Magazine article Online

The Changing Person within the Information Profession. (Industry Insights)

Magazine article Online

The Changing Person within the Information Profession. (Industry Insights)

Article excerpt

I spent much of the last quarter of 2001 working on strategic planning for 2002 and beyond with corporate information managers and their teams. In almost every case, in order to deliver on its strategic imperative, the information function needs to change the portfolio of services it delivers as well as how it presents itself to its users and to senior management. This means the role of the information professional within that function needs to change, and that--what I want to focus on here--the person within that role needs to undergo changes.


This is an opportune time to discuss change at a very personal level. Not only is it a time of shifting priorities within the information profession, but since September 11 it is a time of shifting priorities within individuals as well. We are all living at a heightened level of awareness of our own core values and needs. We are, I believe, more open than usual to pondering what is and is not working in our lives--personal and professional--and more open than usual to making changes. I've seen this in my client visits: Managers who are even more concerned than usual about the people who report to them, and individuals who are looking at their jobs in a new light.

While any functional change will likely provoke personal change, I'm going to concentrate here on those changes that appear to be most salient across the information profession.

* As users gain more and more direct access to information sources, information professionals' core beliefs about information and its use are being challenged.

* Some information jobs are beginning to disappear from the corporate landscape, while new jobs requiring new skills and knowledge are emerging.

* For information functions to be successful and survive, many managers are faced with carrying out highly aggressive agendas, yet they themselves are not aggressive individuals.


There are many reasons why we information professionals were attracted to our profession in the first place. Common reasons include a deep-seated need to be of service, a passion for performing research and fact-finding, the analytic challenge of determining which information sources are most appropriate for a particular inquiry. We are infophiles. We love information. We wouldn't stay with this profession if we didn't. These are wonderful qualities; they have helped us succeed in our careers, and, in part, they define who we are.

At the same time, these very same qualities often get in our way when it's time to change how we do our jobs. We need to realize how unique we are inside our organizations, and to understand that by and large, users don't feel the same way we do about information. In the November/December 2001 issue of ONLINE ("But Enough About Me, What About the Users," pp. 90-92), my colleague, Mary Corcoran, gave an excellent overview of users' information behaviors and values. Her column provided data and insight to help us think like a user. This is the same sort of data and insight that we share with our clients. Yet in every corporate information team I am privileged to work with, there are always several team members who shake their heads in bewilderment. It's not that these information professionals don't believe what users are saying, it's that user values about information are so different from their own mental model of the world.


You may already be acquainted with the concept of mental models; you've read all about them in one or more of those best-selling self-help books. But let me run the risk of sounding like "librarians-who-love-information-too-much-and-the users-who-don't-understand-them" for a moment and review the concept. All of us, no matter what our upbringing, our profession, or our status, walk around with our own unique set of beliefs about how the world works--our own personal mental model of the world. …

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