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Magazines > Online > March/April 2004
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Online Magazine
Vol. 28 No. 2 — March/April 2004
Information Creation
By Marydee Ojala • Editor

Most information professionals, when asked what they do, respond with a variation on an information retrieval theme. Boiled down to its essence, it says that an information professionals' mission in life is to provide the information you need, when you need it, in the format you need it. The best of information professionals personalize this message, tailoring it to the audience. Engineers are told the information will keep bridges from falling down. Bankers are told the information will keep loans from going south. Lawyers are told the information will help them win cases. Sales personnel are told the information will help them identify prospective customers. Chemists are told the information will identify new compounds and new uses for old compounds.

This is all well and good. In fact, phrasing our work descriptions in our clients' terms is an excellent marketing technique. But it doesn't go far enough. What information professionals overlook is the creative nature of information work—the act of information creation. We not only retrieve information, we transform that information into something new and different.

We can be creative by summarizing what we've found. This consists of a factual rendition of information uncovered in the process of online research. Even more creative is analyzing what we've found. This goes beyond a simply summary to draw conclusions from the facts gleaned from online research. Analysis implies that information professionals have sufficient knowledge and awareness of the research topic to have and express valid opinions that will help the end user of the information make informed decisions.

Although it may not sound as creative as summarizing and analyzing, even the arrangement of information can be transformational. If a particular Web site, journal article, or graph is featured prominently in delivered results, it has more impact on the recipient than if the information is buried towards the back of a report. What an information professional chooses to highlight can easily change the perception of research results.

When it comes to information creation, don't overlook new product possibilities. Newsletters immediately come to mind. Most reference questions are one-time, one-person requests. But if one person is interested in a topic, perhaps others would be, too. Transforming information on specific topics into more general newsletter fodder is not only an act of information creation, it can be a potent marketing tool as well. One example is demonstrated by Hewlett-Packard's Sue Charles in her article "Custom Content Delivery" in this issue of ONLINE.

Other possibilities for imparting information in transformational and creative ways include staking out a space on the organization's intranet for notices of developments in areas of interest and blogging news, opinions, and background information for your constituencies. In this changing world, it's imperative that information professionals stand out as valuable additions to any team. Encouraging colleagues to think of us as actively creating information, not just passively retrieving it, will enhance our reputations.

Marydee Ojala [] is the editor of ONLINE. Comments? E-mail letters to the editor to

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