July 2nd marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of SLA. On that day in 1909, some 20 attendees at the ALA annual conference met separately on the verandah of the Mt. Washington Hotel, Bretton Woods, N.H., USA, to form SLA and adopt a constitution that defined the “Object” as follows:
“The object of this Association is to promote the interests of the commercial, industrial, technical, civic, municipal and legislative reference libraries, the special departments of public libraries, universities, welfare associations, and business organizations.”
(For more on the founding of SLA, see Guy St. Clair’s book SLA at 100, published by SLA for the Centennial.)
What were the founders thinking when they chose to use the word “Special” in the name of SLA? From John Cotton Dana’s comments we know that the name was casually chosen in that the members were all “doing some special work in libraries.” We also know that the founders wanted the new association to be inclusive, and in fact, the association grew rapidly as information pioneers in a variety of settings signed up.
Now that we are 100, we are reconsidering the name of our association and the direction to take in recruiting new members. We have the evidence provided to us by the Alignment Project research, which shows that “special” does not resonate with those we serve. We have the evidence which shows that we can recruit information professionals who work outside of “special libraries.”
Upon the occasion of our centennial, this is precisely the time when we should be acting on these issues. Urge your colleagues to discuss the findings of the Alignment Project and what steps SLA should take to promote the interests of information professionals in the 21st Century. Be prepared to vote on a name change later this Centennial Year. Align in ’09.
Posted by Tom R.