The 90th annual Special Librarian Association (SLA) conference in Minneapolis once again proved that the Internet still deserves the title of "information highway."
Attended by more than 6,000 librarians from business, academic, public and news libraries, this year's conference demonstrated how vital the Internet has become as an information resource, while highlighting the emerging role of the librarian as a technology specialist.
"The Internet is a wonderful tool that gives us access to a much larger amount of information that is available in a much shorter amount of time," said L. Susan Hayes, president of the board of directors of the SLA.
"With all that information available, it becomes even more important to have persons who are knowledgeable in the retrieval and packaging of that raw data. The role of the special librarian, the human intervention, is becoming even more important."
Research projects funded by the SLA, including "Special Libraries: Increasing the Information Edge" by Jose-Marie Griffiths and Donald W. King and "The Impact of the Special Library on Corporate Decision Making (SLA Research, No. 8)" by Joanne G. Marshall, highlight that companies who employ a professional special librarian trained in information research and technology can save a company not only time, but money.
"We have found that a firm with 100 employees can spend more than $8,000 per employee per year too much on information gathering when they do not use a professional librarian, instead relying on the individual professional to do their own research," Miss Hayes said.
"An organization with a trained information professional spends about one-third that cost, and while a professional librarian can produce that information at a significant cost savings, it also leaves the lawyer, engineer, reporter and marketer the time to do their jobs," she said.
In addition to saving companies time and money, having a professional trained in the research of database information and Internet-based research can pay added dividends.
A study by the SLA revealed that 80 percent of executives and managers queried felt that information provided by special librarians aided in choosing a course of action that often helped them to avoid making a poor decision.
More than 540 vendors were at the conference to provide the opportunity to review the various databases and Web-based resources available for contract and per-use fees.
"Knowledge-dependent organizations are waking up and integrating their information professionals into knowledge management programs," said David Bender, executive director of the SLA. "Vendor companies are readily available at the conference to help members seize opportunities to mold their organization's information." Some of the vendors at the show included:
* Thomson Financial Securities Data (www.tfsd.com) (TFSD), an on-line provider of financial data and research. At the SLA conference, Thomson promoted its latest version of Research Bank Web, a comprehensive collection of broker, market and trade association research.
The site stores and allows users to research full-image investment research reports and comprehensive company and industry analyses from providers such as Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter and Bear Stearns & Co.
More than 70 percent of this data is only available on-line to the commercial marketplace through TFSD.
* LiveEdgar (www.gsionline.com), a product of Global Securites Information Inc., provides users on a per-use-fee basis real-time dissemination of corporate information as filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).