Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Renaming CILIP: suggestion and rationale

CILIP, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, are undergoing an exercise to rebrand and rename their organisation. Personally I think on balance this is a good thing; possibly overdue, but the past is done and dusted.

A proposal is that CILIP is renamed LISA (Library and Information Science Association). The rationale for this follows; this has been sent off to various people in CILIP.

The problem

CILIP is undergoing a process to rebrand aspects of the organisation. This includes changing the official name (and associated acronym). This is a desirable action, as:
  • the acronym “unpacks” into a long name
  • does not “sound” (to some) like that of a professional body
  • requires concentration to understand, thus distracting the listener or reader from the actual message the organisation is trying to convey
This problem is compounded by CILIP being a “broad tent”, representing (but not limited to):
  • librarians
  • information professionals
  • knowledge managers
  • online information service providers
  • business and governmental information service providers
  • other people who work with information services and content
It is very difficult to come up with an option that is inclusive to all or even many of those people, and to the many others who may view themselves with having some affiliation or association with the organisation. This is seen in e.g. the recent reactions from librarians through social media to the lack of suggested replacement names containing the words “library” or “librarian”.

Proposed new name

A proposal is that the current acronym and name CILIP (the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) is replaced with LISA (the Library and Information Science Association).

  • Library (the first component) explicitly makes it clear that the organisation concerns [n.b but is not limited to] libraries and librarians. Making this the first / leading component also stresses the importance of libraries. This may negate some of the ongoing criticism over any perceived recent ambivalence by the organisation towards libraries and (professional) librarians.
  • Information Science (the second and third components) illustrates that the organisation is a “broad tent”, not just to librarians but to the many other information and knowledge professions, organisations and practices who would arguably be included within a description of “Information Science”.
  • Association (the fourth component) illustrates that this is a gathering or group of people, brought together for a common purpose.
  • “Association” also gives a legitimacy and gravitas to the image of the organisation. In addition, the president of CILIP wrote that:

Institute/Institution, Association, Profession(s) or Chartered. Personally I think we need one of them in there, but I’m not sure that we need two.
  • LISA acknowledges both the long-term history of the organisation (the “Library Association”) and the more recent merger of the Library Association and the Institute of Information Scientists which resulted in CILIP.
  • Importantly, “Science”, the third component, emphasises that there is “Science” and therefore research, evidence, evidence-based practice and professionalism underpinning the activities of people and entities which the body supports and represents. 

Librarianship, information management, knowledge management and related topics are not “things” which can competently occur or happen without the accompanying science. Including the word “Science” strongly implies this.
  • “LISA” is easy to say, has only four letters, and “unpacks” into a relatively simple full name. For people outside of the sector, LISA is easier to remember than CILIP, and some of the suggested replacement. Stating the full name should not distract or detract from the points that need to be made when in conversation with e.g. journalists.
  • A name or an acronym can, of course, refer to several different things e.g. Apple computers and Apple records. There are many other organisation whose name compresses to “LISA”. Even within the library sector, there are groups, products and services called LISA. CILIP itself promotes one of these: Library and Information Science Abstracts.
This is a good attribute, as people are comfortable with professional “things” called “LISA”. There is little justification for expending considerable resource on finding a name and acronym which are unique (and, to some, will therefore be alien and unusual). Additionally:
  1. There is a positive “pop culture” association. The Simpsons, a cornerstone of popular culture for the last two decades, contains many characters. The member of the Simpsons family who is pro-knowledge, pro-libraries and pro-books (libraries and books make appearances in several episodes), helpful and socially aware, is Lisa Simpson.
  2. This acronym and name has also been used in (geo-specifically) Iceland in an interesting manner. Iran also has a similarly named organisation.
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Update: This post by Ian Clark, which also discusses the constituent elements of the name of the organisation, makes many good points and is well worth a read.

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