By Marydee Ojala Editor
Most information professionals, when
asked what they do, respond with a variation on an
information retrieval theme. Boiled down to its essence,
it says that an information professionals' mission
in life is to provide the information you need, when
you need it, in the format you need it. The best of
information professionals personalize this message,
tailoring it to the audience. Engineers are told the
information will keep bridges from falling down. Bankers
are told the information will keep loans from going
south. Lawyers are told the information will help them
win cases. Sales personnel are told the information
will help them identify prospective customers. Chemists
are told the information will identify new compounds
and new uses for old compounds.
This is all well and good. In fact, phrasing our
work descriptions in our clients' terms is an excellent
marketing technique. But it doesn't go far enough.
What information professionals overlook is the creative
nature of information workthe act of information
creation. We not only retrieve information, we transform that
information into something new and different.
We can be creative by summarizing what we've found.
This consists of a factual rendition of information
uncovered in the process of online research. Even more
creative is analyzing what we've found. This goes beyond
a simply summary to draw conclusions from the facts
gleaned from online research. Analysis implies that
information professionals have sufficient knowledge
and awareness of the research topic to have and express
valid opinions that will help the end user of the information
make informed decisions.
Although it may not sound as creative as summarizing
and analyzing, even the arrangement of information
can be transformational. If a particular Web site,
journal article, or graph is featured prominently in
delivered results, it has more impact on the recipient
than if the information is buried towards the back
of a report. What an information professional chooses
to highlight can easily change the perception of research
When it comes to information creation, don't overlook
new product possibilities. Newsletters immediately
come to mind. Most reference questions are one-time,
one-person requests. But if one person is interested
in a topic, perhaps others would be, too. Transforming
information on specific topics into more general newsletter
fodder is not only an act of information creation,
it can be a potent marketing tool as well. One example
is demonstrated by Hewlett-Packard's Sue Charles in
her article "Custom Content Delivery" in this issue
Other possibilities for imparting information in
transformational and creative ways include staking
out a space on the organization's intranet for notices
of developments in areas of interest and blogging news,
opinions, and background information for your constituencies.
In this changing world, it's imperative that information
professionals stand out as valuable additions to any
team. Encouraging colleagues to think of us as actively
creating information, not just passively retrieving
it, will enhance our reputations.
Ojala [firstname.lastname@example.org] is
the editor of ONLINE. Comments? E-mail letters
to the editor to email@example.com.