Rightful Criticism: Response to High Value Investments Comment

January 8, 2015

If you take a look at the comments to my previous post you will note a comment from Stephen Abram correcting my mistaken identification of him as the author of the post I referenced.  My apologies to Stephen on the incorrect assignment of content from his blog, as his.  The link to the original post is on referenced in the url I used and I overlooked it.

The original content came from Katharine Schopflin at: http://www.cilip.org.uk/cilip/blog/5-reasons-corporate-workplace-needs-librarians. So I will direct my dismay about the “cheap bargain” references to Ms. Schopflin’s work instead.

In my reply to Mr. Abram’s comment on my post, I asked him to please enter the dialog and express his opinion as it was not readily apparent in his re-post of Schopflin’s piece.  I hope we will hear from Stephen and others about their view of the high value investment versus cheap bargain opinions that have been expressed thus far.  The comments available on both Abram’s site and the CILIP site do point to a engaging conversation underway and evolving.

Constance Ard, January 7, 2015


Information Professionals: High Value Investments for Corporate Workplaces

January 6, 2015

For the past 14 months I’ve been consumed with the concept of the value of the information and library profession. Today when I came across this post “5 Reasons the Corporate Workplace Needs Librarians” by Stephen Abram I gave it a read thinking I might get something useful from it.


The boys!

What I got instead was point number five sticking in my mind as a contribution to the perpetual devaluation of the information profession. Points one through four of the post had me nodding my head in agreement and then I come to number five and I said out loud to the boys “What? How can one of the leaders of the profession be so short-sighted?”

So let me explain my dismay and dislike for Abram’s insistence that the reason a corporate workplace needs librarians is because we are cheap and dedicated and don’t require recognition.

Nobody goes into the information profession for the money. Instead we choose it because it allows us to practice our skills to help people find what they need. To do this well, we stay up-to-date with developments and are in touch with a network of peers.

We don’t require high status, fat bonuses or even thanks (much of the time) to stay motivated, which is just as well. Many corporate information professionals earn a fraction of the salaries earned by colleagues of similar experience. Frankly, we’re a bargain.”

While Abram’s points about the salary level of the information professional have some validity, the assertion that information professionals are a bargain deserves a bit of scrutiny in the bright light.

Information professionals in the corporate library, and in fact in any environment, deliver services that add value to the bottom line in a myriad of ways: risk mitigation, content delivery, information and knowledge management and more. This is no bargain. The fact that any thought leader in the information profession would perpetuate the perception of information professionals as cheap bargains should be asked to rethink their statement. The profession may suffer from a discrepancy in salary levels as compared to other professions, but I would argue we are not cheap.

Information professionals must get out of the “woe, is me” mentality and embrace the reality of you get what you demand and earn. When a project is done well, the information professional can easily say, “Thank you please let you colleagues know how I was able to assist you.”  Instead, many prefer to say “Oh it was easy. Anytime”

I would argue that it we should never say “it was nothing”.  We have advanced degrees. Our knowledge and experience, combined with that education, makes it easier for you than the requestor, as it should.  And that my friends is the first level of high value you deliver.

All of the work we do to collect, maintain, organize and deliver information is what makes it easy for our corporations to do the business at hand better. If we, as professionals don’t understand and embrace that simple fact, how can our stakeholders?

We make the users of our services happy daily.  Unfortunately, it is rarely our users that are the decision makers within the corporate halls.  We are not a bargain. We are professionals who have undervalued our own contributions to the corporation and we must begin embracing our professionalism with our stakeholders and our end users. If we do not do this,  we may indeed be perceived as bargains.

I would opt for perpetuating the view-point that information professionals are necessary in corporate libraries because we are a high quality investment that delivers excellent value across and throughout the organization.

Constance Ard

January 5, 2015

Deciphering Library Value from a Business Perspective

April 17, 2014

For the past couple of months I have been working on a great new project with HBR Consulting. HBR was awarded the opportunity to do a research study for the American Association of Law Libraries on the value of law libraries in today’s legal environment.

The project is important in my view because it aims to deliver actionable information for law libraries to adjust for their own organizations. A focus on facilitating communication  of value is a central component. Perhaps even more importantly, there is a concerted effort in the work to understand what the library’s institution values and how the library can and should support that framework.

As the announcement about the project explained:

“The objective of this project is to produce a comprehensive study of the return on investment and the consequent value proposition that law libraries provide,” said AALL President Steven P. Anderson.

This project builds upon some work I have done in the past.  Namely a discussion of valuation methodologies contained one of my books, Adding Value in Corporate Libraries and Information Services and an article published in SLA’s Information Outlook “Beyond Metrics”. (Membership Required)

It is exciting to be a part of the work with HBR and AALL.

If you are interested in learning more feel free to contact me. A survey will be conducted later in the project that will seek input from stakeholders and information professionals so stay tuned.

Constance Ard
April 17, 2014


How Thinking About Corporate Libraries and Basic Information Professional Skills Weathered the Long Winter

March 11, 2014

I don’t know about you but it has been an unexpectedly long and challenging winter. Luckily I have had several projects that have kept me focused and busy and I can greet the spring with a sense of accomplishment and promise.

In February I completed the manuscript for my latest book, Corporate Libraries: Basic Principles in a Changing Landscape. This was a great project for me because I worked with some top notch contributors, Ulla de Stricker, Heather Carine, Marydee Ojala, Jacqueline Bartek. In addition, James Matarazzo and Toby Pearlstein offered some words of wisdom.

I also picked up on some work that Matarazzo did back in 1990. His Corporate Library Excellence had profiles of several well respected corporate libraries including Abbott Laboratories. Due to the recent hire of a colleague of mine at Abbott, I knew this corporate library was still an example of excellence. So I reached out to both Abbott Laboratories Library Services and the AbbVie Library.

The contributions by both Brenda Stenger and Wendy Hamilton added two very rich case studies that demonstrate the importance of basic information professional skills in providing excellent library services.

Writing the book offered me the opportunity to look at how information professionals were applying their skills in new arenas such as big data. Technology is the tool that must be mastered and handled with craftsmanship in the land of corporate and special libraries. Evaluating and offering my own thoughts about why skills related to the collection, organization, and access to information remains crucial in today’s highly technical environment was a great way to begin 2014.

As we move into the season of renewal, I’m taking on a new project that will take me deep into the realm of library service valuation. Stay tuned for more.

Constance Ard, March 11, 2014

Knowledge Management Practice in Organizations: The View from Inside

February 11, 2014

Today, I got a package in the mail that reminded me about  a great project I had the opportunity to be involved in. Ulla de Stricker is one of the gurus of knowledge management and information science.

KM Book The book can be purchase at: http://www.igi-global.com/book/knowledge-management-practice-organizations/90644 

Ulla is a wise and energetic woman with an amazing amount of practical knowledge. She is first and foremost my mentor. She is also a great colleague. Back in August 2013 we were talking and she asked me to participate in the creation of a very practical work on Knowledge Management.

Collaborating with Ulla, Karen, Deborah, Gordon, Connie and Cynthia was a wonderful experience for me. Ulla describes in her post, New KM Book – Thanks to Collaboration.  You can see the list of chapters there.

Ulla provides a succinct explanation of the goal for the project:

Our goal was to construct a practical overview of “KM in the real world”.  Each of us has on-the-ground experience with KM in many forms, and it has been our pleasure to distill it for the benefit of our future readers.

If you are working with KM initiatives in your organization I highly recommend taking a look at this work. It covers cultural challenges, social media, the knowledge audit and so much more.

Perhaps one of the most useful components is related to leveraging consulting expertise. I was proud to collaborate with Ulla on that chapter and share some of the insights I have gained about why consultants can be a worthwhile investment to get the structure in place for a successful KM implementation.

Thanks to Ulla and all of the author’s for including me in this project. It is always a pleasure to share my own lessons learned.

Constance Ard, February 11, 2014

Will New Library Models Inspired by Emerging Technologies Persist?

January 13, 2014

As I continue to work on my new Corporate Libraries study I am running across some interesting items about emerging services and the new ways to keep libraries relevant.  Some of them are inspiring while others are a bit redundant and not exactly new.

A September 2012 article from Library Journal by David Weinberger, “Library as Platform” offers an idea that is being implemented in interesting ways by some forward thinking libraries.  I found my way to the Weinberger article through an article by Louisa Verma, “Using Mobile Technologies to Connect Face-to-Face.”

The article begins with a discussion of Facebook and the creativity that occurred when external developers were given the opportunity to build applications. Taking that thought forward to libraries as platforms, Weinberger encourages readers to think not about software platforms in the vein of Facebook but as a path to developing knowledge and community.

Weinberger states that an important reason to think about libraries as platforms:

It focuses our attention away from the provisioning of resources to the foment those resources engender. A library as platform would give rise to messy, rich networks of people and ideas, continuously sparked and maintained by the library’s resources. A library as platform is more how than where, more hyperlinks than container, more hubbub than hub.

The library as a platform has the potential to “increase its value by providing access to that which is built on it.”  The ability to provide access to everything possible is a lofty goal. When viewed from the corporate library lens, it is not necessarily a good one.  However, creating a path to social knowledge networks may indeed be a valuable service option for some libraries.

AS I read Verma’s article I was impressed by the expansion of the target audience for her mobile technology programs from clinical staff to all staff. This expansion created an environment of  collaboration for the program that grew organically.

I don’t know that library as a platform is going to catch the attention of the library world the way that Web 2.0 did.  However, the concepts Weinberger presents can certainly be used as food for thought when an information professional is struggling with an emerging technology and the need to provide supportive services. Thinking creatively and strategically to continue to provide corporate library service that delivers a value to the end user and that is recognized by the management is the ultimate goal for today’s environment. Service for service’s sake is definitely the bygone age so if library as platform delivers value that impacts the bottom line positively, so be it. Otherwise, it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

Constance Ard, January 13, 2013

Pew Report on Libraries Underscores Opportunities for Information Professionals to Lead the Charge in Asserting the Value of Librarians and Libraries

January 2, 2014

After a lazy day yesterday it is time to buckle down.  I’m working on a new study for the Ark Group on Corporate Libraries and I have lined up some great contributors.  In addition, I’m staying busy with a few ongoing projects. 

During the lazy browsing I did yesterday I came across this post from Beyond Search, “Libraries: A Good Thing.” Stephen Arnold is a long time contributor to the information industry, think in terms of ABI/Inform. So his advocacy for librarians is well known to his followers. This article demonstrates that advocacy.

Google was a grand innovation in the early days of Internet search.  Now, it often disappoints information seekers and the return to a focus on quality, vetted information sources seems to be growing.

A report from Pew Research underscores the value placed on public libraries. How Americans Value Public Libraries in Their Communities is available online.  The findings are worth noting, especially in terms of impact.

95% of Americans ages 16 and older agree that the materials and resources available at public libraries play an important role in giving everyone a chance to succeed

95% say that public libraries are important because they promote literacy and a love of reading

94% say that having a public library improves the quality of life in a community;

81% say that public libraries provide many services people would have a hard time finding elsewhere.

In reading Arnold’s analysis of the report he points out that with 54% of Americans having used the library in the last 12 months there is some work to be done.

If accurate, this statement identifies a Pew sampling issue and underscores the need to reach the 46 percent of folks who don’t use the library more than once in a blue moon.

Libraries are slow to change.  Opportunities for innovating service delivery is constrained by budget concerns. As those budget constraints force less and less access to non-Google resources, the opportunity for entrepreneurs, individuals and small businesses to innovate will also be constrained.

Access to information, high quality, well researched information and the ability to use that information is critical for continuous economic development.  The news that more people are using the library leaves a lot of room for interpretation. Why? Economic recession that began in 2008. What they are using? Music and DVDs or access to hard to get commercial databases?

Arnold’s conclusion touches on a growing concern that professional librarians need to be aware of and willing to communicate up the chain to institutional leadership.

The Pew Report does little to lessen my concern that easily distorted free Internet information is creating a false sense of “research security.” Libraries are an asset. I want to see them become more important, offer more commercial database access, and communicate that there is more to research than letting Google’s personalized research provide information automatically.

When information professionals take an assertive role in letting leaders and users know that free comes at a high cost, the value of the library just might start to be reasserted beyond popular public library services. The opportunity to impact corporate, special, law and academic libraries in the long tradition of high quality information and higher quality information services is ready for library leaders to capitalize. 

Constance Ard, January 2, 2014


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