A Rose by Another Name Might Smell Sweeter

Last week I shared my new title with Slaw. Today, I was excited to be in a room of passionate people attending the Canadian Association of Law Libraries Conference where the session title was “Should We Still Be called Librarians?” The debate and various points of view were thought provoking.

As a panelist for this session, I was delighted to share “sage on the stage” duties with Allan Fineblit, CEO, Law Society of Manitoba, Ron Greasley, Senior Brand Strategist at Deschenes Regnier, Melanie Hodges Neufeld, Director of Legal Resources, Law Society of Saskatchewan, and Sonia Poulin, Director of Alberta Law Libraries and Information Services. Allan and Melanie are lawyers, Sonia and I are librarians and Ron gave the ?neutral? view.

I will attempt to sum up the perspective of our group – apologies to my co-panelists in advance if I twist this unintentionally. I am partly following the twitter notes provided by colleagues using the #CALLACBD2014 hashtag. I hope the debate will continue.

Allan – in the future law librarians will be called legal service providers.
Melanie – likes Legal service providers, notes that lawyers don’t talk about changing their name.
Sonia – her staff want to stop having to have the conversation, librarians bring value and that should be the focus.
Ron – “librarian” has equity in the marketplace but it doesn’t reflect our role, perception problem may need a word change for a solution.

And then there is me. The term “librarian” has brand strength in my organization. One of the reasons – I hope – is that my team leverages the trust aspect that librarian invokes. We also use language in our communication to our lawyers and clients that leave the impression that we are business partners. Librarians should be using the phrase “Here is a solution…” rather than “How can I help?”. I am generalizing of course, and the discussion had some interesting twists.

Slawyer Mark Lewis believes that we shouldn’t be aligned so closely to our physical space. Other comments responded to panelist statements linking our brand back to the concepts of what we collect, protect, and preserve. Another statement: “The brand is not about how you view yourself but how others view you.” I say hear, hear to that one.

I hope that my closing statement resonates. I said, “Information aggregator, content linchpin, teacher, trainer, mentor, technology filter, translator, legal research facilitator, trusted advisor. I don’t think it matters what we are called so long as we are proving by the language we use to communication, our actions, and our work product that we show value in our organizations. Understand what motivates your organization. Change as necessary.”


  1. Excellent recap Shaunna. I think you captured the mood and discussion succinctly. Thank you for participating.