17th Annual AIIP Conference
By Susanne Bjorner
"Practical Business" was the theme of the 17th Annual
AIIP (Association of Independent Information Professionals)
Conference, held May 14 in Providence, R.I. About
100 professionals who own their own information business
or are interested in working independently gathered
for this active and intimate event. The conference,
which serves as the annual business meeting for the
600-member association, also provides continuing education
and the opportunity for face-to-face networking.
New technology and business techniques are perennial
topics. This year's event featured presentations on
planning your Internet marketing strategy, accounting
issues for independents, technology trends and gadgets
(what to buy, what to avoid), and copyright and legal
Pam Wegmann, from Information Matters, LLC, provided
a practical blueprint for face-to-face networking,
emphasizing goal-making and efficient use of time.
She asked the audience to practice meeting each other
and then move along to the next person.
Anne Caputo of Factiva showed attendees how to formulate
a 20-second "elevator speech" and a 17-word sound bite.
She too provided on-the-spot practice timeusing a simulation
of two former Enron principals in a chance encounter.
In a keynote titled "Women, Truth, and Business," Margaret
Heffernan tackled the problem of creating businesses
where truth-telling is the norm. She challenged the
group to integrate their personal values with their
work activities. This is an old issue for women, but
a new one for men. You can read more about this in
the February 2003 issue of Real Business (http://www.realbusiness.co.uk).
Overworked and Overspent?
In AIIP's first Memorial Lecture, Juliet Schor, a
Boston College economist and author ofThe Overworked
American and The Overspent American, made
a compelling case for transforming work and lifestyles
to make them more ecologically and socially sustainable.
The Memorial Lecture honors Stuart Sandow and Winifred
Sewell, two AIIP members who passed away last year.
Sandow and Sewell, who each made significant industry
contributions, were recalled affectionately by those
lucky enough to have met them at previous conferences.
Schor documented the recent history of work in the
U.S., noting that automation was supposed to reduce
work hours while maintaining productivity levels. Indeed,
at the end ofWorld War II, the U.S. had the shortest
work week of any advanced nation. Articles from that
period predicted a "coming crisis of leisure time." Instead,
the demands of corporate employers ratcheted up productivity
expectations and "elasticized" the hours of salaried
workers. U.S. employees now work 300 to 500 more hours
per year than their European counterparts.
For independent information professionals, many of
whom have left positions in high-profile corporate
enterprises to create a better balance between work
and personal time, Schor's message was particularly
Consolidation among companies and a teetering economy
decreased the number of exhibit hall vendors to half
of last year's total. Those present included askSam
Systems, Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS/STN International),
Copyright Clearance Center, Dialog, Factiva, Information
Today, Inc., and RW Stearns, Inc. Among others, conference
sponsors included Hoover's, Long Bay Communications,
and Swets Blackwell.
At AIIP, there's less separation between vendors
and members than at most industry events. Though the
conference officially begins on a Thursday evening
(with a reception in the exhibit hall) and ends Sunday
at noon, exhibits are open only on Thursday and Friday.
Many vendors that participate in a special vendor/partner
relationship with AIIP also sponsor free training sessions
on Wednesday and Thursday. This is a valuable savings
for independents, who often work individually and must
plan expenditures and time out of the office carefully.
Vendor reps are in the audience and at the podium in
program sessions. They are also present at social events,
including the traditional Saturday evening gala, held
this year at Providence's historic Federal Reserve
The Sue Rugge Memorial Award, named in honor of AIIP's
second president, is presented annually to a member "who
has significantly helped ... through formal or informal
mentoring." This year's honoree was Barbara Quint.
Though not present at the conference, Quint's active
participation in the AIIP-L electronic discussion group,
her early promotion of vendors as partners, her significant
writing and editing in Searcher and Information
Today, and her long career of speaking at industry
conferences are an inspiration even for those who have
never met her face to face.
The award was presented by John Bryans of Information
Today, Inc., publisher of The Quintessential Searcher,
and Sheri Lanza, AIIP board member andSearcher columnist.
Responding in inimitable style, Quint sent balloon
bouquets to the ITI and AIIP member booths. Lanza,
who had telephoned Quint to inform her that she had
won the award, reported that in a truly historic moment,
Quint pronounced herself "speechless." (See the sidebar
The Gale Group Authorship Award for the best article
published during the past year in AIIP Connections went
to Amelia Kassel of MarketingBase. The Myra T. Grenier
Award, given to a promising new business owner, went
to Jocelyn Sheppard of Red House Consulting. The President's
Award honored Margaret "Peggy" Carr from Carr Research
Group. The annual Technology Award, which went to askSam,
had been previously announced at the Internet Librarian
In between program sessions and the business meeting
(which was relatively quiet this year) is the conference's
real substance. From the opening reception in the exhibit
hall to the Sunday close-of-conference margarita sendoff,
participants enthusiastically meet, eat, and compete.
However, the competition is not with each other. These
solo or near-solo members long ago realized that it's
better to help each other's businesses than to work
against them. The attendees compete to increase the
market for information services that are provided by
smaller, independent entrepreneurs who offer expertise
in primary, online, and Internet research; document
delivery; database and Web applications; library support;
writing and editing; and consulting.
No one leaves an AIIP conference unknown or uninvolved.
A First-Timers' & New Member Orientation welcomes
and preps newcomers (around 30 this year) for the all-important
introductions the following day. On Friday morning,
everyone takes a minute at the microphone, introducing
themselves by name, business name, and location. They
explain what they do, what they need, and what the
highlights of the year have been. Conversation never
lags during the remainder of the conference.
The big topics this year were loss of state government
funding, how to redirect a business, transitions to
full-time employment, and changing lifestyles andchoices.
More than one new attendee currently working in academic
and public libraries noted "a declining quality in
patron questions" and the desire to find a more stimulating
job. They couldn't have come to a better place to learn
how to create that job.
Barbara Quint Accepts Sue
Rugge Memorial Award
(as read by John Bryans)
It must be nigh on 30 years ago that I first
fully realized how completely I had become
an information professional. It happened in
the produce section of a local market when
I overheard some lady I didn't know asking
a friend how to tell when mushrooms were fresh.
The friend didn't know either. I had to squeeze
the handle of my shopping cart and bite my
tongue to keep from answering her question.
All questions had become my questions.
Now here I am being rewarded for answering
questions by the association representing the
best and bravest information professionals
in the world. Well, I have only three things
to say: 1) thank you very, very much, 2) consider
me, my knowledge, andbetter than thatthe
knowledge of all my networked colleagues completely
at your disposal forever, and 3) turn them
upside down and check to see that the caps
and stems haven't separated.
Full-time independent info-entrepreneurs
average 40 hours of work per week, with one-third
working 50 hours or more.
Eighty percent are between
40 and 60 years old.
Seventy-five percent have a
postgraduate degree of some kind; 40 percent
have master's degrees in information science.
Eighty-five percent work from
More than half the businesses
are sole proprietorships, 35 percent are
incorporated, and 17 percent are LLCs or
Two-thirds of established business
owners report a revenue of at least $60,000.
More than half of established
business owners have salaries of at least
(From a spring 2003 survey
of AIIP members conducted by
AIIP vice president/president-elect Mary Ellen Bates)
Bjorner is a founding member and past president of AIIP.
Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.