by Deb Schwarz, Southern California Chapter, IT & Legal Divisions
As a working information professional, a consultant, and an entrepreneur in the library space, I come across a lot of my colleagues and peers in a wide variety of jobs and industries during the course of my regular work schedule. The strong level of commitment to the work usually exhibited by most everyone I meet is striking, even when I find out that in reality many aren’t really happy with their current job situation. That commitment level to the “work” is laudable, and of course entirely appropriate, but perhaps in thinking about Future Ready scenarios on a personal-career level, info-pros ought to reserve some of their energy towards committing to leveraging and repositioning themselves within the organization they serve.
I think many of us believe that sooner or later the print-bound library in many organizations, especially corporations and even law firms, will see its demise. Of course this transition has not reached its conclusion everywhere, but it probably will, and by how much is just a matter of degree. Is this bad? Well bibliophiles will have to get their fix elsewhere, but for the working information professional it could be liberating by bringing (or forcing!) opportunities to go forward into the organization, bringing your skills right along with you. Call it embedded or assimilation, but getting out of the physical library and installed as, say, a researcher supporting a business unit, or a knowledge manager handling proprietary work product, or managing content on SharePoint, or developing and refining taxonomies—well, all that sounds pretty exciting and challenging to me!
So how to get there? One way is use your information and reference skills and apply due diligence efforts to position yourself. That’s all well and good you might say, but how? Every situation is different, of course, but a basic tenet is to understand the organization’s business strategy and study it to determine where there is a fit. For example, most organizations (particularly in this still recovering economy) are spending time and money on finding new customers or clients and retaining existing ones in order to stay competitive and grow. From an information professional’s vantage point that could mean supporting marketing, business development, and competitive intelligence or being part of an internal strategy group. Since the value of information in an information-overloaded, social media-blitzed world is golden, then doesn’t it follow that an information professional should have a participatory, if not a key role? A lot of analysts can’t do their jobs without having comprehensive, up-to-date, accurate information to analyze. Who better to partner with than a knowledgable information guru (er…professional!)?
With the billions of dollars being spent on content it also makes sense to work with an organization’s procurement or purchasing department to support them as they go about negotiating contracts with vendors for subscriptions, site licenses, and other content. It would do your organization and its users of this information a great disservice to have such deals negotiated strictly by the bottom line and outside of the context of information users’ needs. Who knows this better than an information professional?
Are these jobs well-defined and easily found? Not always and not necessarily – although we at LAC often see many of these qualifications and requirements in various job descriptions. And we have created a lot of these jobs through our consulting efforts and recommendations. Future ready may mean trail blazing. Maybe getting out of the library but pitching your value, expertise and skills to the COO or the head of marketing is the trail you need to blaze. You may have to take an opportunity and turn it around as well as inside out in order to strategize how to go for it, but do go for it if you want to be a Future Ready information professional in this rapidly-transforming, information-trading environment.
LAC Group is a professional services firm specializing in information management, virtual research, recruiting and outsourcing (www.lac-group.com). Deborah Schwarz received her MLS from the University of Toronto, and is the owner/founder of LAC Group, serving as its CEO.