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ONLINE SEARCHER: Information Discovery, Technology, Strategies


Value, Values, Validation
September/October 2013 Issue

Proving our value is a never-ending concern for librarians and information professionals. New technologies can enhance the value not only of what we bring to our jobs, our employers, and our user base, but also of the resources we access. One major change has been the addition of video formats to traditional bibliographic databases. JoVE, the Journalof Visualized Experiments, is at the forefront of this sea change, but other publishers are testing the inclusion of video in their library products and adding metadata to make retrieval of visual images more reliable. Text-to-speech technologies allow articles in audio format, and automatic translation breaks down language barriers for transmitting information.

It’s not only the technicalities of format. Knowledge sharing through community building enhances the value of the people within an organization. As the roles of information professionals increasingly move toward knowledge management, our understanding of the technologies that underlie and encourage tacit knowledge enhance our value. Publishing is another growth area for information professionals. New skill sets contribute to our value proposition.

Value can be tricky. Does the amount of money you pay correlate with value? If it’s open access, is it valuable? If it’s free on the web, is it valuable? The old adage of “you get what you pay for” no longer applies in our information-rich world. When the same article from the same publisher can be had for multiple price points, it doesn’t change the value of the article. Knowing how to obtain the article for the lowest price does enhance the value of the information professional. Keeping up with changes in web search technologies and traditional databases also contributes to our value.

Where we fall behind sometimes is communicating our value. How you communicate the value of your skills and your department’s capabilities depends on the goals of your organization. Regardless of how you communicate your value, it’s imperative that you do so on a continuing, regular schedule.

Our value is rooted in our values. Information professionals believe in open access to information and decry censorship. We are fact-based people. We believe that people are entitled to their own opinions but not to their own facts. Words have meaning. Deciphering the validity of retrieved information is central to our value system. Recognizing what is included and excluded from our traditional resources and newer services such as Google Scholar reflects our values about providing complete and unbiased information.

The current transition from traditional duties to those dictated by technology, desired by our constituencies, or decided by our own interests and modes of working requires some form of validation. To prove value and stay true to our values, we must validate our professional activities. Tie activities to results. Publicize that your research results led to gaining an important new customer, getting grant money, creating scientific breakthroughs, or saving a life. Position yourself—become the information and knowledge leader, as indispensable to your organization. By validating what you do in the language of your organization, you implicitly prove your value.

Marydee Ojala is Editor-in-Chief of Online Searcher (the successor journal to ONLINE) and writes its business research column ("The Dollar Sign"). She has contributed feature articles and news stories to Information TodayEContentComputers in LibrariesIntranetsCyberSkeptic's Guide to the InternetBusiness Information Review, and Information Today's NewsBreaks. A long-time observer of the information industry, she speaks frequently at conferences, such as WebSearch University, Internet Librarian, Internet Librarian International, Computers in Libraries, and national library meetings worldwide. She has adjunct faculty status at the School of Library and Information Science at IUPUI (Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis). Her professional career began at BankAmerica Corporation, San Francisco, directing a worldwide program of research and information services. She established her independent information research business in 1987. Her undergraduate degree is from Brown University and her MLS was earned at the University of Pittsburgh.


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