Content Analysis Part 2: A Value Add for the Analytical Librarian
Solomon, Marc, Searcher
We don't act in isolation. And we don't act before we analyze. And we don't analyze without information that clues us into the implications of our actions. What's different about your case? What's similar about everyone else's? It all boils down to conformities and exceptions. How do you stand out? How do you fit in?
The same questions apply to the information we seek for clients and ourselves:
1. How do my search results augment pre-search understandings?
2. How do these understandings change the relationship between those needing to know and what their peers will soon find out?
Unlike the content we download, the value we derive from it resists standard "value add" formulas. Nevertheless, we don't need to become mind readers, as well as supersearchers, to make some universal appraisals.
What's analysis without consultation? Let's ask our trusted advisors for second opinions about our first impulses. The initial whim to alter results comes from our skills and instincts. A "gut check" from advisors and friends can preview the impact of our pending actions on the outside world, a world that measures personal contributions within a larger community.
This rationale applies as much to the business world as to our personal affairs. Most of us don't buy stock because we think the company deserves our dollars. We buy because we think others will soon act on the same whim and nudge our net gain upward. Analysis is not restricted to self-discovery. Peer pressure and public perceptions inspire as much analysis as individual personality traits.
How do we give life to idle facts? We need to see our activities in context--not in isolation. Corporate librarians are still called upon to scour well-maintained databases for marketplace changes. But without analysis, this is a latent function. Worse, to the folks who don't know you (i.e., your boss's boss), document retrieval is an unrecoverable expense. Market watcher OVUM Research makes the point: "Very few individuals are able to generate business value from the act of searching for information." Without connecting the market implications to internal operations, article downloads add no value to corporate strategy.
What's the information professional to do? Content analysis.
Research Today -- An Isolating Experience
When asked what connection to the outside world they would want if stranded alone on an island, respondents to a recent Roper/ASW survey were 2-1/2 times more likely to want the Web over the phone. In fact, nearly half of all respondents said that they would cast themselves in the role of Cyber-Survivor, living a year without human contact as long as they could remain online.
So the average surfer frequently attempts and fails at what librarians perform routinely. In a land of novices, how does the average supersearcher parlay research prowess into a bankable professional asset? How can they add a sustaining and proprietary value to their companies marketing functions as well as their own portfolios?
And what browser-worthy devotion would pass the time? Respondents are not balancing their checkbooks, booking travel plans, or completing stock trades. Nope. After e-mail, the most popular activity was "doing research," even though only one in nine deemed themselves an "expert" searcher.
Big, Bigger, Biggest Picture
Before we deliver the goods, we need to interpret the content we're about to analyze--specifically the kind that passes for industry news in your shop. The purpose of news creation is to inform--first about who did what to whom where and when (core details) and then the speculations over why (opinion and commentary).
Apply that formula to today's Times ... tomorrow's Journal. How much of it concerns what happened yesterday? The wire services have already filed those stories (2). Day after day, stories focus on coming weeks or prior months. …