem.
In another example, a consulting company specializing in KM, knowledge services, and the building of the organizational knowledge culture is called to a developing country to create a knowledge strategy for a humanitarian body, an organization that seeks to improve the lives of millions of disadvantaged people who simply want – and deserve – to live a better life. The organization exists to help these people, and to achieve organizational effectiveness, a knowledge strategy for managing the vast accumulated body of knowledge related to the organization’s work must be devised. The assignment is to align the organization’s strategic knowledge assets with its organizational purpose.
In both examples, it is knowledge – strategic knowledge specific to the support of the organizational performance strategy – that must be developed, organized, managed, analyzed, delivered, and shared. And the people with responsibility for this management and service delivery function are strategic knowledge professionals.
It will be an honor to cast my vote in what is arguably the most important decision of my professional life. It will also be a deeply humbling experience, because in voting in this election I have the opportunity to be part of moving my and my colleagues’ professional work into a position of influence it has never known before. In both the larger professional world of KM/knowledge services and in society at large, we strategic knowledge professionals will now be perceived and accepted as the knowledge thought leaders we are. Now we will be recognized – at long last – for what we do well. It is a privilege to vote in this election.
Susan Fifer Canby says
Guy — So heartfelt and thoughtful — thank you for your continuing leadership. Best, Susan
I agree wholeheartedly that we need a name change, without question. Whether this is the correct name or not, I can not say, but I will support it. My experience thus far in using the term strategic knowledge has been less than satisfactory. My reports have been returned with comments like, what do you mean by that, or please rephrase this, I'm not sure it's clear, Oh, information, now I get it.So, with that being said, I trust that SLA leadership has done its job and that they are ahead of the curve. If I have to explain what strategic knowledge is, so be it, I'd rather explain that than what a special library is.In any case , it does better capture what we do in today's world.
Deb Hunt says
Dear Guy, You, who have researched and probably know the history of this organization better than anyone, have eloquently expressed why we need a name change that will benefit all of us.
Why on Earth would special librarians want to belong to a generic professional association? They want a specific organization. One for special librarians. Who isn't a knowledge professional? And, lastly: How much cheesier than AskPro can you get?
Rowan Fairgrove says
Every time I hear "strategic knowledge" I wonder what happens to tactical knowledge. And I'm sorry, but AskPro just so lame. The new name is just a market speak buzz word agglomeration. I, as a proud professional librarian, will find another association that reflects who I am rather than be a part of AskPro.
Why leave a known designation, even though it may be misunderstood somewhat by our professionaland academic peers? The attribution always gave me the opporunity to describe what we can do and accomplish, and I did this successfully during my 50 years of a very satisfying professional life!