Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Core Values Lead Us to the Core of the Enterprise

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Core Values Lead Us to the Core of the Enterprise

Article excerpt

I ran a business as a first career, and I have brought several beliefs along with me into the information profession. Perhaps having a board of directors, a monthly profit/loss statement, and a balance sheet helped me visualize our core business in a concrete and clear fashion. Those first-career lessons I learned boil down to three guiding beliefs I have about organizations and people. None of the three would break new ground in Harvard Business Review-but perhaps they bear mentioning in these pages. First, customers change with the times, and effective businesses are changing with them. Second, staff within organizations can resist change, but this urge can be overcome through building trust and clear communication. And finally: Any business that wants to keep the doors open has to make a 100% commitment to using every technological advantage that comes to market.

The information professions have been fortunate because our core goals map well to the times we live in. We are tasked with providing strategic information everywhere it's needed (that's the reference part), and we must also keep an eye on the intellectual capital that is being developed (that's the collection development and digital library part). If we follow these two principles of librarianship, they can prove to be remarkably durable and trustworthy foundations for a vibrant information service. If we are doing our jobs right, our core values drive us closer to the most important enterprise content, embed us into the crucial knowledge management initiatives that are underway, and also provide us with a compelling set of rhetorical language that can affect hearts and minds. The rest is up to us. Which is to say: We need to be extroverted, to sound off loudly and often, and to be bold or even fearless in promoting innovative services to nonlibrary managers.

I've written frequently about the power of our core values as gateways to influence. But even as I've been urging us to cleave to our profession's values, there are institutions, business firms, and organizations of all stripes that have been changing. How exciting it is to live in such times, when you can argue that basic business models are in flux and good ideas are in demand. But how can we allow our core values to guide us to positions of authority within our firms? Let me offer three strategic roles we can take, each based on individual talents, which were parlayed into strategic advantages-to the benefit of the firms involved.

The Responsibility Aggregator

Organizations with bureaucratic cultures are often depicted as being chock-full of nonstarters, risk avoiders, and lovers of the status quo. Sounds about right, wouldn't you say? Top management may not be able to mobilize staff for big changes, which increases the gulf between the leadership and the troops. Everybody knows their place, and their job descriptions operate more like lists of what staff may refuse to do rather than a charge to be productive. These kinds of settings abound, not only in higher education but in the biomedical sector, financial services, and even at some IT firms. Many of these organizations can muddle along without much innovation, for long periods. But the culture of non-action carries opportunities for self-motivated staff members who know what they want to achieve. I'll call this character the "Responsibility Aggregator."

Information professionals can bring dramatic shifts to settings such as the one previously described, if they are willing to move incrementally. It's likely that information resources are underutilized in places such as this. Moreover, staff members often have "set" opinions about what strategic information is and who should manage it. The aggregator steps into the fray with "beginner's mind" and takes the consequences. "Librarians don't do legal research, lawyers do," thundered one law partner to me, at a large firm. But successive generations of librarians who worked at his firm won a place at the research table anyway and billed for their time at very respectable rates. …

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