If you are a member of the American Association of Law Libraries and have not been living under that proverbial rock as of late, you are probably more than well aware that the organization is eagerly awaiting the results of the vote on a proposed name change. As the deadline to cast ballots nears, I want to encourage everyone who is a member to have your opinion counted. It takes just minutes and the result will impact not just the Association, but the whole of our industry for years to come.  While I feel it imperative to tell you to vote, what I do not want to do is tell you how you should do so. This is for several reasons.

First, this is a big decision, but one that I feel is highly personal. Second, all of the excitement surrounding the vote has already sparked some excellent statements both for and against the change by some very eloquent and respected colleagues. I share some of my favorites below from all sides of the spectrum. And finally, I am more concerned with how well we understand the true gravity of the underlying situation than the actual outcome of the vote. Yes, I said it. I don’t care what people call us as long as they actually call on us! On that matter, I have several points on which I would like to pontificate.

Drop the Roses

Whenever we start debating the merits of using the “L” word, someone invariably trots out the old quote from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Who can blame a person for drawing on such a beautiful sentiment? It is pithy, pleasing, and timeless. But it is not us, folks! It does not fit our situation. No one is proposing we change the name of that beloved flower which is already so prized for its beauty, its scent, and, above all, its symbolism. It would be preposterous to foist an identity crisis on something so well known and loved! The very fact that we are so seriously reconsidering our moniker signals that we as professionals want to be held in similar regard within our institutions and industries. Though we aspire to be roses, we fear that the blush has faded from our blooms. Please, let sleeping Shakespeare lie.

Try Prunes Instead

Perhaps a more applicable and practical approach can be gleaned from the resurgence of dried plums . . . you know, those tasty little gems we used to call prunes. Faced with a serious problem of perception, plum growers began their own rebranding experiment back in 2001. Worried that consumers had an aversion to their product due to age-old images of constipated dowagers downing prune drinks in the hopes of unclogging their pipes, they sought to recreate the market for their poor, misunderstood fruit. With the blessing of food agencies in the United States and abroad, they changed the name to dried plums and launched an amazing marketing campaign to extol their true nutritional and taste benefits. Fifteen years since and dried plums are having a real renaissance. Sure, you still see bags of the shriveled fruit labeled as prunes on store shelves. But the success of the campaign was more to do with touting the virtues of the product than merely changing its name. You can see where I am going with this, right?

No Magic Bullets

So, my friends and colleagues, that begs the question… Are we roses or are we prunes? It is clear that we have more than a mere identity crisis in our profession. The evidence suggests that we are simply not being appropriately appreciated and leveraged in the institutions we serve. We’ve been beating this poor horse for years. Could a name change help us turn the tide in our favor?  Absolutely . . . but not by itself. A name change is not a magic bullet with which to slay the beast of poor perception. Regardless of the name we choose (provided it is not meaningless or offensive, of course), we have a lot more work to do before we can be the change we seek in this profession. Like the rose, people need to come to see us and value us for what we do more so than what they call us. Changing perceptions is going to take a lot more than a name change. Just ask the dried plum lobby.

Next Steps Matter Most

So while I am as eager as anyone to see the results of the vote, I am even more attuned to what we will do as professionals and as an association in the wake of the outcome. If we seize the enthusiasm and energy that are driving this vote and turn it inward to how we prove our worth, we may just wake up one day in our own verdant gardens and realize that debating a name change was merely a bit of necessary silliness – a first tilling of the soil, if you will. However, if we let the momentum fade or rely only on a shiny, new label, we may find that no one looks kindly on the wrinkled husk of what was once a grand and noble profession.

Since I started with a nod to Romeo & Juliet and The Bard, perhaps I should end on one as well. May it never be said of us in this profession that, “For you and I are past our dancing days.”

Days left to vote?  Nine!

Blogs in favor of name change:

Blogs against:

Blogs on the fence:

*Featured image from RedHotMamas.com

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Photo of John DiGilio John DiGilio

As an information professional and visionary, John DiGilio has over 20 years of large law firm library and legal information vendor experience. He has proudly been affiliated with some of the largest law firms and information vendors in the industry. An award winning…

As an information professional and visionary, John DiGilio has over 20 years of large law firm library and legal information vendor experience. He has proudly been affiliated with some of the largest law firms and information vendors in the industry. An award winning writer and popular speaker, John believes in the value of information and the power it can bring when harnessed wisely and efficiently.

John is the Firmwide Director of Library Services for Sidley Austin LLP. He has written for numerous regional and national publications as well as taught college and graduate courses in such topics as business ethics, e-commerce, fair employment practices, research methodology and business law.