By Marydee Ojala Editor
Juliet in Act II, Scene II, of Shakespeare's Romeo
and Juliet, famously posed the question, "What's
in a name?"--"What's in a name? That which we call
a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." She's
talking about Romeo being named Montague and she
Capulet. If both would simply give up their names,
she naively believes, conflict will be avoided. Gertrude
Stein weighed in on the issue decades later and a
continent away. "A rose is a rose is a rose." Never
mind the smell--the name is all that matters.
After years of discussion, task forces, and meetings,
the Special Libraries Association voted on a name change
at its annual meeting in June 2003. The options were
to use the acronym, SLA, or to move to something completely
different, Information Professionals International.
The third option was to retain the current name. The
final vote (with about 7.5% of the membership actually
voting) was to remain as Special Libraries Association.
For some, this was nothing less than an identity crisis.
Was this an association for librarians or not?
What's in a name? What does special mean when applied
to libraries? What is special about special libraries?
Are both words, separately or together, open to misunderstanding?
In today's online world, when people access information
via computers, what, exactly, is a library? Is online
information the equivalent of a library, perhaps even
superior to a library? Or does obtaining information
solely from online sources limit its amount and quality?
Even the word online is ambiguous. Is ONLINE online?
Sounds like a trick question--and the answer is a definite
maybe. Selected full-text articles from ONLINE are
on the Web site [http://www.onlinemag.net] as HTML documents.
All the articles appear in several full-text databases
resident on traditional online hosts (Dialog, EBSCO,
Factiva, LexisNexis) as ASCII records (dates of coverage
vary). The original coining of the word online implied
a telephone dial-up procedure to "go online." If I
access the Internet on my mobile phone, PDA, or other
wireless device, I'm online even though there's no
line. Online, then, is more than on the line. It's
also more than the Internet.
What's in a name? Is there a difference between a
search engine and a search tool? Or are they different
names for the same thing? One view is that search engines
spider the Web while search tools involve human intervention
and organizing of data. Where, then, does traditional
online fit into the continuum? Can we talk about a
Dialog search engine or a LexisNexis search tool? Should
there be another name for the search operations performed
by traditional online? Or should we not restrict the
meaning of search engine to the Web and spidering technology?
I've often wondered why an organization of individuals,
such as Special Libraries Association, should be named
as if it were an association for institutions and buildings.
It isn't the libraries that join; it's the librarians.
As for online, I'd like it to have the broadest possible
meaning. Online goes beyond a technology, encompasses
more than the Internet, and implies future growth.
Online Professionals Association, anyone?
Ojala [firstname.lastname@example.org] is
the editor of ONLINE. Comments? E-mail letters
to the editor to email@example.com.