Ian Palmer, Europe Chapter
British chemist William J. Henry (1774-1836) was quoted as saying “What is research, but a blind date with knowledge.” Blind dates can be exciting and filled with promise. They can also be unpredictable, unless, there is at least some science, method, or variable utilized to better predict which engagements may lead to desired outcomes. This premise is equally true in application to knowledge and information services.
Dating sites have made their mark because of this approach. Many of our own businesses survive and thrive because of our own investments in research. Personally, my own experiences as a community advocate and a communications professional in the information industry have changed my “world view” approach to customer engagement and how I encourage customers I work with in libraries and information centers to approach their own customers and (importantly!) potential customers.
Research is critical to the success of any service provider, whether a corporation such the ones we work for or for an information professional like you. Research requires curiosity – to ask, listen, learn and validate – resources to dedicate, and commitment to initiate and respond with action. It can be formal or informal.
For all of us who provide information services to users, my rule of thumb is that we should all dedicate some percentage of our resources (time and money) to primary research. You may not have experience or a strong competency in conducting primary research to see what else you and your team can do, but hiring an expert to help or “learning by doing” is better than not conducting any research at all. Possibilities for success will increase by focusing on existing core users as well as new ones with characteristics that make them likely to benefit from your services.
So whether you are looking for ways to better serve users who rely on information services you make available, finding new users to serve, or discovering other valuable and strategic gems to guide you in your job, I encourage you to include blind dating as a budget line item and in your strategic plan. Go on a blind date with research and ask those questions you’ve not yet asked and find answers to questions you have yet to answer. You may be surprised to find more than one match and many positive outcomes.