By Marydee Ojala Editor
A word I've never been comfortable with
is "end user." I don't know of anyone who is a self-described "end
user." Information technology departments deploy computers,
software, advice, and training to "end users." Librarians
provide research, mediated online searches, advice,
and training to "end users." But the recipients of
these goods and services don't consider themselves "end
users." They're salespeople, managers, accountants,
consultants, engineers, chemists, lawyers, reporters,
and a host of other job titles.
Many don't even consider what they do to be research.
They use the Internet. They search for information.
They view data on their intranet. Unless they're in
a research-related fieldmarket research, competitive
intelligence, patent searching, scientific researchthey
tend to view their activities in a different light
than do information professionals.
Microsoft's Office 2003 will put several important
research tools at knowledge workers' fingertips. Basic
reference works will reside alongside recognized research
sources, only a mouse-click away. Librarians who aren't
the least bit threatened by office workers consulting
a dictionary, a thesaurus, or a map become worried
when it's the more advanced forms of research that
are made readily available to the world at large. They're
concerned about inaccurate, out-of-date, irrelevant
data accepted at face value. They're concerned about
individuals missing important pieces of information
when they do their own research without the intervention
of information professionals.
However, this isn't the open Web that Office 2003
is offering. It's information culled from highly reputable
sources. No self-respecting information professional
would claim that Factiva's Publications Library contains
bad information, or that Gale's Company Profiles aren't
valid. Given how most people use Microsoft Office's
tools, the research capabilities to come bundled with
Office 2003 favor the quick look-up over the intensive
research process. It will simplify the research process,
but should not be a substitute for projects requiring
deep, sophisticated, professional-level research skills.
What should information professionals do? First,
consult with their information technology departments
as to whether the enterprise will adapt Office 2003.
If the answer is yes, then collaborate with IT on the
rollout, making sure that the library/information center
is seen as an important partner technologically. Although
it appears that customizing the Office 2003 Research
Task Pane is difficult, if not impossible, see if something
can be done to make the library/information center's
research capabilities extremely obvious. Ideally, there
would be either a link to the library/information center's
Web site or a mechanism for sending e-mail to the information
researchers if results from an individual's research
What should information professionals avoid? First
and foremost, they should not become overly controlling.
They should not dictate that all research go through
their department, nor insist that all payments for
information products be approved by them. People want
autonomy. If they need help, they'll ask. Information
professionals can provide guidance and advice, along
with actual research products.
Putting such powerful information tools in the hands
of millions of Office 2003 users raises the possibility
that there are no more "end users," that we're all
Ojala [email@example.com] is
the editor of ONLINE. Comments? E-mail letters
to the editor to firstname.lastname@example.org.