Information Professionals in the Wall Street Jounal

Wall Street Journal Advert for Information ProfessionalsOne of the surprises during the annual SLA conference in Seattle was to see a full page advertisement in the Wall Street Journal promoting the value of information professionals four days in a row.

This unprecedented marketing event was an unexpected opportunity resulting from the recent take overs of both the Wall Street Journal and the Dowjones company (which includes the Factiva brand) by Rupert Murdoch.

It would be great to see something similar in the UK.

Here is the full text of the advert.

The right people, information and decisions

Behind every good business decision is an information professional.

The competitive advantages you bring to the table are superior management strategies and decision-making capabilities. Both originate from information that’s been gathered, organized and shared throughout your enterprise by people called information professionals.

The relevant, high-quality business information you need to take action doesn’t turn up all by itself. Whether internally or externally produced, it’s the lifeblood of people who work for you: librarians, knowledge managers, chief information officers, Web developers, information brokers and researchers.

The Special Libraries Association, with support from Dow Jones Factiva, is behind your most profitable decisions. To learn how an SLA information professional can benefit your organization, visit today.

Stacey Bowers and Cara Schatz of the SLA staff

Congratulations to Stacey Bowers and Cara Schatz of the SLA staff for their work with the Wall Street Journal to develop this memorable advert.

Twittering away at SLA in Seattle

sla_twitter_cloudThanks to the Yankee In Canada (otherwise known as Daniel Lee) for producing an SLA twitter cloud for the recent conference. The cool image below was produced using Wordle, and is based on analysis of the 1,194 tweets produced during the conference.

I even managed to contribute a few to the total myself, which was fun while it lasted.

More cool librarians – Part 1

My search for the coolest librarian continued during the annual SLA conference in Seattle.

My previous winner of this (grossly under-recognised) award Louise Guy from Cirque du Soleil was not at the conference this year, although I did bump into Chad Eng, drummer in the death metal band From the Wreckage, looking suitably cool with his shoulder length blond hair and goatee beard.

This year I didn’t come away with a clear winner, but instead a trio of cool librarians.

Mary Ellen Bates

The first, and most surprising discovery for me, was Mary Ellen Bates. She is a big name in the information profession with more than 25 years of experience in business research. She has written hundreds of articles and white papers, conducted hundreds of speaking engagements, and is an acknowledged expert on variousPatty Hearst aspects of online and Internet research. Instead of her usual topic relating to what’s new in internet research and tools, her much more ambitious title was, The Next Information Revolution, and our Role as Revolutionaries. She caught my attention with her second slide which flashed up for just an instant with this photo of Patty Hearst, best known for her attachment to an SLA organisation with truly revolutionary intentions.

Her presentation (which I will cover in a later blog) was primarily about our new clients and customers known as millennials or digital natives. And how we must re-educate ourselves to provide services they want in the way they want. These are customers who will be telling us what they want rather than vice versa at present. Her blunt but effective scenarios contained scenes of librarians explaining the limitations of their databases or catalogues only to be met with, ‘I see your lips moving, but I’m not listening’. Or even worse, a response consisting of one of the two favourite three letter responses of this new generation, OMG (Oh My God) – meaning I’m not impressed, and WTF (What The ‘Heck’) – meaning I really don’t care at all about what you are saying to me.

Mary Ellen BatesAs you can see by her photo Mary Ellen does not immediately strike one as of the revolutionary mould. In fact you could say she looks something close to the stereotype of the female librarian (although sans hair in a bun and wearing a pearl necklace). But with her casual (joking) references to giving up on her crack pipe, and other amusing but unexpected comments I didn’t have time to note, she effectively destroys that negative image of information professionals.

Needless to say, as a cutting edge librarian she has a blog (since 2006) called Librarian of Fortune (Mary Ellen Bates contributes white noise to the blogosphere) at

I can’t wait to hear her next presentation.

The Future of the information profession part 2: Report from SLA2008

Not surprisingly this topic came up many times and in many different ways during the recent annual SLA conference in Seattle.

The new generation of information professionals

As I mentioned previously I see the new information professionals as absolutely key to our future, especially given the demographic of the profession which will result in 58 percent of the members of SLA reaching 65 by 2019.

If the three young people (Christina de Castell, Stacey Greenwell, Daniel Lee) on the panel session titled Perspectives of New Information Professionals are representative of their generation then our future is in very capable hands.

SLA Alignment Project

SLA is funding a project with Fleishman-Hillard, the international consulting firm which is leading a team made up of Outsell and Social Technologies. The Alignment Project will be consulting widely both inside and outside the information profession to help SLA anticipate the future and create a strong and relevant brand.

Breaking down stereotypes of librarians

Librarians often suffer from stereotypes in the media, but in my experience many information professionals do somewhat lack in confidence. So it was fascinating to hear Stephen Abram the current President of SLA refer to his early years, when he could never imagine becoming a leader both in his career and of a global association. Having known Stephen for quite a few years now, it came as a big surprise to find out how far he has had to come to reach this point.

Another commonly occurring trait in librarians (which is almost never covered by the media) is their inner strength. I think of it as the opposite of the description of Israelis as Sabras. (Sabra (Hebrew: צבר‎) is a term used to describe a native-born Israeli Jew. The word is derived from the Hebrew name for the prickly pear cactus, i.e. “tzabar”. The allusion is to a tenacious, thorny desert plant with a thick hide that conceals a sweet, softer interior, i.e., rough and masculine on the outside, but delicate and sensitive on the inside. Wikipedia)

Instead, the librarian has a soft outer shell, but inside is a core of steel. An excellent example of this is Ann Sparanese, a librarian at Englewood Library in New Jersey. She is credited (and gets a foreword mention to prove it) with saving Michael Moore’s first book Stupid White Men. To quote Moore, “Librarians see themselves as the guardians of the First Amendment. You got a thousand Mother Joneses at the barricades! I love the librarians, and I am grateful for them!” Salon website.

Adding value to our services

According to research done by Barbara Quint, Google answers as many questions in 30 minutes as all librarians in the world answer at reference desks in 15 years. So the only way to keep ahead of this type of competition is to constantly add value to our service. We need to understand our customers needs better and work more closely with them. That way we can become more of a consultancy service than just providing quick and simple reference answers. This is a topic I have written about in Moving from readers to customers to clients in the Business & IP Centre at the British Library, Business Information Review, Vol. 25, No. 2, 125-126 2008

The Future of the information profession part 1: Report from SLA2008

SLA 2008 SeattleI have just from the annual SLA conference which this year was in Seattle. It was strange returning to the city of my very first SLA event ten years ago. Then I was very green information professional and spent most of the four days trying to get my head around the complexities SLA, the conference and cultural differences between the UK and the USA.

This time I was there to fulfil my commitments as co-convener of the Fellows annual meeting, the First Timers Event and to Chair the Public Policy Advisory Council. Since being made a fellow of the SLA in Baltimore in 2006 I was expecting to be required to continue to contribute to the association.

I was more than happy to be involved with the First Timers Event which is held at the beginning of the five days of conference. I passionately believe in encouraging and supporting new entrants into the information profession. So helping to explain how to get the best out of the conference and to enable networking, as well as the opportunity to find mentors is a job I was happy to do.

The loud buzz in the room from the 300 or so who turned up to the meeting indicated they were more than ready to network with their fellow information professionals.

Chairing the Public Policy Advisory Council gave me great opportunity to be involved with SLA’s effective efforts during 2007 and 2008 to campaign against library closures in the US Government’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as well as a host of other activities. In the case of the EPA libraries, SLA in the form of Doug Newcomb (Chief Policy Officer) and Janice Lachance (SLA CEO) had been in the vanguard of the move to prevent the closures without due consideration and discussion.