Carolynne Myall, ALCTS President 2012–13
Since 1996, I’ve spent much of my time and most of my money playing dog agility—obstacle courses for dogs—with five furry teammates. At first, my dog partners kept the names they arrived with. Then I began to absorb the agility community’s belief that a name sets the tone of a dog’s career. (For example: You’ve found a very energetic puppy you hope will have both speed and control. In this context, the name “Zippy” or “Flash” may be a good choice; “Chaos,” maybe not.) With Fortune, my one-of-a-kind Australian Shepherd, bossy but loyal, I began practicing proactive naming: Name what you want. Now I’m a believer, too.
My latest teammate is Fortune’s Happy Camper, a Humane Society mixed breed: in our trainer’s words, “a challenging little dog.” Happy doesn’t know what her name means, of course. But I do. And all the people who hear me call her as we run around the arena together, not always successfully, understand it too. A name isn’t everything. But Happy’s name is a statement of my goals for our partnership, a clear indication of what I think we’re trying to do. People get it. Her name is an identifier. It’s a connection.
Uh Oh—Maureen Must Explain Our Name
Is ALCTS’ name an accurate identifier for us? Is it a connection? At the ALA Inaugural Breakfast last June, ALA President Maureen Sullivan introduced each of the division presidents, and gave the name of the individual’s association. When she came to me, she paused, then listed many of the functions our members are responsible for. Maureen sounded warm, even admiring of our division. But I’m not sure she ever said our full name. Uh oh, I thought. What does it say, when the president of ALA explains our name to a library audience? Is our name helping or hindering connection with potential members, colleagues in other specialties, and the wider community?
Names Are Changing
The subject of naming, whether of our functions in libraries, the ALCTS newsletter, or our association, has surfaced lately on the electronic discussion lists of ALCTS groups. It’s evident from the discussion, as well as from members’ signature boxes, that our library departments and jobs are being identified in many ways. While the word “collections” continues to be widely used, “technical services” is less prevalent. In fact, technical services seems to be a term that requires explanation—particularly since information technology means technical services to many, inside and outside libraries.
No consensus has emerged about what to call our functions, in place of technical services. But there are possibilities already in library use that might appear in a new name for our association: resource management, collection logistics and distribution, information discovery and access. During the October ALCTS Executive Committee meeting, Councilor Brian Schottlaender came up with Association for Information Management Services (AIMS). My favorite among suggestions by Pamela Bluh and Dina Giambi at the 2009 Awards Ceremony is Knowledge Access and Resource Management Association (KARMA).
The raw materials of a new name might be assembled in many ways. Our members have the creativity to do so.
Is It Time?
Without an obvious replacement for the term “technical services,” this may not be the year we make a decision about a new name. But I hope this is the year we start to think proactively about it. What name would most accurately identify us and connect us with others in the library community and beyond? What name would express our vision of what we do, and hope to do? Let’s name what we want our association to be.
Send Your Thoughts
Again, thank you all for your dedication to library service and to our association. I look forward to hearing from you—about naming and other topics. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.