Librarianship as a career choice was a remarkable fit for me, because I like to know everything about everything or at least how to find it (don’t call it nosiness!). My undergraduate studies may have prepared me for playing Jeopardy but it was my library degree that made it possible for me to get that rarest of all things — a Perfect Job! As a librarian I get paid for following my passion — finding information, organizing information, getting information out to end users. In order to do my job correctly, I get to talk to people. By asking questions I get to find out what they need today and what they are going to need tomorrow and next week and in a couple of months’ time. Finding information, talking and me: a menage à trois made in heaven!
In librarianship information is our business. That’s why I’m amazed that some of my colleagues express trepidation when faced with the welter of today’s M’s: you know the ones I mean — IM, RM, KM, ECM. Since the time of the Royal Library of Alexandria, librarians have been dealing with and organizing information. (What the heck do the worry-warts think were in those books anyway?) It’s just that today the format has changed. We’re no longer dealing with papyrus rolls, scrolls, index cards, or even books all the time; we use databases, portals, wikis, blogs, podcasts, video streaming — which is cool. But what do we do with these cool toys? Same old, same old: we find, organize and disseminate information. Pathfinders can become wikis, new acquisitions lists can go on the library blog, tips for online searching can be recorded as podcasts and can be listened to by patrons while searching. For example, the University of Alberta library catalogue can be searched on Facebook — because that’s where many patrons are. The way I look a it, with technology as our ally we are only limited by our imagination in its application in our organizations.
Today the scope/location/direction of our information foraging is not entirely directed to external sources; we also corral information found within our organizations. We create databases for content that can range from memoranda of law, opinions, expert witnesses, and staff skill sets, to corporate art work, and whatever else you and your organization thinks adds value to the services provided to clients. For instance, many librarians, especially in corporate libraries, are finding themselves entwined in Records Management. The skill sets inherent in librarianship come into play in RM; they just have to be adapted slightly to be applied. Call numbers = file numbers, subject headings = records classification, weeding = retention periods. This is an over simplification, however it shows that RM is nothing to cause you undue stress and angst.
(Actually, to be truthful, I’ve found records management always causes me stress and angst; if you believe organizations think libraries are unimportant try being involved in RM. RM staff are imagined to be toiling away in the bowels of the building moving boxes around. Only when that impossible to be found, but utterly vital, document is produced by the “file clerks” — aaahhh, priceless beyond compare! — is their value recognized.)
Knowledge management, the darling of the business world these days, follows along the same organizing themes. Who knows better than librarians which lawyer has done research on certain topics, maintains the how-to databases of firm research and precedents, and has the skills to stay on top of current developments? That would be your librarian. And that would be KM.
So from where I sit, the M’s are the same ones that the library professional has followed for centuries — all the M’s in information: get the right information, to the right person, at the right time. Mmm?