LIS? GLAM? What's in a name?
Recently on instagram, @alianls posed the question ‘#LIS or #GLAM or #?’ What was interesting to note on the discussion was that there was a tendency to favour GLAM or GLAMR to incorporate records, or to even brainstorm a brand new acronym. I started to wonder how do we define ourselves as a community, and why we’ve moved gradually from LIS to GLAM (or GLAMR).
LIS or GLAM?
When I started studying in 2008, I was enrolled in a library science degree. Within 4 years it had been restructured and re-named, dropping the ‘library’ and ‘science’ and instead becoming an ‘information services’ major. For me, LIS evolved from ‘library and information science’ to ‘library and information services’ without even really noticing. For others, this might not be the case. But as already noted in the instagram discussion, within 8 years of being introduced to the LIS community, I’m seeing LIS evolve into GLAM.It’s an interesting process when you consider that traditionally libraries and information professionals have been stereotyped as routine-driven classification nerds that don’t like a lot of change. That’s a pretty quick turnaround for an acronym!
Looking at the way we define ourselves as a group, and the way our groups and ideas have evolved, I like the flexibility and diversity that the GLAM name represents. I’m a qualified librarian who doesn’t work in a library. I don’t do typical library stuff but I do typically talk to a lot of libraries. I also work with galleries, and special libraries, and councils, and community historical groups. Information discovery and education isn’t limited to libraries, and in many ways, our colleagues in galleries and museums are paving the way in developing programs for communities to engage with collections and information. LIS, for me, is a subset of the all-encompassing GLAM sector, and I worry that it’s too specific and exclusive, a little bit out-dated, and not really taking into consideration how broad and flexible our industry can be. More importantly: how many people working in a gallery or museum without a very specific library qualification actually know what LIS is? Would they consider themselves part of the LIS community, or part of the GLAM community?
It’s next to impossible to successfully define the entire information/knowledge/library/collection industry in an acronym. By their own design, acronyms compress big ideas, groups, communities and movements into bite-sized chunks of letters for branding or memory purposes (they’re also really great for puns). They can be used to represent inclusivity in a special community of people, but they can also limit and restrict if we aren’t careful.
Do we need more?
Are LIS or GLAM enough? For the people who work in copyright in none of these types of institutions, where do they fit? What about educators? App designers and web developers creating applications for information and knowledge sharing? People who specialise in designing, analysing, or interpreting information? Knowledge managers? Researchers? Campaigners? Crusaders? Googlers?
I think that libraries, and information traditionally was about control and classification, and is evolving into a journey of discovery and collaboration. Maybe what we need isn’t a single set of letters, but many that can represent the diversity that knowledge and information is these days. I’d like to see us include ourselves in the STEM discussion more, in web development and design, in research…..there is no real limit except the limit we place on ourselves as to how far our connection with people, technology, and knowledge goes.
One thing to consider is that our fascination with cataloguing and classifying entities can sometimes lead to too much inward discussion and contemplation and whilst it’s important to find ways to connect and define, it’s also important to consider how those outside the industry consider and define us. Perhaps the biggest leap in connection is that with the greater community of GLAM customers, users, patrons, lovers, or whatever you want to call them (another rabbit hole of discussion!), and how we develop and evolve programs and collaboration based on those relationships and their expectations.
The Bowie test.
Final words: if it came down to a clear decision required, I would pick GLAMR. It’s broad, flexible, fluid and inclusive. It’s not limited to information, or libraries: you don’t have to be a specific library or information professional in a gallery, archive or museum to make an impact on learning and discovery. And it can clearly work in a Bowie reference.
Anything that can somehow incorporate peak glam Bowie has got to be a winner.
Let's keep the conversation going! Feel free to jump over to instagram and add your two cents worth to NLS's original discussion.