Qualification Management in Information Services: My Grand Design

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How Can We Hire and Retain Good Information Workers in Today's Marketplace?

WE INFORMATION WORKERS, & PARTICULARLY THOSE WHO HAVE MANAGEMENT RESPONSIBILITIES, have for some time been troubled by a seeming Lack of quality in the employees who come to work with us. It's not that they are incapable of doing good work. In fact, these employees are often, under the right circumstances, mentored into positions of considerable accomplishment in their parent institutions and organizations. But not always, and when our interactions with these employees fail and we find ourselves Left once again with a bored, uninterested information worker just biding time until a better job comes along (or, worse yet, with one who has decided that information work is a comfortable sinecure and the perfect place to just coast along), we find ourselves thinking about what we could have done differently, when we sought to fill that position.

In my opinion, there are two ideas at play here, and they both have to do with how we prepare people for work in the information industry and in the library/information science profession. The first is that the academic education of these potential employees varies greatly. Some of them have been well educated and know as much (or more) about the organization and management of information as we do. But not all potential information workers are so well educated, and their qualifications come wrapped in a bundle of background experiences and educational/training programs that represent, at best, a hodge-podge of interests and, sadly, an equally variable conglomeration of skills and competencies that may, or may not match the needs of the employing organization.

Connected to this variety in academic education, of course, is the equally variable continuous education/professional learning that is available for people to undertake, once they get into the information industry and desire to move ahead, to better themselves as information workers. So much is on offer, and from so many different learning providers, that the average information worker is almost overwhelmed when attempting to decide what to study, what training to undergo, or what path or track of learning would be most advantageous.

The disparities between and within in these two learning activities represent a major problem for the information industry, and one that is only going to get worse as time goes on, unless we do something about it. And we can do something.

As I see it, the solution to this problem is one that will be realized when we take a broader look at our work, and move ourselves beyond the specifics of any one branch of information services. It's a solution whose framework has been demonstrated during the past few years in my business, and it seems worthwhile to share some of the ideas that have come to us.

At our company, one of the things we do is to work with organizations (particularly in their information units) as they assess professional learning needs, after which, if required, we work with management to design and create entities within the organization for meeting those learning needs. In the course of this work, one theme has become very clear to me, that there really is a large world of information workers out there, and librarians, and even specialist librarians, are but one piece, if you will, of the larger information services industry.

Now this isn't a new theme, and people who know me have often heard me speak about the splendid information services continuum. It incorporates, as I frequently say, any person and any activity that involves (or is even related to) the management and delivery of information. Or, as I describe it in a new book on professional learning, "In essence, information services can be thought of as any work that has anything to do with the identification, capture, organization, storage, retrieval, analysis, interpretation, packaging, and dissemination of information. …