Digital Libraries Network is for health librarians and trainers in the UK, interested in promotion and training.

Monday, September 29, 2003

Role and value of librarian

I came across this interview with Ethel Salonen, President of Special Libraries Association, via the CILIP Weekly Information Update. Here are a couple of snippets, which although focused on a library in the private sector, most are relevant to a health setting too:

What advice would you give to a librarian who is having difficulties providing additional value to their organizations?
We used to say "If you can't change the people….change the people." Meaning, if you are unhappy with your current job, then look for another one. That is easier said than done during these difficult economic times. Whenever I am asked this question, I always ask the person:
  • Are you totally aware of the business needs of their clients?
  • Are the products and services you currently provide even being utilized by their clients?
  • Are there daily tasks that can be eliminated so that your time is freed up to really work on value-added projects?
  • Do you have lunch with the key personnel in your company?
  • Do you attend seminars that may be given in your organization?
  • Are you located near your major constituents?

Many of these questions are difficult to answer and some answers are not pleasant to hear. What a librarian may have to do is to totally re-evaluate the role they currently occupy in the company and re-invent themselves. Solo librarians, the ones who manage an information centre as the sole information professional, have learned to minimize their administrative tasks and concentrate on the assignments that meet the business need of the organization. Once you have identified the client's need, developed the product/service that meets the need, delivered it on schedule, and the client finds it useful, then your value has been demonstrated. We all need to remember that we are a commodity and that every day is a new sales opportunity to sell this commodity - our value!

How would you like the role of a librarian viewed within a corporation?
In the June 2003 issue of SLA's publication Information Outlook is an article by Stephen Abram entitled "e-Sustainability - the Amazing and True Story of Flavius Josephus." The story is absorbing and makes one realize the many issues surrounding sustainability, preservation and very long-term access to information. It is the final sentence from this article that I would like to repeat here:
Knowledge does not persist without librarians.
Librarians are the information resource experts who collect, analyze, evaluate, package and disseminate information. It is this information that drives knowledge and it is this knowledge that drives business decisions. It is the information expertise of the librarian which is vital to the financial health and success of any corporation, as well as any non-profit entity. That is how I would like to see librarians viewed in all organizations.


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