Hello from the nation’s capital! DC/SLA is excited to be contributing all of this week’s FutureReady365 posts (thanks to our future-thinking Communications Secretary, Chris Vestal). We are a diverse community of 800+ information professionals, with members from D.C., Maryland, Virginia, as well as 30 other U.S. states and 12 countries. You’ll see this diversity reflected in the range of future ready ideas presented in posts throughout the week. We hope our posts will spark some thought and conversation and, of course, your comments. Most of all, we want to help keep the spark of the FutureReady blog alive – a spark that’s become a fire, gathering us around it to brainstorm our way into the future. — Mary Talley, DC/SLA President (2011)
by Mary Talley, Washington, DC and Maryland Chapters, Business & Finance, Information Technology, Knowledge Management, Legal, and Leadership & Management Divisions
It was a wonderful life. When I started out, libraries and librarians were the only information game in town. Books held the answers and we held the books. There was no question that our work supported our organizations in crucial and irreplaceable (if not always measurable) ways. We were sure of our value: they (formerly known as “patrons”) needed us to identify, organize and maintain the sources and get at the data. These were powerful, valuable positions. It was a wonderful life.
Then… Well, you know the rest. The competition arrived and with it the temptation of the low-hanging fruit of good-enough information that forced us to rethink our place and value in this ever-evolving, 2.0 information world. To complicate life further, technological change and the competition it brings with it isn’t coming in fits and spurts – it’s rapid and continuous.
But wait a minute – was our old place in the information world really all that wonderful? Did we drive our organizations back then, tending the gates of knowledge; or, were we really in adjunct, transactional roles? If our positions did not allow us to be active participants in driving our organizations’ goals and objectives, we were – and are – adjuncts in our organizations. In a self-serve, peer-to-peer, 2.0 information world, as long as we hold adjunct roles, we will remain at the periphery of the organization and continually challenged to prove our value.
What can we do to be truly future ready? Move the conversation away from “proving value” to being valuable and trade in our transactional roles for those that are directly involved in the high-value work of our organizations. Moving information professionals out of libraries and embedding them in user communities provides a path to that direct involvement. Embedding trades in the service-provider role for one as a team member accountable for the outcomes.
The rise of a highly-interactive, information environment is opening the way for embedded information professionals, as much as it is making these new roles imperative. Collaboration, immediacy, accessibility, the disintegration of boundaries, and a new emphasis on relationships – this is the 2.0 information world our user communities inhabit. This is what they expect when they seek information from technology or us. Luckily, these are also qualities associated with the provision of embedded information services.
Mary Talley heads TalleyPartners, an information management consulting firm specializing in strategic planning, repositioning and embedded information structures for information centers. She currently serves as President of DC/SLA.