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Magazines > Information Today > July / August 2003
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Information Today
Vol. 20 No. 7 — July 2003
CONFERENCE CIRCUIT
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.

Program Highlights

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 issues.

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 apt.

Vendor Partners

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 Bank.

Association Awards

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 below.)

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 conference.

Providential Meetings

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, and—better than that—the 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.

Info-Entrepreneur Facts

• 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 their homes.

• More than half the businesses are sole proprietorships, 35 percent are incorporated, and 17 percent are LLCs or partnerships.

• 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 $40,000.

(From a spring 2003 survey of AIIP members conducted by
AIIP vice president/president-elect Mary Ellen Bates)

 

 


Susanne Bjorner is a founding member and past president of AIIP. Her e-mail address is bjorner@earthlink.net.
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