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Vol. 10 No. 10 Nov/Dec 2002 
FEATURE  
Saving the Information Profession, Google, and the World: The 15th Annual SCOUG Retreat
by Carol Ebbinghouse Library Director, Western State University College of Law
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Friday Night Let the Event Begin

The traffic was terrible. Awful. It was hot, hot, hot in L.A. Everyone arrived with a story of cars flipped on their sides, crashes, construction, and other traffic stoppers. The 15th annual Southern California Online User Group (SCOUG) retreat did not seem to get off to an auspicious start. But with enough chips and salsa, a terrific barbecue dinner, and some wine, everyone began to settle down by dessert. The annual souvenir T-shirts, plus bags and hats from Nstein, the automated indexing software company which was one of this year's sponsors, were distributed. Dialog was another contributor, providing many of the little extras that made for a comfortable environment, such as bottled water, snacks, more wine, and other treats.

At 8:00 p.m. the informal greeting/meeting began. As usual, a representative from the La Casa de Maria Retreat House read us the rules; for some reason, he emphasized the one about quiet after 10:00 p.m. [Snicker, snicker, wink, wink.] SCOUG rules followed, specifically, the one that says that everyone can say anything, because it won't go further than these walls. We may arrive as customers, database vendors, producers, and competitors, but while here we are all colleagues looking for the ties that bind us.

This year we had eight newcomers, and 20 old timers, er, veterans. (Yeah, veterans.)

Randy Marcinko of Nstein was the Master of Ceremonies. Why did we come? Because the SCOUG retreat is "the summer camp for rowdy information professionals." Where would this year's theme take us? This year's theme asked: "What Are the Skills Needed for Tomorrow?" Few here have "traditional" backgrounds. What got us here? What skills will define our industry in the next 5 years? What are the traditional skills of information professionals, the skills we need today? What skills will we need tomorrow that we should be acquiring today? Taxonomists, ontologists, catalogers, or librarians? What are we? Are we still the same but with different names? If not, who are these new people, e.g., the ones just discovering metadata, the ones who don't know that librarians and information professionals have been providing and searching for information for decades?

One SCOUG-er points out, "We need to market ourselves and inform people about our skills. We need to package our expertise to these new companies and people. Those new people are into the technology, but we have the respect for the information. For them it is content. For us it is learning and knowledge and information much more than data. Why were we perceived as gatekeepers? Why do other people have the perception of themselves as liberating information? Is it all language?" 

These are the questions we will wrestle with for the rest of the weekend, beginning tomorrow. Traditional and non-traditional roles for the future.

The movie is playing inside. The wine is on the patio. Enjoy the rest of the evening!
 

Saturday Morning

After a wonderful La Casa breakfast, we shuffle into the great meeting room. Dozens of helium-filled balloons surround us, tied to chairs, podiums, marker boards, the TV/VCR cart, and anything else that wouldn't fly away. Our mood floats as high as the balloons.

Forward to the topic of the day the skills of the future.

Many of us trained in traditional library skills have applied them well in non-traditional careers. We use these skills to design, create, produce, and sell databases, to create indexing systems, etc. A number of us recognize the need to communicate better with upper management, use financial models and spreadsheets effectively, and speak their language. Some sought mentors to take us to top-level meetings to learn where our organizations are going. We all recognized the need to train on the job, continue everyone's education, and improve and expand skills. 

We have to learn to adapt to management, administration, and executives learn their "speak," understand their habits and environments, their aspirations, etc. We thrive on ideas, creative work, and every day being different and we enjoy finding an answer or getting other little epiphanies during the day. Do they? How, when, and why do they feel good at work?

At least one person thought the librarian-types must destroy the civil servant mentality and break free to take risks. Timid managers who are too afraid to do anything wrong stay with heads down "below the radar" and fail. The skills of management and leadership are essential when librarians begin to rise in the ranks and begin managing. Traditional librarian types also need to learn marketing of themselves, their programs, products, and libraries. One attendee suggested traditionalists earn an MBA in Management of Information. Right now she can't find a librarian with the business skills she requires, so she has to hire MBAs with research skills. 

ALERT!!

Just as the general discussion about traditional vs. new skills was getting started, a SCOUG member rushed in with a "breaking news" story created to spark the discussion for the first small group meetings.

FLASH: Google is in trouble, and the backers are departing. It must lay off 50 percent of the people tomorrow. The rest may be gone by the end of the month! SCOUG to the rescue!!!

Do we use our traditional or non-traditional skills? How do we solve the problems of Google? We are informed that there will be a traditional group, a non-traditional group, and a hybrid group tapping all skills. We have a 2-year timeline. Will SCOUG's Google succeed or will we kill it? The scenario asks, "What form will Google take in the next 2 years? What will be the deliverables? How do we sell them? To whom? What skills will bring the company and/or the professionals to the top?" 

The teams are asked to define their terms, then attack the problem. 
 

The Traditional Group

Random selection put me in the "traditional" group.

The team began to define the term Traditional as timid, avoiding the radar, applying for unemployment, and hoping changes would go away. The Traditional wouldn't go about looking for a company likely to purchase Google or initiate a campaign for more venture capital. 

No, the Traditional would network actively. S/he would take advantage of the infrastructure that they know and use collegial and strategic alliances and cooperatives. Perhaps s/he might find a university that has a think tank with entrepreneurial specialists in a number of fields, including information companies. All agreed that the Traditionals would do thorough research to avoid re-inventing the wheel. They would suggest alignment with another technology company. Traditionals would want to choose tried-and-true partners (Microsoft, Sun, and OCLC). They might approach library consortia to license Google software for a fee to generate income. 

This is like fixing potholes in roads.

Two Years Hence

In the first 6 months of our plan, we felt the Traditional would have named an info professional as CEO (perhaps an Associate Dean a major library school would lend to us for 6 months while paying his/her salary) to oversee the transition. Half the employees were terminated, with the information pros kept on. Traditionals would lose the MBAs and focus on the networking, negotiating, and customers. 

Or, we might return to the origins of Google a project at Stanford and a nonprofit model. Perhaps we would set up a new board, with business acumen in the information industry, academia, business, venture capital, and other backgrounds. Information, archiving, retrieval all are our skills. The business aspect is where the Traditional needs help. 

Traditionalists can't imagine change and doing away with Google. They will want to evaluate and research everything, all options. But we don't have time to do all of these to the extent that we would like. We must act serially, concurrently, and take risks. 

Traditionals, we believe, would put together a grant proposal for foundation grants or apply for government assistance. Some thought that perhaps the Library of Congress, the National Library of Medicine (NLM), the Association of Research Libraries, Research Libraries Group (RLG), and/or OCLC (the Online College Library Center) might serve as models. 

Traditionals would keep the business development and infrastructure in place, e.g., the IT chief and a few others from the old company, then get experts to fill the knowledge gaps. We put it out in stages. First study issues, get grant proposal accepted for temporary funding. Find a policy-making home. Assemble a blue ribbon panel to find out what customers want to use and what kind of company they want to invest in. 

We finally decided that Traditionals might take Google to Washington to become a government branch to take its maintenance on as a national resource like NTIS, LC, Homeland security agency, etc. 

Six to 12 Months Out

Second stage is morph to Google.gov or Google.org. We would keep the Google name for its wide recognition and build on its good will. Traditionals would create public service announcements (PSAs) about service if we went the OCLC model, or emulate the Consumer Information Center if using the NLM model. Google first goes to NLM then partners with Homeland Security to help the FBI do intelligence gathering and analyzing, indexing, enabling them to "snoop" global information, etc. States and their agencies also would contract with Google to license the software. Some members of the group imagined a French Minitel system model. PSAs would replace sponsored links. And, finally, there would be a means for immediate information disbursement to the nation: Google.gov.

We dreamt up a new campaign, like Smokey Bear's PSA on fighting forest fires: "Google is your best friend on the Internet." We imagined creating a kid-friendly Google, dot-kids dot-gov, and of course a Seniors.Google.gov. Finally the government would have a user-friendly way to communicate with its citizens. 

Challenges would include political infighting and positioning. We felt it would be difficult to get government departments to cooperate. Employees will have a civil service mentality, so we will need to keep them motivated (very traditional). We felt that the leadership should not be a political appointment (such as Librarian of Congress) that might go to some non-information professional. We felt the need to keep good ideas from getting slapped down by bureaucrats. The Library of Congress, NLM, and other departments could end up fighting to host our Google. 

Then suddenly, it came to us!! Why take 2 years? If we can guarantee we have 2 years funding from the foundations (Gates and others), we can announce that we should be part of the Homeland Security bill currently before Congress, to get a new home immediately. 

Al Gore, who claimed to have invented the Internet, might claim to be the guy who saves Google!!!!! So we use him as a spokesman. We can move internationally in 2 years. Finally, to be independent of different operating systems, we move to an open source platform.

Traditionals are most comfortable in non-profit and/or government organizations, creating new specialized products for discreet population groups (like adult and children's sections), and trying to create public awareness of the services and products.
 
Hybrid Chart
Department Traditional Skills Non-Traditional Skills
Executive Management Generalists
Communication
Collaborative
Active listener
Creative, visionary
Financial wizard
Assertive 
Political skills
Understands business
People skills
Sales and Marketing Communication
Product knowledge
Market researchInvestigative
Generalists
Competitive Intelligence
Creativity
People Skills
Liaison
Market Analysis
Sales skills
Finance Organization
Analytical skillsCommunication
Financial analysis
Profit and Loss awareness
Investor Relations
Product Development
and Management
Source knowledge
Research skills
Cataloging
Search skills
Competitive Intelligence
Reference interview(listening skills)
Innovation
Uses of technology
Accountability
Management skills
(processes and people)
Business Development Collaborative
Research skills
Creativity
Negotiation skills
Information Technology Understands the structure and use of information Understands use of 
technology

The Hybrid Group

The Hybrid Group decided to come up with attributes of each group's skills.

Traditionals
Service aspects, but passive
Cataloging orientation 
Reference interview
  Investigative, analytical, intuitive
  Listening skills for clarification
  Structural understanding of information transfer
  Communication skills
Source knowledge
Collaborative skills
Research skills and competitive intelligence

Non-Traditional
Market analysis
Business model of for-profit
Management skills
Productivity
Negotiation
Marketing
Proactive customer service
Financial analysis
Risking
Competitive information
Sales skills, communication
Technology and innovation

The structure of the new organization must capitalize on both the traditional and non-traditional skills required. Traditional skilled people, especially, need to be in all departments. The Hybrids mapped out the departments and the skills required for Google's success (see the chart on page 33).
 

The Non-Traditional Group

This group was much more task-oriented and unencumbered by anything perceived as "traditional."

First, they would conduct market research to identify the customers. They would develop a strategic plan and consider re-branding and expansion into the global market. They decided to focus on a theme: "Google for you!" This included Google for Kids, Golden Google (for seniors), and Google for Singles. Test marketing would now be required along with a search for partners and co-branding opportunities. Likely candidates were cereal companies, toy companies, and malls for the kids; AARP, travel companies, healthcare, and pharmaceutical companies for seniors; vitamin supplements, alcoholic beverage, and travel companies, as well as wireless providers, for the singles. 

The job titles in this non-traditional environment would be Taxonomist, Collection Developer, Sales Force, Negotiator, Project Managers, Lawyer, Market Researcher, Virtual Team Leader, Programmer, Product Designer, System Analyst, and Finance (strategic perspective).

We had lots to discuss as we adjourned for lunch. 
 

Saturday Afternoon 2002

We began continuing the morning's discussions: What will happen, will we need our traditional skills and/or must we learn new skills? Will we be morphed?

Then another "news bite" from the SCOUG leaders:

Flash!!! Investigative report from CNN: National security is at risk. FBI, CIA, NSA can't search the Internet either haven't been searching and/or don't know how to do it well. 

From Homeland Security: A new alert The Library of Congress and other information sites are the next terrorist targets. 

From the White House, Laura Bush, a former librarian, comes on and announces a Request For Proposal of $2 billion for proposing a comprehensive information service for national security.

SCOUG rallies to the challenge. We have the afternoon to prepare proposals. The nation depends upon us to create a Homeland Information Center.

Three new task forces are formed, and I am in group 2.

Our orders are to take Google as a vehicle to locate and track the information that the Homeland Security office needs.

We quickly assess Google's assets: multiple languages and translation devices; experts in taxonomy; skills with images and imaging technology; and ability to search through vast quantities of information using its search technology. With other partners such as Nstein automated indexing, LOCKSS (Lots of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe) from Stanford University, and PIERS for tracking shipping manifests in our ports we can do it!! 

We will use Google to crawl NSA, FBI, CIA, and other existing databases to find and analyze the security and criminal information currently available. We can map the intelligence to other departments and disseminate the information when and where needed. This information can be laid over information in databases of other federal, state, and regional agencies that now stand as isolated data silos. Contradictions will be flagged and gaps in information identified for follow-up. No longer will the INS be at risk for approving a visa for the subject of a criminal investigation by foreign agents. Some information gaps can be filled by searching proprietary, commercial databases such as Dialog. Google relevancy determinations can assess the relevance of disparate information and create links to other information of a potential threat to America and other countries. 

The information system will need to detect text embedded in images' pixels. For instance, an e-mail says, "Look at lamppost" and then you see the attached image(s) with text embedded on the photo of a lamp post. The system must be able to scan e-mails for attachments. It must handle full multimedia not just photographs, but games, movies, videos, recordings, and other kinds of attachments and files.

Our design of the Homeland Information Center provides for a distributed system with multiple locations. We will coordinate with LOCKSS, which saves and automatically updates Internet information. If a hacker gets at one copy, other copies replace it. 

Global positioning will be integrated into the system to spot trucks, container ships, trains, and other targets. The Piers database of ship manifests on containers coming into harbors will be culled. Our system looks for inconsistent and missing information (airlines, trucks and trains and ships in harbors; licenses of the pilots, drivers, pilots and engineers, etc.).

Staff will be trained librarians/information professionals, highly skilled in technology, in linking like objects together, with the know-how to organize a search and think creatively. These professionals will focus on the information, not just the technology, and exhaustively search across sources. Taxonomy development will be better and faster, while others will conduct information audits to assure that all information needs are anticipated. 

Our team's system can tap various silos of information in CDI, FBI, INS, Social Security Administration, and departments of Interior, Agriculture, and other internal U.S. agency databases with information vital to national security. The design of the system will normalize the formats, fields, etc., in the various data silos with different operating systems and software. The new system will use open source software to eliminate problems left by now-defunct proprietary software companies. 

Sources will include not only the government's internal, open, proprietary databases, but also the records of car, truck, and equipment rental companies, public records such as licensing agencies (from the Bureau of Cosmetology to bar association records on lawyers), pharmaceutical company orders, the INS and Customs departments' passports and visas records, etc. In addition, we would seek access to such private databases as the Mormon database (for genealogy records), partnership with academic institutions and their databases, the media, not to mention access to traffic cameras (to read license plates) on roads, bridges, at intersections, etc. The new system will also develop an "expertise database" of live assets in science, transportation, law, border enforcement, and other fields available to consult with agencies, Homeland Security researchers, etc. 

Sophisticated searches will look for things and people out of pattern. One member of the group suggested that mystery and science fiction writers, as well as fiction librarians, search based on their creative imaginations of plots that might be hatched in the minds of terrorists. 
 

Saturday Night Our Presentations

Group Two (My Group)

We call our creation "SILO-SINC, the Proposal to Save the Homeland!" We are a company of librarians powered by Google and Dialog. 

Highly skilled librarians and information professionals are at every level of the organization chart, distributed across the entire company. Information professionals do a variety of jobs: 

  • Conduct needs assessments.  
  • Identify sources of information.  
  • Locate missing information. 
  • Normalize data.  
  • Develop taxonomies.  
  • Think creatively.  
  • Perform expert exhaustive searches.  
The technology includes:
  • The Google search engine  
  • Best relevancy algorithm in the world  
  • Analysis of text, images, games, movies, recordings 
  • Translation tools  
The key strategic partners are:
  • Nstein for taxonomies and linguistic analysis  
  • LOCKSS for security through distributed content, and  
  • Dialog and other proprietary databases  
The key features include:
  • The use of knowledge management techniques to process and analyze lots of disparate information 
  • Cross source searching for text embedded in images  
  • Scanning movies for terrorist ideas  
Self-supporting: 
  • First SILO-SINC takes proprietary information, analyses it and conforms the information for the benefit of the Homeland Information Center, and then returns it to the originator in usable form for a price. For instance, HMO organizations would provide prescription information to SILO-SINC for processing. SILO-SINC sends the resulting information to Homeland Information Center, and at the same time, massages the information and sells it back to the HMO which can in turn sell it to the drug companies. 
And what does SILO-SINC stand for? Security Information Logically Organized Stops Your Next Crisis 

And our trademark is a representation of three silos, all of which are interconnected by a network.

Group 1: NAG (North American Google)

They have the "best way" to improve homeland security. However, for security purposes, the audience would have to take a confidentiality test: So we were grilled: Have you ever visited the Library of Congress? Are you now or have you ever been a member of al Qaeda? Do you now have a bomb strapped to your back? Have you ever been asked to research a public building structure? It was decided that the audience could view the secret version, but not the entire version of their proposal.

NAG presented an RFP for the next 24 months (through 2004). NAG executives introduced themselves and their departments. The departments are government, international, technical, and content management, and on National Analysis, Mrs. Laura Bush (the President's wife, an information professional in her own right).

The Government liaison was committing $300 million to localized information units (NLM, Transportation, CDC, FAA, DoD) and constitutional experts to deal with privacy concerns. The International liaison wanted $100 million to gather cultural experts (to go beyond mere translations in order to understand the culture, motives, etc.), along with connections to Interpol.

The Technology liaison was committing $1 billion of the total $2 billion of the RFP for an AlterNet with "North American Google" as a front organization. In addition, there would be AlterNet 1 and 2 with back-up, redundancy, and mirrors. AlterNet 1 would run 1 hour ahead of Public Internet to preserve the data, scan for viruses and attacks, and AlterNet 2 would run 1 hour behind (a redundancy built into the system). This technology would be powered by methane, biogas, wind, solar, and potatoes to alleviate the power drain on the national power grid. They would sub-contract with CERT for virus identification. 

The Liaison for Staffing would take $400 million for terrorism intelligence, classification, storage and access, search log analysis, Usenets and Yahoo! groups, the taxonomy/thesaurus of terrorism to record activities, and media extraction to detect coded messages. In addition, they would automate the indexing, and use cryptographers to accomplish meaning extraction. 

Finally, Mrs. Bush proposed $200 million for a National Analysis Guard a conscription pulling people graduating from degree programs with MLIS, HCI, and AI programs. Everyone serves 2 weeks per year, and no one person knows more than their piece. "A few hours of your time, working with other professionals to use your traditional information skills to search the databases. Assuring homeland security through accurate information."

Group 3: Google Suprema Innovation

by Pamela C. Rollo

Scenario: The Library of Congress is threatened; the HIC is crippled by a slow and antiquated search engine that can only search for single four-letter terms.

The country appeals to Google to compete for the $2 billion grant to be spent in the service of national information security. The FBI and CIA are laid low by their inability to collect information and "connect the dots."

Group 3 decided that Google alone, despite its links with the National Library of Medicine [google.gov] and the institutional and personal google (both services of google.com), could not serve the country's needs. Instead, it would take advantage of its prestige and choose to create a consortium, similar to Semantech, which serves the semiconductor industry.

In a multimedia presentation to a congressional panel, the senior executives of Google used video teleconferencing to bring testimony from members of the proposed consortium on behalf of Google's strategy and expertise. The Senior Vice President from Google, Suprema Innovation, opened the testimony with an overview of Google's capabilities and the infrastructure of the consortium that was to be wrapped inside the corporate agency of General Electric, a multimillion-dollar, global corporation and parent of Google. She was interrupted by the Chairperson of General Electric, Redux Stockoptions. Madame Stockoptions had been testifying at another congressional subcommittee on extraordinary accounting activities recently manifested within major American businesses. Madame Stockoptions clearly demonstrated that a global conglomerate familiar with working in over 80 countries was the appropriate vehicle through which to gather and manage intelligence. GE would turn over all the capabilities of Google to this end just as the auto companies accepted their role as tank and airplane manufacturers during World War II. 

The Chairperson also considered GE the appropriate entity to take the lead, as it was also home to major distribution channels for either news or propaganda as the owner and controller of a TV network, several dozen radio and TV stations, and a vast satellite communications system.

At this point, Ms. Ernesta Exposure, senior anchor and correspondent, began continually reminding the panel as to the importance of communications outlets to this endeavor of collecting and distributing information. Our SVP from Google struggled for control over the enthusiasm in an effort to continue to drive Google's strength home to the panel. From an undisclosed and secret location, the CIA Operative ,"Stealthy," appeared to give her testimony as to why the intelligence agencies strongly support Google's capabilities and strengths. 

She was followed by Dr. Noble Project, Dean and President of a model Midwest university, who clearly outlined the benefits of hiring a Brain Trust (the name of the consortium) and the benefits of research: standardized formatting of information and transmission of data, automated indexing of information, the design of an automated translation program for intelligence not originating in English. This Brain Trust would solve the country's immediate challenges and go on to build additional intellectual tools as security demanded. 

Lastly, Seconda Chance, President and CEO of the leading telecommunications industry, testified that the necessary communications backbone and infrastructure were available, due to the overproduction of resources within the telecom industry during the '90s. Madame Seconda Chance also pointed out what an opportunity this would be for the telecommunications industry to stage a comeback and continue to make money.

Lastly, Ms. Suprema Innovation summed up Google's capabilities, its immediate position as organizer of the country's informationprogram, and respectfully submitted the testimony tothe Commission on the Saving of the United States Intelligence Infrastructure.
 

And the Winner Is...

Group 1 won. People liked the Laura Bush portrayal and the team had parsed out all of the money. One person gave a minority report that the SILO SINC acronym was better than NAG. A second minority report thought Mrs. Bush did a wonderful job, but Group 2 did a better presentation. Obviously it was a hotly contested battle.

Group 1 took a bow and people dispersed to either watch the movie of the evening, to celebrate, or drown their sorrows. 

Tomorrow is Sunday: Traditionally we recap our experience. We discuss skills, tactics, and the roles involved in the scenarios presented. We will put together the lessons we have learned.
 

Sunday Morning 2002

After a terrific breakfast of cheese blintzes and bacon, oatmeal, rolls, and assorted fresh-picked fruit, we trekked back to the meeting room. The balloons no longer strained to reach the ceiling. They seemed sad, and we weren't too perky, either.

Randy rang the big bell to call the stragglers to the meeting. 

The headline on page one of the Sunday edition July 28, 2002 LA Times read, "War on Terrorism Highlights FBI's Computer Woes," detailing the FBI's problems with not having a good information system: Lack of coordination, old equipment, incompatible systems, and a "real men don't type" mentality they don't even know what information they have. 

So SCOUG predicted the Times story!!!. The article decried the fact that "investigations are still largely paper-driven, and many agents use dinosaur-era computers or even write reports longhand in this era of high-speed Pentium processors. The FBI has 42 databases that often run on incompatible software and hardware. Simple searches allowing an agent in Minneapolis, for instance, to see whether the words "flight training school" show up in case files are unwieldy, if not impossible." And in discussing the massive problem, the article points out, "With millions of pieces of information collected by FBI investigators but no good way to sort it all out, officials admit that 'we don't know what we know.'"

This isn't the only time that the SCOUG retreaters have come up with an idea ahead of its time. Years ago we developed a product that at the press of a button would give you directions, call an ambulance, or give you nearby restaurant recommendations. Now most of us have the service installed in our cars. 

The FBI needs us; the Homeland Security Agency needs us. So why aren't these agencies banging on our doors? We have been able to communicate with each other very well, but we have to try to communicate our exciting ideas with the outside world. We also tend to wait for things to be perfect rather than taking risks and putting needed products and services out to the public.

What would or should we tell the FBI that it needs? We know sources, we know search engines, and we know retrieval. Then it dawned on us it is our skill set. Our traditional skills don't include communications, marketing, and risk taking. We understand and respect the information. Apparently for the FBI, the technology is now exciting, but content isn't and that is what the FBI needs!!

Many threw their ideas on the Web to see what the reaction would be. Do we want to risk or play it safe? Face it. Could any of us walk away from a job or mortgage the house to finance a business idea and say things like, "If this doesn't work we can always do something else"? 

Or, are we in this for the intellectual challenge? Money isn't the motivating factor, either.

We suggested an information audit for the FBI. But has anyone at KPMG, Arthur Andersen, or others ever sent information professionals such as librarians to conduct an information audit? Is there a librarian or information professional at the vice president level of any consulting firm? We don't talk about contributing to the bottom line can't say in three sentences what we can do for a company. MBA types can. They learn to communicate value to someone else.

SCOUG is the information industry think tank. This was our case study this year. Two people volunteer to draft a letter to the Times, and they promise to post it on the SCOUG Web site [http://www.scougweb.org]. We considered an open letter to Tom Ridge. How about a missive to the congressional oversight committee above the FBI? 

The major companies that contract with the government will put hundreds of dollars into this and go for the contract, blasting past us. But we can spark the idea. We don't have to pretend that we can bid on a federal contract. But with our training and experience, we can and should explain what needs to be done, because we know what needs to be done!

Information is costly to gather, maintain, and access efficiently. It is a commodity and can be incorporated into a number of products that you can package and resell. Information is like water: You don't think about it as long as it is available. But like a drought or flood, it can overwhelm you as a problem when there is no information available, or there is simply too much to weed through for what you need. We should sell it like bottled water, in designer packages, well branded with our consistently high quality. 
 

Conclusion

This year, like every year in the past, has been a unique experience. Each year I arrive weary from library conferences in hot places, tired, and wondering whether this year will be my last. Each year I thrive and am revitalized by meeting people from all points in the information universe. The database producers pump me for ideas on changing their systems. I gripe about features that their company's systems lack. Meeting librarians from so many public, private, and academic environments allows us to share our unifying similarities. Speaking of the environment, the peace and rural quiet of La Casa de Maria's retreat center is the perfect counterpoint to high-tech facilities and discussions.

I love this place and I love these people. You bet I'll be there next year!


Carol Ebbinghouse's e-mail address is carole@wsulaw.edu
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