Category Archives: Future

What is the VALUE of Professional Associations to new and aspiring professionals?

The following was originally posted on 01 May 2011 on the SLA Future Ready 365 Blog site

I am re-posting it here because I wrote it and I think it is imperative that this be more widely disseminated and discussed. What do you think?

I started out a blog submission talking about how success in explaining and showing value of information services in an organization can be achieved one conversation at a time. While formulating this submission, I had an experience that I thought should supercede that one, namely an understanding of the value of our professional affiliations and memberships by graduate students and new professionals. If they don’t feel an association is worth their time and money for enhancing their career, how can we expect them to see our association as a resource to help them on the job and in their future growth?

I recently had a lengthy, lively discussion about the value of membership in SLA and other professional information organizations with a graduate student. His comments included:

“I am told to join a professional library association because I won’t get a job unless I do – I think that is extortion.” He asked “would you hire me if I wasn’t a member of SLA or another organization?” First I said “no” which he of course said “See!!” Then I clarified by saying I would have a concern as to WHY he didn’t join any association as that would signal to me he may be a good worker but maybe not a longer term contributor to the profession, so I would need to understand more about that. Well, we had quite a lively and noisy interaction over that one!!
“Don’t the associations understand that I have a choice in investment between education and other things such as eventually buying a home?” That ”because I chose education, I will be paying back a huge debt for a long period of time and maybe never be able to buy a home? How can membership in an association help with that?”
“Why are there so many student groups for a relatively small cohort — can’t there be one student group that can be affiliated with multiple associations? It seems the same 20 people out of 100 belong to the various student groups and the rest of the students see no value in joining any of them.”
“Our student group does regular service in prison libraries and other socially conscious activities that were started BY students, not the library school faculty or professional associations. What are associations doing like this? Why should we join an association to conform to what they are already doing when we, the students, are doing more for society than those associations?” I indicated an example of how SLA had a full day of service in New Orleans and he said “big deal, one day — we do ongoing service!” Oooh, boy, we had more lively discussion on this one too!!
“Isn’t it time for ALA, SLA, ASIS&T and all to think about merging and working together for the good of the profession instead of being splintered like they have been for so long? Is there any reason why these groups should still be separate?”
There were some more, but I lost track!!

Anyway, after agreeing to start the conversation over and hear out each side, we ultimately centered around this point that we both agreed was valid:

* It is clear the professional associations, the professionals in those associations, and professors in library schools (and their equivalent) are not conveying the value gained from membership and active participation.

In speaking with a professor at a major library school, she agreed that more and more library schools have instructors who are not in the library profession and/or who don’t belong to a professional organization, so they have no context or experience to convey about the value of associations to their students. As a result, students don’t know much if anything about associations and do not join or actively participate in them.

So here is the challenge. What are the key values of a professional association that will ring true to the current graduate student and new information professional? This is not about who or what is right or wrong, but rather being able to articulate the value and help our new colleagues be “Future Ready.”

Again, what do YOU think?

Librarians and Info Pros need to focus on services

In an article in the NY Times about I.B.M.’s continued success due to more focus on services and less on hardware and software, Irving Wladawsky-Berger, a former senior technology strategist for I.B.M., is quoted saying “As the components of technology — especially hardware — become inexpensive and commoditized, you want to focus less on the components and more on how customers want to use technology.” The article is: “Huge Payoff for I.B.M. After a Shift” –

Substituting the words information and ‘print materials’ or other formats for content in this quote, I think you get an interesting thought: “As the components of [information] — especially [print materials?] — become inexpensive and commoditized, you want to focus less on the components and more on how customers want to use [information].”

It is very easy for information professionals to focus on managing objects, ensuring they are in their right place for retrieval, etc.. But the harder, and frankly more interesting work that is likely also much more valuable is collaborating with clients to help solve their questions — being an active services provider. Something we should all keep in mind as we see the increasing pace that information is being made available to all via e-books, Twitter and whatever else is on the horizon in our future. It is not about the format, it is about the information in whatever container it happens to reside. With this bit of a shift in focus, which a number of  information professionals across all kinds of libraries and services are already doing, our value can be made that much more evident.

Social network tools aggregation on its way

A few months ago in March 2009 I was conducting workshops in New Zealand on social networking tools for business and research (see my presentation displayed elsewhere on my blog). At the time I discussed the many benefits of using these tools, including networking, career exploration and competitive intelligence (in networking tools such as LinkedIn where the information is very trustworthy). I also indicated that these tools were a bit of a pain because you had to re-enter a lot of information you already entered in another social network site as there was no leading way to easily share that information and do it in a reasonably secure way. However, I felt that it was only a matter of time before this was no longer a problem. I had no specific predictions, only that I was confident we wouldn’t have too long before we would see some action. Meantime, apps are being industriously created to supplement this by enabling you to link and share status updates between Twitter and Facebook, for instance. That alleviates the need to update you status in both places, so that can save time and effort. There are many more examples of this, but you get the idea.

An article in The Washington Post by Chadwick Matlin on August 16th about Facebook buying FriendFeed  titled “Facebook Cornering Market on E-Friends” talks about the potential of social aggregation. This begins to address my previously expressed concern with the many disparate social networking tools, so this is definitely something to watch.

On a related point, the latest Mac-compatible version of Skype (2.8) for Mac OSX now allows you to share your screen with another user. This is great and very easy to use. I had been using free that enables screen sharing and real time collaboration and links to Skype among tools, but then you and the other person have to be logged into both YuuGuu and Skype to make it work. That is still useful if the other person does not have the latest version of Skype, but it is great that such useful enhancements are happening!

Future of library user experience webinar by Urban Libraries Council

I became aware of this webinar that was done about 2 months ago which does a good job of outlining some of the issues surrounding assessment and improvement of the library user experience on websites. The keynote is by Nate Bolt of Bolt|Peters and is followed by a panel reacting to his comments. It is geared toward a public library audience, but the principles discussed are appropriate to all libraries.

A key take-away is that a user experience should be assessed by watching at least 3 people access your site from start to finish, without interruption or discussion, and to NOT ask them what they think of the site. Actions show reality much better than people’s perceptions of what they are doing or just did. I have found this to be true in interface assessments I have done in various venues.

Near the end is a question and brief discussion about what to call a person who interacts with library services:

  • patron (traditional nomenclature used by librarians, particularly in public and academic settings)
  • customer (often associated with commercial interactions/sales and disdained by many librarians, though that may be changing),
  • client (typically used by consultants and in corporate information services settings)
  • user (adopted from the computer community)

This is a long webinar, about 1 1/2 hours, but moves along well. One word of caution is that about half way through the audio continues in describing particular websites of 4 libraries and comments about them, but one slide stays on the screen for a long time and then the rest of the slides are in sequence but completely out of sync with the audio. Still, it is an interesting and useful webinar.

An interesting side thing to me is that a science fiction author in Seattle is quoted recently as saying people think SF authors predict the future, but they don’t. That same statement was made to me and others attending the SLA Information Futurists group meeting in Seattle June 9, 1997 [thus more than 10 years ago] by Greg Bear, award winning SF author, who coincidentally also resides in Seattle. There are many SF authors in Seattle and a wonderment, don’t you think? Anyway, SF authors may not predict the future, but they sure give the general public a view of how the future might happen — sometimes coming very close to reality as it happens. Just look at Greg’s earlier writings that have library-like aspects in them (Blood Music is a good one), or that of Neal Stephenson (I recommend Snow Crash) or David Brin (Earth has a very interesting perspective on a Web-like environment and on wearable computers).