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July 27, 2007


Margo Coletti

Great post, Scott. I have been watching hospital library departments closing all around me here in the northeast. I agree, we need to emphasise our services, not our space. Taking the arguement a step further, I believe that one reason we have a hard time convincing hospital administrators of the need for our services is that we insist on calling them "library services". As you've pointed out, "librarian" and "library" seem to be synonymous to hospital administrators - and to most librarians. I truly believe that we've got to stop limiting ourselves with our titles and be willing to think of ourselves as knowledge managers or knowledge services directors - or some variation. Careful use of language matters - just ask the Republicans! A change in language worked for medical records (now health information management). In my own hospital, when the name changed, HIM joined the IS department and the director now has a seat at the table. Yesterday, I spoke with one of our oldest HIM managers who told me that the term "medical records" implied "taking down records and refiling them." "We do so much more now!" she said. Sound familiar? “Knowledge Services” is used in the NHS libraries in the UK, and in special libraries here in the US. Why are we so stuck on the Latin word for book? Is the word "library" the most sacred cow of all?

T Scott

Actually, in the presentations I've done recently that talk about the need to quite thinking of library and librarian as synonyms, I also argue strongly that I am a librarian and that the title continues to have real value, because it has a rich history and generally positive connotations. It's true that the image that the general public calls up in relation to the word isn't generally very accurate -- but to a considerable extent that's true for all professions. My guess is that "knowledge manager" call up no connotations at all, positive or negative.

It may well be that in some institutions, in certain cases, a careful name change may be useful. But I remain wary -- if, as you noted in one of your posts on this topic on the HLS list, hospital libraries are fighting for their survival, I don't think changing the terminology is going to make much of a difference. And based on conversations with some of my UK friends, I'm not sure that I'd use the status of NHS libraries as a strong recommendation.

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