Three Words About ACRL

One of the things I look forward to each week is finding out which lucky academic librarian is ACRL’s “Member of the Week”. Since 2008 ACRL has shared weekly profiles of individual members. They come from all walks of higher education and research organizations, and it’s interesting to see the range of institutions and positions represented. What’s always inspiring is reading what these members value about their ACRL membership.

Those profiled are asked to share three words that describe ACRL. You can well imagine the pressure in getting those three words just right. While some choose to express their individuality and creativity by adding a clever twist to their three words, most simply choose the three words that best represent their personal relationship with ACRL.  It’s harder than it looks. The three words I selected were “professionalism, opportunity, networking.” Just all right. I was profiled before ACRL made it a weekly feature on our website, and since then those three words are used again and again by members.

When ACRL held its Leadership Council meeting at ALA Annual in Anaheim, those member-leaders present participated in a branding exercise. One of the things they were asked to do was to share the three words (or two-word phrase) that best describe ACRL’s identity. What three words would you give to a stranger who knew nothing about ACRL but wanted to know what it meant to you? Of the many words offered, the three that rose to the top were: professional development; networking; advocacy. Perhaps it is not all that surprising that these words would appear at the top of the list.

I was particularly interested in the results of the branding exercise because the ACRL Board of Directors will spend an entire day at its fall SPOS meeting in September exploring the ACRL brand, and how we can approach it more strategically. After analyzing all the words provided for the different segments of the Leadership Council exercise, I wondered how they would compare to all the words provided by the ACRL Members of the Week. Would those same three words appear most frequently?

Andrew Diamond, a Temple Libraries colleague, made a review and analysis possible by compiling the 200 plus words offered over the years in to a manageable list.  An interesting pattern did emerge. Two groups of words, the “C” words and the “E” words dominated the list. I believe these words do connect with those provided in the branding exercise.

Here are the “C” words:

collegial; collaborative; connections; colleagues; conversation; community; committee; current; creative; cutting-edge; challenging

Here are the “E” words:

engaged;exciting;enterprising;education; essential;experience;evolving;expertise; enriching

When you put all these words together they add up to an association that provides consistent value to its members through the offering of professional development opportunities, by advocating on behalf of the membership for causes and issues important to the future of academic librarianship and by creating a community that supports widespread networking.

While it’s been educational and inspirational to review all the words members chose to describe ACRL, let’s remember that what makes ACRL truly special is more than words. It is about the people who come together to make ACRL a unique association.