Reader Says Image Precedes Respect

As usual, Eric Frederick’s column in your December issue (Respect for the Industry Has to Start with Us) addresses a thought-provoking subject.
What is most disturbing and needs to be addressed is the fact that although his “acquaintances” were aware that he operated a large healthcare central laundry, they thought of his operation being a Laundromat. Considering his professional stature within the industry, there seems to be little doubt that some massive changes in its image are required.Webster’s Dictionary defines a laundry as “a room with facilities for laundering a batch of clothes, linens, etc., that has been or is about to be laundered.” That well may be the description and purpose of a laundry operation in one of the large hotels and casinos in Las Vegas, but does it adequately describe the central laundry operation that Eric manages?
Yes, the operation may launder batches of “clothes” and “linens,” but being dedicated to the processing of “batches” in a healthcare laundry operation, the definition is certainly not appropriate. Even so, no matter what is being processed, the general public perceives a laundry as being a hot, dirty, smelly place.
For some time, many of my professional friends in the clinical community have accused me of trying to make the processing of soiled/contaminated textile products a science within itself. Not having attended a Clean convention, they have no idea about the scientific advances that have been made in textile processing — including “linen” and uniforms. And indeed, processing them is as much a science as are the advances made in textile technology.
It is noted that Dr. Elizabeth P. Easter, a member of the American Laundry and Linen College faculty, is serving on the American Laundry News Panel of Experts for 2009. Her biography describes her as manager of the University of Kentucky’s Textile Testing Laboratory and also a textile consultant.
For openers, there can be no change in the industry’s image without it disassociating itself from the antiquated term “linen” and replacing it with the 21st-century term “textiles.” This applies to the Association for Linen Management (ALM), the name adopted by NAILM; the American Laundry and Linen College, its educational facility; and registered laundry and linen directors, its graduates.
The fact of the matter is that as long as your industry continues to associate itself with the term “linen,” it will never be able to make a dent in improving its image in the eyes of those it serves and be recognized for being “at the forefront of recycling, water conservation, and improving the healthcare of our country.”
(Eric, on a personal note, you seem to have forgotten about the effect it could have on “greening” the environment, and the economic advantages of replacing disposables with reusables.)
The sages tell us that no one can respect anyone who does not respect him or herself. What can you do for your profession to make that a reality? That challenge is yours, Mr. Frederick, and that of your peers. In behalf of all those (and still) associated with the textile industry, good luck.

Nathan L. Belkin, Ph.D.
Largo, Fla.

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