by Cindy Shamel, Shamel Information Services, San Diego Chapter
Imagine that you’re hungry. Seeking something to eat, you visit a local restaurant and order lasagna. The chef swings into action and soon a platter lies before you. It contains a carton of ricotta cheese, a package of dried lasagna pasta, some eggs, a bundle of fresh herbs, a basket of tomatoes, and a block of parmesan cheese. Clearly the chef has missed an opportunity here, and you don’t have food that you can eat. As a hungry diner you will not value a pile of raw ingredients nearly as much as a nicely presented meal, prepared with the skills, judgment, and training of an experienced chef.
Now, apply this scenario to the information center or library. A need exists for actionable information and the request comes in. The info pro swings into action, and soon gathers a selection of bibliographic information, articles in full-text, and several links to relevant web sites. It’s all delivered up as attachments to an e-mail with a note saying, “Here’s the information you requested.” Clearly the info pro has missed an opportunity. To add value, the info pro will want to apply skills and experience to filter, analyze, and summarize the findings, formatting them in a way that meets the immediate need of the requester.
Just as the chef adds value to raw ingredients by transforming them into a satisfying meal, the info pro can add value to information by creating content ready to consume. The formatting will vary according to the need. It might include tables, graphs, charts, and spreadsheets. Key findings can be featured in executive summaries, in bullet points, or with highlighting, bolding, or font colors. Organizational tools such as tables of contents, headings, and subheadings enable scanning and navigation. Article summaries in place of full text save time for the reader. A value added deliverable will feature the content that answers the question or meets the need. Info pros have the skills and experience to develop spot on deliverables that organizations need to succeed.
Where do we find the time? Many of us are solos. We’re shorthanded. We’re overwhelmed. We’re working with limited resources. Consider this. I contend that just as individuals can enter a grocery store and purchase the raw materials for lasagna, they can go online and gather information. The differentiator lies in adding value. Just as the chef creates the dishes that satisfy hunger, the info pro creates the deliverables on which to base enterprise actions.
Cindy Shamel has provided value added research to clients since 1998. She is a member, former director, and past president of the San Diego Chapter of SLA.