stranded in the Nashville airport some months ago, I had the opportunity
to examine a selection of books in the airport newsstands. I picked up
one book entitled
Harvard Business Review on Knowledge Management.
The book belongs to a series "designed to bring today's managers and professionals
the fundamental information they need to stay competitive in a fast-moving
world." The table of contents reflects a collection of essays, focusing
on the value and methods of knowledge management. None of the essayists
were information professionals. The index made no mention of information
professionals or librarians. I have since read the book, and the text makes
no mention either. So, what does this tell us?
This tells me
that information professionals are not on the radar screen of Harvard
Business Review as it relates to knowledge management. Therefore, HBR,
one of the widest read and most prestigious management publications, will
not put information professionals on the radar screen of their readers.
Presumably those who read HBR publications could be in a position
to hire an information professional.
Why do we not make
ourselves known to these people? How can the Harvard Business Review
a book on knowledge management and not include the role of librarians?
Who among us can reach the authors and publishers of such business books
so that they carry our message to managers and decision-makers? These "managers
and professionals" are not reading Information Outlook or Searcher.
(Sorry, bq.) We need to do a better job of getting someone listening to
our tune besides the choir.
To verify these
assertions, I took a closer look at the business literature and the academic
programs that train business managers. I searched business periodicals
such as Forbes, Inc., Business Week, and Fortune
over the last 5 years for references to libraries and librarians. Of the
172 hits I looked at, only three or four indicated the value of librarians
or library services. Most used library in unrelated ways such as
"the 'preposterousness' of putting a restaurant next to the downtown library"
or a pharmaceutical company's "drug library." Going back to 1993, a Forbes
article entitled "Good-Bye Dewey Decimals" even predicted that "in lieu
of librarians we will have programmers and database experts."
Why does the business
literature not address the value of business librarians? According to Anne
Mintz, librarian at Forbes, the role of an organization's librarian
does not represent a story. Business magazines might publish stories on
companies doing business in the information industry, but not on the information
professional. Mintz notes that seat belts save lives, librarians add value,
but asks, "Where's the story?," where's the "man bites dog"? If we had
numbers or could quantify the value and give examples, then we might have
a story. (This looks like another good reason to run those return on
numbers.) Whatever the reason, the result is that those
in a position to employ librarians are not reading much in their professional
literature about a librarian's value; in fact, the literature may even
discuss decreases in our value.
The MBA Programs
What about the
business administrators' educational programs? Surely business students
learn how to collaborate with information professionals for more effective
business management? A search of Collegesource.org indicates otherwise.
Collegesource offers complete cover-to-cover, full-text searching of 20,199
college catalogs. Looking for any indication that a business degree might
include an understanding of information management, I searched on synonyms
for "information management" matched with synonyms for "business administration."
I found only one somewhat relevant reference. The Leventhal School of Accounting
offers ACCT 552 "Knowledge Management (3 credits): Managing knowledge using
knowledge-based systems and contemporary knowledge management approaches
[intranets] in order to enhance and facilitate decision making and manage
accounting data and information in organizations." Information management
or knowledge management in business schools means understanding technology,
software, databases, and computers — not librarians and libraries.
So, the business
literature does not communicate the value of librarians and information
management skills. The business schools do not teach the value of librarians
and information managers along with the role of technology. It's a wonder
any business today employs any librarians at all. Why DO some businesses
have libraries while others do not? I don't think we can answer that question
very authoritatively. According to a 1991 survey of managers at 154 companies,
James Matarazzo reported in "Valuing Corporate Libraries, A Survey of Senior
Managers" that there is little consensus about which library services bring
the most value. So, even if the people in a company value information services,
they can't say exactly why or how much. That, in a nutshell, may explain
why many businesses do not have library services. The managers do not understand
the value a librarian brings.
I have a sample
to support this assertion. I interviewed the president of a pharmaceutical
company which employs over 700 people. It has two drugs on the market,
many more in the pipeline, and not one librarian. When I asked about his
perception of librarians, the president explained that librarians are most
useful to the scientists in research and development for alert services
and literature searches. The marketing people do market research, identifying
and purchasing market research reports as needed while occasionally sponsoring
primary research. Yahoo! news alerts and Google searching provide much
of the additional information needs. "I can enter a search and get back
pages and pages of information." When asked why the company hadn't hired
a librarian, he imagined that initially it was a fiscal concern. The company
couldn't justify the head count. Since then, the employees have developed
a culture of self-sufficiency, learning to locate the information they
need on their own. People are empowered by computers so that they can find
what they need quickly and easily. This president does not see a librarian
in his company's near future. End of interview.
Perhaps as information
professionals we bow and shake our heads at this company president's naïve
understanding of information management, but this is reality. The library
literature and the librarian's electronic discussion lists document this
perception over and over.
The next question,
then, relates to the images of librarians and information professionals.
The perception of who we are and what we do is often based upon what public
service library workers look like, what they say, and what they do. That
is often all that nonlibrarians have to go on. Period. Library work is
service work. Information professionals offer service. In Information
and Library Manager 5(3) 1985, Esteve-Coll states, "The library is
not an abstraction. It has an identity, an identity created by the staff
contact with the users." The main product we offer is service, and the
way we deliver that service determines how we are judged.
Jan Carlzon, CEO
of Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS), knew that even more than transportation,
his airline delivered service. He also knew that the quality of service
and the public's impression of the company depended upon the front-line
SAS employees. In Moments of Truth, 1987, Carlzon said, "Last year,
each of our 10 million customers came in contact with approximately five
of our employees, and this contact lasted an average of 15 seconds each
time. Thus, the company is 'created' in the minds of our customers 50 million
times a year, 15 seconds at a time."
The same is true
for library customers. Customers see library staff shelving books, checking
books in and out, reading the paper, and occasionally chatting with a library
customer. Customers hear library staff enforcing the rules: "You must sign
up to use the Internet," "Please keep your voices down," or, "This is due
back in 2 weeks or you will have to pay a fine." This tells people what
"librarians" do. These impressions go back to the users' earliest experience
in a library, perhaps to elementary school.
With these impressions
in place, it can hardly surprise us that the general public does not see
the value that an information professional could bring to sophisticated
information management challenges. Margaret Slater sums it up in "Careers
and the Occupational Image" found in The Marketing of Library and Information
Services 2. According to a survey she conducted of 484 professional
workers in industry and commerce, the negative image of actual librarians
includes passivity, incompetence, bureaucratic tendencies, unworldliness,
and insufficient education or subject knowledge for the job. On the credit
side, real-life librarians were thought to possess service motivation,
a sense of duty, and a desire to help other people.
So, our potential
customers and employers find next to nothing in their own literature about
who we are and what we do. The schools that train business managers and
professionals have little to say about the role of a librarian or information
professional in achieving corporate success. Those customers aware of librarians
and library services find us motivated and well-intentioned, but incompetent
and passive. Before getting into a discussion of what can and should be
done to address this situation, we should take a look at current efforts.
Marketing as We Know It
information professionals do not have a marketing plan. Segments of the
information community do market, but without a comprehensive, industrywide
plan. Library associations, suppliers, library schools, and individual
librarians contribute to a mix of marketing efforts.
The two largest
U.S. professional associations are the American Library Association (ALA)
and the Special Libraries Association (SLA), including all their divisions.
The messages from these associations are mixed. ALA's marketing efforts
focus on the library itself. In 2001, ALA began the Campaign for American
Libraries with the trademarked logo @your library. First in ALA's list
of seven goals: "Increase awareness and support for libraries by increasing
the visibility of libraries in a positive context and by communicating
clearly and strongly why libraries are both unique and valuable." This
is a very sophisticated program that includes branding and tools for individual
library systems to participate in delivering prescribed messages in a consistent
way. ALA has allotted $316,000 in 2001-2002, plus at least $100,000 a year
thereafter for 5 years for the Campaign for America's Libraries.
SLA's message focuses
much more on the value of the librarian, and SLA offers its members resources
to support the delivery of that message. The Association mission statement,
dated June 2000, is to "advance the leadership role of our members in putting
knowledge to work for the benefit of decision-makers in corporations, government,
the professions, and society; as well as to shape the destiny of our information
and knowledge-based society." SLA educates its members on how to market
their own services and includes plenty of resources on its Web site. The
Association publishes an annual salary survey and offers video conferences
along with its annual conference for continuing education. It also publishes
Outlook, which contains instructive articles.
To clarify the
value of a librarian, SLA created a description of competencies for special
librarians. According to John Latham, SLA Librarian, the Association also
uses its public relations function "to promote the profession wherever
possible and to rebut misinformation." Some members have criticized SLA
for putting too much emphasis on training the librarian to market library
services, while not doing more to address the broader lack of understanding
about what librarians do. As observation of ALA's Campaign for Libraries
shows, this kind of effort is quite costly.
Suppliers to the
library community also offer librarians some of the tools needed to promote
the value of library services. Information Today, Inc. offers a number
of publications targeting the information industry. These publications
include Searcher, Computers in Libraries, and a newsletter
titled Marketing Library Services (MLS). MLS editor Kathy
Dempsey brings together theory, ideas for action, and book reviews to assist
librarians in marketing. [Editor's Note: See Kathy's article, "Visibility:
Decloaking 'the Invisible Librarian,'" beginning on page 76 of this issue.]
a section on its Web site called LexisNexis InfoPro for Information Professionals
The site includes a monthly column, weekly research tip, and newsletters.
The Dialog Corporation offers training through its Quantum program. According
to the Dialog Web site "Quantum gives you the power to lead change. You
already know how powerful you are — and how valuable the information you
champion is. Quantum provides the training, tools, and support you need
to make sure everyone else in your organization knows it, too." Factiva
has assembled its InfoPro Alliance Portal with resources designed to provide
information professionals with the practical tools, examples, and templates
needed to develop the skills outlined in SLA's "Competencies for Special
Librarians of the 21st Century." Resources stress identifying corporate
information needs, creating a strategic plan, marketing the information
center, training tools, and discussion of knowledge management from the
information professional perspective. Factiva has taken an interesting,
unifying tack by developing resources based upon SLA's Competencies document.
If librarians are
ultimately responsible for marketing librarians and library services, then
the schools that prepare future librarians must offer the necessary training.
Right? Well, not really. Carol Tenopir of the University of Tennessee,
Knoxville, School of Information Sciences, stated that library schools
tend to emphasize the skills and knowledge that a librarian needs to do
the job. "Schools do not focus on how to market to a constituency." [Editor's
Note: See Carol's article, "Educating Tomorrow's Information Professionals
Today," beginning on page 12 of this issue.]
About 10 years
ago Blaise Cronin, dean of Indiana University's School of Library and Information
Science, edited Marketing of Library and Information Services 2.
I called to ask about how the IU curriculum handles marketing training.
Dr. Cronin explained that there are no courses in the IU library program
labeled marketing. He was unable to speak for each individual class and
instructor, but believes that marketing is embedded in the curriculum as
part of other courses. Cronin pointed out that professional attitudes in
library schools and in the broader library community have changed since
his book came out in 1992. The concept of marketing is more widely discussed
and accepted professionally. This acceptance just has not found its way
into most library schools' formal curricula. Regarding any effort to infuse
the business schools with appreciation for the skills of an information
manager, Cronin maintains that there is no substitute for the performance
of individual librarians in the workplace.
Accepting the assertion
that information management is a service-based business, then marketing
by front-line personnel is consistent with service marketing theory. As
librarians gain more and more experience with marketing, they have lessons
to share with their colleagues. Through the library literature, electronic
discussion lists, conferences, workshops, and seminars, librarians offer
each other guidance, suggestions, case studies, and helpful tips on how
to communicate value. The topics and approaches are as varied as the librarians
themselves. To compile and characterize these offerings would be a project
unto itself, however, they primarily seem to address what other people
think about librarians, what librarians should think about themselves,
and tactics to communicate value. Sample article titles on what librarians
and others think: "We Aren't a Stereotype" (Library Journal, 2000);
"Shattering Our Stereotype: Librarian's New Image" (Library Journal
1995); "The Librarian and the Crone — Myth and Reality?" (School Library
Journal 1991); "Careers and Occupational Image" (Journal of Information
Week published a picture of a librarian with a bun, glasses on a chain,
and sensible shoes in March 2002, the librarian discussion lists buzzed
in outrage. "How can they perpetuate that stereotype?" As librarians struggle
to shed their stereotypes, suggestions run from how to dress (more businesslike,
more casual, more like your boss, more like your boss's boss); to how to
act (more friendly, less rigid, more confident, less aloof); to what to
do (seize the day, get out of your comfort zone, be part of the team, make
money, save money).
Then come all the
helpful tips on how to do these things. Look for role models and emulate
them. Eugenie Prime and Lucy Lettis are wonderful examples of corporate
librarians who have captured the attention of their corporate decision
makers. Keep statistics and document the value of library services. Hand
out bookmarks, make yourself indispensable to upper management, anticipate
needs and fill them, offer added value, have an open house during National
Library Week. The strategies and tactics librarians espouse in the library
literature seem to have no end.
Is it working?
Can we measure the impact of the marketing efforts coming from library
associations, academic institutions, the information industry, and from
within the library community? I don't think we really know how effective
this work has been. I do know that there are still presidents of pharmaceutical
companies out there who think that they do not need to hire a librarian.
It is time to focus on the profession and the professional. A library without
a librarian is nothing more than a document storage facility. With or without
walls, librarians are masters of information retrieval, management, and
delivery. Nobody does it better, and that's the message that current customers,
prospective customers, and all humanity should hear.
The Marketing Plan
So what does marketing
theory suggest? And how can the diverse community of information professionals
effectively implement a coordinated marketing effort? We need a marketing
Plan: Mission Analysis
a marketing plan requires attention to mission analysis, market analysis,
resources analysis, promotion, and evaluation. Mission analysis requires
answers to questions such as these: "What business are we in?" "Who are
the customers?" "Which needs are we trying to satisfy?" "Which segments
do we want to focus on?" "Who are the main competitors?," "What advantages
do we offer the target market?" "What are the objectives?" Each individual
librarian or institution will come up with different answers to these questions.
For the purposes of this discussion, consider the broader community of
librarians or information managers.
in the business of information management. Librarians serve as the intermediary
between those who produce information and those who need or use it. Librarians
evaluate, identify, acquire, organize, package, summarize, filter, and
deliver information. Librarians manage information and deliver it in anticipation
of a need or in response to a request. The product that librarians offer
is ultimately service. How we offer or market that service can vary. It
can even be packaged to represent a tangible product. Ultimately, however,
we possess a unique skill set that prepares us to offer a unique service.
those who anticipate customer demands and satisfy them before the librarians
do. Anyone the customer perceives can meet these needs, whether the customer
is correct or not, is a competitor. The most formidable competitor is actually
the customer or prospective customer.
For guidance, look
at your own daily life, outside of the information management field. Think
of all the services you like to use. In making a decision to purchase a
service, one of your options is often to simply do it yourself. Do you
hire a realtor or sell your house direct? Do you take an item to the dry
cleaners or hand wash it? Do you hire an accountant to do your taxes or
fill out the forms yourself? As Harry Beckwith says in Selling the Invisible,
the "prospect faces three options: using your service, doing it themselves,
or not doing it at all."
The main goal of
our marketing effort is to convince the potential customer not only to
"do it," but to enlist a librarian to participate.
Advantages of a Librarian
a number of advantages to the target market. As Barbara Quint has said,
the librarian, in some respects, is a unique generalist within an organization
or a community. In most environments, the librarian's perspective affords
the opportunity to reach every segment of the community and to have a general
understanding of the needs of the whole. The librarian offers information
management skills based upon specialized training and experience that neither
the competitors nor the individuals in the organization possess. These
perspectives and skills give the librarian opportunities to serve the customers
with efficiency and effectiveness, saving time and resources.
manager's mission should be to serve as the primary conduit for transmission
of information from wherever it exists to wherever it is needed. (Special
thanks to marketing expert and spouse Blair Shamel for this wording.)
The goal of an industry wide marketing plan should be to position librarians
so that customers and prospective customers and employers see them as information
managers and as the first choice for delivery of information services in
order to increase employment opportunities and salaries.
is the next step in developing a marketing plan. What does the marketplace
look like? What products do customers buy now and what products do they
need? What are the trends in the information industry? Is the market segmented?
If so, what are the segments?
There is still
a lot to know about the marketplace for information services. Librarians
are catching on to the concept of market research and analysis. More and
more librarians strive to understand the needs of their particular market
segments in order to better meet those needs. Remember that we will need
separate market research efforts to understand the needs of prospective
customers. Survey tools include focus groups, mail surveys, telephone surveys,
and personal interviews. Librarians can, and probably should, use all these
tools at one point or another. Beckwith, in Selling the Invisible,
strongly recommends telephone surveys conducted by a third party. He says,
"A basic principle in life applies to surveying clients: Even your best
friends won't tell you, but they will talk behind your back." Listen. Try
to understand not only what the market needs, but what it wants. Think
of ways to satisfy the customer, rather than reasons why you cannot.
Trends and Perceptions
For the information
management industry as a whole, there is some indication that the growth
area lies in special libraries. The Occupational Outlook Handbook
notes, "Opportunities will be best for librarians outside traditional settings.
Nontraditional library settings include information brokers, private corporations,
and consulting firms." A November/December1997 article by Donna Dolan in
concurs, noting, "Most new jobs are at corporate libraries and information
centers." Blaise Cronin also observed that public library use continues
to grow, most likely as a result of Internet access.
perceive librarians as willing to help. They value the librarian's research
skills and ability to filter and organize content for intranets and in
other online environments. On the other hand, librarians have the image
of being slow to change, bureaucratic, and somewhat controlling. The literature,
the conference presentations, the electronic discussion lists, and personal
experience all indicate that, in general, people do not know what librarians
do and are capable of doing. Among customers and prospects, the general
understanding of library services is hazy at best.
For the purposes
of this marketing plan, which seeks to position librarians so that customers
and prospective customers and employers see them as information managers
and as the first choice for delivery of information services, the market
has two segments. First are the customers who currently receive professional
information management services from a librarian, and second are those
represents the next step in developing a marketing plan. What do information
managers have to offer the marketplace? What resources are available to
implement this plan? Librarians possess core competencies in the collection,
organization, and dissemination of information. The Competencies of
Special Librarians for the 21st Century from SLA provides an outline
for all librarians.
Besides a unique
perspective on the organization and a unique set of skills, librarians
offer a mix of products and services not otherwise available. The Internet,
information technology, market research firms, and desktop computers all
offer information of some sort. None of these offer the complete package
a librarian brings. The product mix librarians offer includes professionally
filtered, verified, summarized, and formatted information delivered in
a timely, cost effective way to fulfill an anticipated or identified need.
Resources to implement
the plan will have to come from the sources already doing marketing. A
measure of refocusing and reallocation of resources will be required. This
can be done easily enough once participants commit to the marketing plan.
the strategies and tactics needed to deliver the marketing message, we
must understand the barriers which might keep the customer from "buying
At a very early
age, members of the public have the stereotypical image of the librarian
ingrained in their consciousness. The image could be developed as early
as preschool, depending upon the tone set by some unknown librarian in
the children's room of the public library. The elementary school child
in some states may not even see a librarian at school, so the impressions
gained there might come from a volunteer or aide. No matter where it comes
from — a volunteer, a teacher's aide, or a certified school librarian —
there are plenty of opportunities in this environment to serve as a model
for the bureaucratic, rule-enforcing, fine-imposing librarian.
In public and academic
libraries, most customers do not see the demanding, information management
responsibilities that occupy most librarians. They see the public service
area and all the library personnel who work there. The behavior of each
library staffer reflects upon the organization as a whole, including the
librarian. There is no clear outward and visible sign of who's who, such
as the doctor's white coat and stethoscope, or the foreman's white hardhat,
as opposed to the laborers' yellow. So for some customers and potential
customers, the stereotype lives on. (Please, please, please understand
that the author knows well that hundreds of librarians do not fit this
stereotype, but research and experience indicate that some do.)
is the competition. Librarians should realize that their biggest competitor
is the customer or the prospect. Children are taught from a very early
age to "use the library," but the message to "use the librarian" is not
delivered as strongly. Public and academic library customers often do not
ask for help either. They may be embarrassed or not realize that the librarian
is willing and able to help.
industry wants customers to believe that with the right tools, they actually
CAN go it alone. Vendors and service providers offer no end of information
solutions such as news feeds, user-friendly databases, and one-stop shopping
for all the answers. What the vendor doesn't tell the customer relates
to all the alternatives beyond the one the vendor is selling. A good information
manager would know the full range of information alternatives and would
carefully select the one which would best meet the customers' needs.
Yet another barrier
lies within the library community's own sphere of influence. As a profession,
librarians lack a coordinated approach to marketing. Library associations,
for instance, have differing goals with differing approaches to serving
their constituency. Too often, librarians preach to the choir, sharing
advice, strategies, and experiences only with one another. Library schools
systematically fail to offer appropriate training to those who will ultimately
be responsible for communicating who their graduates are and what they
Market Analysis, Resource Analysis: Summary
So, the goal of
the industrywide marketing plan is to position librarians as the primary
conduit for the transmission of information from wherever it exists to
wherever it is needed. For example, consider lawyers and accountants. In
general, people understand that for authoritative guidance about the law,
they should contact a lawyer. For a professional audit or accounts management,
they should contact an accountant. When people need authoritative information,
they should think to call upon a librarian
plan differs from current efforts in that it addresses the profession more
than the individual professional. Think along the lines of the "Got milk?"campaign,
only this is "Got librarian?"In order to broaden and elevate the opportunities
of the individual information professional, the information management
profession needs its own unifying branding and identity.
Strategies and Tactics
Given the situation
as outlined here, what possible strategies and tactics can the library
community implement that would address these issues in the third millennium?
What strategies and tactics will address the situation of the long-standing
stereotypical image? Some have said it is too ingrained, and we should
just accept it and move on. Actually, the stereotype could serve as a symbol.
Allstate has the good hands, Prudential has the rock, and librarians have
the bun and the glasses down the nose. Beckwith in Selling the Invisible
a case for acknowledging and building upon the popular perception. Imagine
this: The business manager is lost in a sea of papers calling for answers.
Enter, the librarian with the hair and the glasses to save the day. At
least the viewer will understand who the hero is.
Teach librarians and library staff to project a professional image.
Barrier: The Customer
Thinks He Can (Or Should Be Able to) Do It Himself
Sell library schools
on the need to include meaningful marketing training in the core curriculum.
The curriculum should teach every student how to develop a marketing plan.
Demonstrate the "I'm
here to help you" role to children throughout their school years.
Include degree credentials
in signature, signature file attachments, and on name badges.
Learn to speak authoritatively,
avoiding qualifiers such as, "It seems to me...." and "I could be wrong,
Network with other
professionals in your organization
Adopt the generic
title of information manager, with an unambiguous job title such as research
analyst or director of information services
Realize that most
customers believe that people who work in libraries are librarians, so
train and empower all library workers to understand the importance of putting
the customers needs first.
Communicate the skills and value an information professional can offer.
with vendors and suppliers to reach organizations which have no librarian.
Create or identify
"a story" and write for publications the customers read, such as Fortune
Week.Be able to quantify and illustrate the value.
with thought leaders in business and in the customer's industry. Assist
thought leaders in writing and speaking on behalf of the information professional
(valuable thought leaders include Peter Drucker, Tom Peters, Jack Welch,
Tim Berners-Lee, Michael Porter).
Provide vendors with
contact information for the Association of Independent Information Professionals
(AIIP). Customers can obtain professional information services without
increasing headcount. AIIP already has referral services arranged through
liaison with major vendors such as Dialog and Factiva.
develop and offer training materials to Dialog, LexisNexis, and other industry
sales representatives to help them recommend librarians to customers who
do not have one.
and presentations to offer at the potential customer's conferences and
Team with the American
Management Association to develop information management workshops and
seminars targeted to customers and prospects.
with vendor support to go into trade and professional publications of prospects.
Library Associations Operate in Isolation from One Another, Each Employing
Its Own Marketing Campaign
Find ways for associations to communicate the common message — the primary
conduit for moving information from where it exists to where it is needed
is the information professional.
These examples illustrate
the kinds of strategies and tactics that the library community as a whole
can employ to market the professional services librarians offer. There
is room for all of the standard promotional efforts familiar to librarians,
including the bookmarks and the National Library Week Open House. The next
step in the marketing plan is Evaluation. This should begin with the implementation
of the first tactic, to prepare for adjustments needed for future efforts.
adopt the message as policy.
work the message into their speeches and presentations.
proactively deliver the message in media interactions.
The Marketing Mission
a unique and important role in the scheme of human endeavor. Take every
opportunity and every means available to communicate that role. Employ
the techniques of service marketing, exploit the stereotypes, and coordinate
efforts. This can be done.
My turn! My turn!
A darkened office
late at night. Poor Soul, tie awry, hair mussed, staring hopelessly in
a blind panic at a computer screen. Suddenly reality loses its control.
Midget figures start roaring out of his computer from a Web search engine
results sheet, tens, hundreds, thousands! They start marching around him,
over him, taking over the office, drinking his coffee. Pandemonium!
Suddenly the door
swings open. In strides InfoPRO, bun in place, looking down over her half-glasses
at the Poor Soul, a smile of omniscient pity on her face. Then she turns
and, eyebrow arching, flashes a glance at the frozen midget figures. Immediately
the mass of them flee back into the computer. The remainder, down to a
couple dozen now, stand docilely in two nice, straight lines. She marches
up and down the line, then carefully reaches out and plucks one from the
back and hands it to the Poor Soul. True love. Angelic choir. Ambient light
The Librarian has
saved the day — again.
Well, that would
work for the TV ads, but what about the single fixed image required by
print ads? Hmm. Same backdrop. Same Poor Soul. InfoPRO has hand on his
shoulder and reaches over to hit an icon marked Librarian's Choice. Light
starts to pour from the machine and Poor Soul's face shows the dawn of
Motto: "Want to
Know? Ask a Pro — InfoPRO, that is!"
Your turn now. (Send ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org
The Name Problem
Job titles for
information titles include librarian, information specialist, business
information coordinator, cataloger, computer services manager, information
officer, information coordinator, information consultant, knowledge manager,
research analyst, technological information librarian, and Webmistress.
No wonder we have an image problem.
the simple and functional title of librarian serves the profession as a
whole rather poorly in the third millennium. According to The American
Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, a librarian is "a person
who is a specialist in library work." Does that describe what you do? People
who understand and give advice on the law are called lawyers. People who
understand and give advice on accounting are accountants. Can people who
understand and give advice on information be informationers or informants?
Probably not, but information manager is very descriptive of the
information professional's skill set and works nicely as the broader term
with librarian as a narrower term. Information manager has the benefit
of the hierarchical term "manager," which puts this individual a rung up
the organizational ladder. It can be used generically and need not replace
descriptive job titles such as director of news research.
On the other side
of the equation, librarians have patrons, customers, associates, and clients.
If information managers work with "patrons," the term could strike a "patronizing"
tone, as though they are being supported, championed, or protected as a
cause, possibly in a condescending manner. A customer buys goods
or services and an associate is a partner, ally, or friend. Ah, but a client
is "the party for which professional services are rendered." Lawyers have
clients, accountants have clients, and information mangers have clients.
So, professional information managers work for and with clients.
of Special Librarians of the 21st Century
1.1. has expert
knowledge of the content of information resources, including the ability
to critically evaluate and filter them.
Evaluates print, CD-ROM, and online versions of databases. Knows "the best"
textbooks, journals, and electronic resources in specific areas such as
biology, marketing, and accounting. Evaluates and selects key information
resources, print and electronic, for a small research center. Sets up a
desktop news wire service for a petrochemical company. Controls the oversupply
of information by selecting what is relevant and usable for the customer.
Uses strategic thinking to perform information selection and analysis that
meets specific organizational goals.
1.2. has specialized
subject knowledge appropriate to the business of the organization or client.
In addition to their master's degree in library and information studies,
many special librarians have subject degrees at the undergraduate and postgraduate
levels. Librarians frequently take additional courses in finance, management,
or other subjects related to their host organization. The librarian monitors
and scans the organization's area of business by reading core journals
and other key sources. This enables the development of in-depth, subject
specialty information services, including current awareness.
and manages convenient, accessible and cost-effective information services
that are aligned with the strategic directions of the organization.
Develops a strategic plan linked to the business goals of the organization.
Sets up effective management, supervision, and budget processes. Builds
an effective information services staff team. Conducts intermediary searches
for complex, difficult, or multifile searches. Obtains documents in print
or electronic form. Builds a core in-house library collection. Analyzes
and synthesizes information as required. Develops specialized thesauri
and lists of indexing terms for databases.
excellent instruction and support for library and information service users.
Teaches Internet courses for employees. Develops specialized end-user searching
courses on information resources related to current business goals. Keeps
up-to-date with the latest training and instructional techniques. Provides
troubleshooting service for employees who are accessing information services
from the desktop. Provides online reference and assistance.
information needs and designs and markets value-added information services
and products to meet identified needs.
Conducts regular needs assessments using research tools such as questionnaires,
focus groups, and key informant interviews. Reports the results to management
and demonstrates the relationship between needs and the services provided.
Identifies and meets information needs by becoming a member of project
teams. Contributes unique or unusual needs assessment findings to the professional
1.6. uses appropriate
information technology to acquire, organize, and disseminate information.
Creates an online catalog of the library collection. Links catalog searching
to a document delivery service. Works with the information management team
to select appropriate software and hardware for desktop access to the library
catalog and other databases. Provides a support service for electronic
information service users. Keeps up-to-date with new electronic information
products and modes of information delivery.
1.7. uses appropriate
business and management approaches to communicate the importance of information
services to senior management.
Develops a business plan for the library. Calculates a return on investment
for the library and its services. Develops a marketing plan for the library.
Conducts a benchmarking study. Reports to management on continuous quality
improvement efforts. Demonstrates how library and information services
add value to the organization. Acts as a resource for the organization
on quality management, including ISO 9000 certification.
specialized information products for use inside or outside the organization
or by individual clients.
Creates databases of in-house documents such as reports, technical manuals,
or resource materials used for special projects. Creates searchable full-text
document files. Makes available online technical manuals. Creates a home
page on the World Wide Web for the organization. Links the home page to
other sites of interest on the Internet. Participates in knowledge management
activities that create, capture, exchange, use, and communicate the organization's
the outcomes of information use and conducts research related to the solution
of information management problems.
Gathers data related to needs assessment, program planning, and evaluation.
Develops measures of frequency of use of services, customer satisfaction,
and impact of information on organizational decision-making. Actively seeks
opportunities for improvement and strives to be the best-in-class on key
services such as current awareness, reference, and resource sharing. Participates
in research projects.
improves information services in response to changing needs.
Monitors industry trends and disseminates information to key people in
the organization or to individual clients. Refocuses information services
on new business needs. Uses just-in-time document delivery to retain maximum
flexibility. Monitors purchases of information products by departments
to ensure that they are cost-effective and aligned with current business
1.11. is an
effective member of the senior management team and a consultant to the
organization on information issues.
Participates in strategic planning in the organization. Participates in
benchmarking and reengineering teams. Informs management on copyright issues
and monitors compliance with copyright law. Negotiates contracts with database
vendors. Obtains patent information. Develops information policies for
2.1. is committed
to service excellence.
Seeks out performance feedback and uses it for continuous improvement.
Conducts regular user surveys. Asks library users if they found the information
to be relevant and of value. Celebrates own success and that of others.
Takes pride in a job well done. Shares new knowledge with others at conferences
and in the professional literature. Uses the research knowledge base of
special librarianship as a resource for improving services.
2.2. seeks out
challenges and sees new opportunities both inside and outside the library.
Takes on new roles in the organization that require an information leader.
Uses library-based knowledge and skills to solve a variety of information
problems in a wide range of settings. Expands the library collection beyond
traditional media such as books and journals. Creates the library without
2.3. sees the
Recognizes that information-seeking and use are part of the creative process
for individuals and organizations. Sees the library and its information
services as part of the bigger process of making informed decisions. Gives
the highest priority to urgent demands for information that are critical
to the organization's competitive advantage. Monitors major business trends
and world events. Anticipates trends and pro-actively realigns library
and information services to take advantage of them.
2.4. looks for
partnerships and alliances.
Seeks alliances with management information systems (MIS) professionals
to optimize complementary knowledge and skills.
on the information management team. Forms partnerships with other libraries
or information services inside or outside the organization to optimize
resource sharing. Seeks alliances with database vendors and other information
providers to improve products and services Seeks alliances with researchers
in faculties of library and information studies to conduct relevant and
an environment of mutual respect and trust.
Treats others with respect and expects to be treated with respect in return.
Knows own strengths and the complementary strengths of others. Delivers
on time and on target and expects others to do the same. Creates a problem-solving
environment in which everyone's contribution is valued and acknowledged.
Helps others to optimize their contribution.
2.6. has effective
Listens first and then coaches staff and others to develop their own solutions.
Supports and participates in mentorship programs and succession planning.
Runs meetings effectively. Presents ideas clearly and enthusiastically.
Writes clear and understandable text. Uses plain language. Requests feedback
on communications skills and uses it for self-improvement.
2.7. works well
with others in a team.
Learns about the wisdom of teams and seeks out opportunities for team participation.
Takes on responsibility in teams both inside and outside the library. Mentors
other team members. Asks for mentoring from others when it is needed. Constantly
looks for ways to enhance personal performance and that of others through
formal and informal learning opportunities.
Learns about and cultivates the qualities of a good leader and knows when
to exercise leadership. Can share leadership with others and allow others
to take the leadership role. Exercises leadership within the library and
as a member of other teams or units within the organization. Seeks opportunities
for leadership in the profession. Acknowledges the contribution of all
members of the team.
prioritizes, and focuses on what is critical.
Recognizes that, in order to use resources most effectively, ongoing careful
planning is required. Develops an approach to planning and time management
that incorporates a balance of personal and professional goals. Reviews
goals on a regular basis, prioritizes them, and makes sure that an appropriate
proportion of daily activities are related to the most critical personal
and professional goals. Mentors others to do the same.
2.10. is committed
to lifelong learning and personal career planning.
Committed to a career that involves ongoing learning and knowledge development.
Takes personal responsibility for long-term career planning and seeks opportunities
for learning and enrichment. Advocates for a work environment that encourages
and supports ongoing knowledge development and that values the contribution
of people. Maintains a strong sense of self-worth based on the achievement
of a balanced set of evolving personal and professional goals.
2.11. has personal
business skills and creates new opportunities.
Recognizes that, in the changing world of work, entrepreneurship and the
ability to function as a professional in a small business are essential
skills. Seeks out opportunities to develop these skills. Willing to take
employment in a variety of forms, including full-time, contract, and project
work. Uses the entrepreneurial spirit in the organizational environment
to revitalize products and services.
the value of professional networking and solidarity.
Active in SLA and other professional associations. Uses these opportunities
to share knowledge and skills, to benchmark against other information service
providers, and to form partnerships and alliances. Recognizes the need
for a forum where information professionals can communicate with each other
and speak with one voice on important information policy issues, such as
copyright and the global information infrastructure.
2.13. is flexible
and positive in a time of continuing change.
Willing to take on different responsibilities at different points in time
and to respond to changing needs. Maintains a positive attitude and helps
others to do the same. Never says it cannot be done. Looks for solutions.
Helps others to develop their ideas by providing the right information.
Always on the lookout for new ideas. Sees and uses technology as an enabler
of new information ideas, products, and services. Special Libraries
Learn the Customer's
the message we need a common vocabulary. If those within the profession
use words consistently, usage could stretch beyond the profession, and
that would help. Let's use "knowledge management" as an example of "uncommon"
vocabulary. The HBR book on knowledge management refers to "making
personal knowledge available to others." HBR also uses "knowledge
management" as an index term in its online publications directory. The
thesaurus of terms is proprietary, however, so the context for using that
term is hidden.
Hugh McKellar of
passed along Melissie Clemmons Ruminzen's definition from the Complete
Idiot's Guide to Knowledge Management as "the systematic processes
by which knowledge needed for an organization to succeed is created, captured,
shared and leveraged." Finally, we have Chun Wei Choo's explanation from
Management for the Intelligent Organization. "In knowledge management,
the overall objective is to design the organization's strategy, structure,
processes, and systems so that the organization can use what it knows to
create value for its customers and community."
The business community
seems to consider knowledge management as a human resources effort to share
tacit knowledge among co-workers. Librarians tend to take the broader view,
as described by Choo. If we use the term knowledge management to describe
what we do, potential clients may get a different picture than the one
we intended. Knowledge management illustrates just one incidence of how
a single term can have multiple meanings. When describing the role of information
managers, it helps to use terms as our market uses them.
Cynthia L. Shamel's
e-mail address is email@example.com.