Jonathan Leff, San Francisco Bay Region Chapter, Academic and Museums, Arts & Humanities Divisions
I recently read a FutureReady 365 blog post by Chelle Batchelor titled “The Future Ready Job Search,” in which she highlighted four elements of a successful job search: Community, Collaboration, Flexibility and Adaptability. I feel that these four elements are key to anyone working in the information field of the future.
Earlier this year, the SLA San Francisco Bay Region Chapter began a project to archive all the copies of its Bayline newsletter, which began in 1929. As a newly minted information professional, I jumped at the chance to contribute my skills to the organization, learn new skills, and to network with other info pros in my area. In our first meeting to assess the situation, we decided to look at the actual physical archives (located in the basement of a building in UC Berkeley), and then begin the process of indexing all of the Bayline issues up to the present day, with the goal of eventually being able to digitize all the issues that currently exist only in print form, so as to make them available for future generations.
What do bound volumes of newsletters from the Hoover administration have to do with being future ready? To me, being future ready is all about using the latest technological tools for dissemination of information to retrieve the past from remote cellars and bring it into the light of day where it can be accessed by all who wish to view it. While our eventual goal of digitization may be a ways off, we are still able to use online collaboration tools to give everyone a virtual common space in which we can share information and ideas about the project.
Two key traits that current and future information professionals must possess are flexibility and adaptability. In order to be able to deliver information to a client – or even to share it with collaborators – an information professional needs to know which are the appropriate tools for the job at hand out of the many tools he or she has at his or her disposal.
At our first project meeting, someone mentioned PBworks as a good platform for shared collaboration, and I volunteered to create a PBworks space for our project. I took the time to set up pages that I thought would be relevant to the project, including an instruction page to guide members to the site, after which I notified everyone that they now had access to the site. Soon, members of my group informed me that PBworks didn’t do what we wanted it to do, namely allow people to view each other’s work and collaborate simultaneously on documents. I realized that Google Docs would allow us to do this, and readily switched to it from PBworks and agreed to be the point person for any people who may have been unfamiliar with it.
In a sense, the other members of my group were also users, and as the person who set up the shared workspaces, it was my job to respond to their needs and provide them with the right tools so that everyone could easily access information about our project, and therefore be able to collaborate. It would not have done for me to say “my way or the highway” and insist that everyone use a platform that was not appropriate for the job. If I had done so, I would most likely have found myself off the project.
Information professionals do this every day. We assess the needs of our users in a wide array of situations where people need to have easy and efficient access to information to make informed decisions or to collaborate on group efforts. Through our possession of diverse tools and skills that can be brought into any situation requiring organization of information for easy accessibility, we are uniquely poised to contribute to the collective intelligence of the communities we serve.
Jonathan Leff is a recent graduate of San Jose State University’s School of Library and Information Science. He is particularly interested in the way people use information and the interplay between information and technology. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.