SLA Board of Directors Candidacy: Awesome Opportunity and Awesome Responsibility

September 7, 2011

In January I was asked to consider running for the position of SLA Chapter Cabinet Chair-Elect.  As a business owner I hesitated.  It takes a lot of time to keep my pipeline full and to execute the work for my clients.  I carefully weighed the pros and cons.  In the end, I said yes. And I’m glad I did.

I spent the Annual Conference in June 2011 introducing myself and listening to SLA members and their challenges and their solutions.  Our members are incredibly creative, innovative and smart.

Throughout this process I have been asked to provide my views on specific candidate questions.

Candidate Speech

Candidate Question 1: What sort of advice would you give to professionals in their first library-related position who might be interested in nontraditional career paths?

Candidate Question 2: When did you first join SLA? What made you decide to join then, and why do you still belong today?

Candidate Question 3: What is the newest “techie” gadget that you have/would like to have, and how do/would you use it to improve the work relationship that you have with your primary clientele?

Candidate Question 4: How has your work with SLA over the years helped you grow in the profession?

 Candidate Question 5: SLA is an international organization. How can SLA involve and reach out more to members outside of North America?

So you can follow these links and get some insight into my thinking, experience and kowledge.  Other candidate information is available as well.

Why did I write this post? Because Elections open today and if you want to know about me this just  might be the place you come to get more information before casting your educated vote.

Constance Ard September 7, 2011


Being Independent Allows Flexibility

February 15, 2010

Last week I had the opportunity to share some cocoa and conversation with a fellow librarian who is working on her MBA.  She asked to interview me for a project she was working on related to Independent Information Professionals.

The conversation ranged from how I got started to how I plan to continue building my clientele.  I spent a lot of time talking about the mentors and others who supported me in making the switch from employee to self-employed.  I iterated the fact that I had a client to begin with who also became a mentor and another mentor in the business who has helped me learn lots of the ins and outs of being and Independent Information Professional.

Independent Information Professionals benefit from Flexibility

In addition to the people behind me, I also have been given some unusual opportunities early in my IIP career.  For instance, being approached late last summer to write a book.  I don’t think that happens to many IIPs early on but it was an opportunity I could not refuse.

My interviewer seemed surprised by my adamant statement, that I did not plan for this change in career and that I was not good at setting out long-term career goals for myself.  Every thing I have done in my career path has been time and opportunity based.

My first full-time professional library job came from meeting the hiring librarian at a conference and pressing my resume into her hand at that initial meeting.  Starting Answer Maven was a result of assessing opportunities and hurdles in changing jobs in my then current setting.  Having people in my corner saying “You can do this” gave me some courage that I didn’t have myself.  And that courage was a necessary component for the switch.

Now, although I don’t plan for my own career moves you must understand that once a path has been chosen, I dedicate myself to succeeding.  So I do plan for things within my IIP career.  I set marketing goals, I continuously strive forward and I have realistic milestones set that ensure that I do not remain stagnant.

The funny thing is that the goals I set often transform into something larger.

  • Attend 1 networking event per month

has become

  • Assist in the planning and execution of one networking event per month.
  • Write for 1 article publication per quarter

transformed into writing a book as opposed to an article.  Trust me writing a full length book/report is way harder than writing a 500 word article.

So if I have one piece of advice to offer up to anyone in the independent information profession it is to take opportunities where they present and be flexible in how you execute the actions necessary to meet your goals.

Constance Ard February 15, 2010


Strategic Social Media in Action with the SLA Legal Division

December 1, 2009

I am currently working on setting my goals and objectives for my term as Chair of the SLA Legal Division.  I’m very lucky to be following the footsteps of our current chair, Martha Foote who takes organization and procedures to new heights and makes my work ahead much easier.

One of the key things that I want to accomplish is the more frequent and broader communication with our members and potential members.  This requires a lot of strategy because Social Media will play an important role.  Our current methods are the foundation of our communication and I want to use social networking to build upon that foundation.

I will apply the skills and talents of many of our members along the way to help make this a successful building project.  I have learned many things as I advise my clients about using Social Media to promote their core product and I will apply that same advice to my work with the Legal Division.

The Division was founded in 1993 and our website, looks like it might have been created at that inception.  Priority number 1 is to execute a plan to update our website.  The goal is to make it so that the people responsible for content such as officer and committee reports could upload the data themselves.  Of course control is a necessity for this work too.  All of the necessary parameters are floating through my head as I weigh pros and cons against dreams and necessities.

Now, you may wonder why I’m telling you about my work for the Legal Division.  The truth is, that I know that I will need to practice what I preach in my work as Chair.   I will need to employ strategy about what tools we should use.  We will need to be clear and concise about what we will allow and what is not allowed.  I will need to  relate goals, objectives and actions to our Executive Board along with a balanced view of what will work and what I recommend so that they can consider carefully the options being offered.  In short, I must be strategic across the board in this work.

Social Media work can not be done in a vacuum.  It takes the knowledge and skills of many.  I am confident that the many people I will be working with will ensure that this goal of improved and more frequent communications will be a success.

Note:  For more reading about Strategic Use of Social Media check here.


Social Networking in Rural Areas

September 25, 2009

Earlier this week I did a presentation in a more rural area of my home state related to social media.

The presentation has been done in a few other areas of the state and I felt the crowd while maybe not wholly engaged was at least somewhat listening and understanding what was being said.  That wasn’t the case in this audience of rural area dwellers.

When asking the questions about how many have MySpace or Facebook or otherwise engage in the world of social media, the hands up were fewer than expected.

The blank eyes gazing back at me when I talked about applying social media strategically in both a research and business procedure manner was shocking.

I guess what I’m trying to get at here is that we mustn’t forget that while Social Media may be old hat to geeks like me, not everyone understands it and despite the millions of Facebook users there are millions more who do not update their status and live and breathe mobile technology that keeps them connected with their social network.

Lesson learned: never anticipate that your audience knows what you are talking about and always be ready to adjust your presentations to get them to a comfortable level that allows them to get something for their time, effort and money.

Constance Ard September 25, 2009


Martindale-Hubbell Connected

September 21, 2009

After this weekend’s interest in my post about Martindale-Hubbell listings and the comment made by M-H interests I thought M-H Connected warranted a bit of attention on my part.  I had this on my radar earlier in the year while it was still a closed network in beta form but it dropped off the screen before it was opened up to the wider community.

Even during my preparation for the Kentucky Law Update 2009 CLE session I have been presenting throughout the state of Kentucky, Connected wasn’t grabbing enough attention.  In the two presentations done thus far out of about 100-125 attendees per session only one person has responded affirmatively when asked if they are a member of M-H Connected.  Thus I don’t feel guilty about not having written about this specialized networking tool.

So this morning I decided to sign-up for an account and do a test run.  The Terms of Use I am happy to say make it very clear that practicing attorneys (which I am not one of) are held to Professional Rules of Conduct.  M-H reserves the right to monitor and prevent postings in the Interactive area and my account was not immediately confirmed.

All of these are positive things when using a tool in the world of law practice.  Since I am not an attorney and I don’t fit most of the ready-made registration categories, I am glad that M-H is manually verifying my right to participate in this closed community.

The closed community aspect of M-H Connected leaves me scratching my head.  Social media is about networking.  There are many tools that have already built strong participants without closing the community.

Martindale-Hubbell Connected very succinctly defines their purpose:

Expand participants professional network.

Get “just-in-time” trusted answers.

Demonstrate thought leadership.

Social NetworkingFor those who have been using social networking tools prior to 2009, this is a bit of a reinvention of the wheel.  Sure, Connected is for legal professionals, but Linked-In offers those same 3 solutions and allows for broader networking.  If legal professionals can only benefit from the advise of other legal professionals, that’s a problem.  I don’t believe any legal professional limits their networking to those of the same likeness, otherwise they have no growth opportunities either for business partnerships, potential clients, business solutions or intellectual engagement.

Now, that being said I don’t think M-H Connected is a bad idea.  In the world of information overload sometimes, it is an advantage to seek information in a focused, selected source. Legal professionals will certainly benefit from that selectiveness offered by M-H Connected.  However, if that’s the only social media tool they are using, they will find themselves as a distinct disadvantage when applying business strategy to the Web 2.0 world of interconnectedness.

Constance Ard September 21, 2009


Weapons of Research, Where and How I Learned to Wield Them

August 30, 2009

Over the weekend, I have been busy researching for an ongoing project.  I had some time to kill yesterday afternoon while my companion was busy.  So I rolled into my favorite Louisville Free Public Library Branch, Crescent Hill, and hit the computer station.  I logged into my library account, accessed the EBSCO databases and commenced my searches.

I had no paper, I wasn’t using my computer and I didn’t even have my USB drive.  Before I headed to the library, my companion asked, how will you be able to research?  Until I logged into the databases and realized I could save items to my folders, I wasn’t sure how I would deal with this problem.  The cloud is very beneficial to mobility and research on the fly of an otherwise playful Saturday.

After we spent some time catching up on the print Harper’s and GQ and were driving back, my companion and I reflected on how we used to do research.  We were both history majors in college.  The college we attended was a small private college with a small library.  Both of us used the Interlibrary Loan services heavily.  We definitely knew our librarians by first name and ERIC was like magic.

The old way of research used specific Title/Autho/Subjects access methods.

The old way of research used specific Title/Autho/Subjects access methods.

We used a mixture of print indexes and dedicated databases.  Our library still had the card catalog, but they also had a very simple OPAC.  Our computer lab was full of AB switches and WordPerfect 4.0 was so much better than the electric typewriters.  In my theses course, my professor said there was no way the paper could be written in two nights, (draft and final due dates) but that’s exactly how I did the writing.  My dorm room was full of books, all open to the indexes and out came a great paper, lost along the way, on Women Rulers…(I can’t even remember  the title now.)

Today, the research is easier and more convenient, but I wonder, if I would be as good at it as I am without the experience I had as an undergraduate.  The process was harder, my professors and librarians had clear expectations of following the process and when I spent a semester in the Master’s History program  at the University of Kentucky, I was better prepared than many of my fellow students.

Research requires awareness and intelligence.  Google and other search engines make keyword searching much easier but I think that ease causes some  loss in the research process.  Researchers rarely go beyond the first few results and the game of SEO makes it easy for the the best sources to get pushed to page to 2 or 3.

Index terms were necessary to find the relevant sections of the sources I used when a college student and I still tend to disregard books that don’t have good indexes.  Social tags are not nearly as reliable as structured taxonomies.  I know the value of expert indexing and rely upon that.  Keyword searching is easy but it only takes me so far.  EBSCO provided me the structured terms and Boolean searching I require for my current project.  I’m glad I had the research experience from college and the skills and knowledge I gained as I completed my Masters of Library Science. Without it my research process would be flawed and my projects would not be as accurate and relevant as they should be.

Today’s information users don’t always know what they are missing because they don’t understand the importance of information structure and the research process.  Information literacy is a constant battle in college and universities.  My academic library colleagues work hard to partner with professors so that these important skills can be passed on.  They use innovate methods and mediums such as Second Life to reach the student where the student lives.  The battle goes on and smart information users will arm themselves with the weapons they can learn from their librarians.  I’m glad I still have those weapons.

Constance Ard August 30, 2009


Call for Information Professionals to Take Charge

June 26, 2009

I may be misinterpreting Stephen Arnold’s words with my headline, but if you read his post here and disagree with my interpretation, the comments field is open.

As a law librarian, I took on the training of summer associates, fall associates and partners.  Their training needs were based upon the fact that they underutilized the power of the commercial databases at their disposal and didn’t use the free resources on the Internet to their greatest advantage.

Librarians are continuously learning and expanding their own knowledge base.  Partnering with vendors to maximize the powerful information collected in commercial services is just one way to win friends and influence users.

Keyword search with Google is so easy because most people are looking for those top indexed terms.  Applying the Google method of search to complex information collections does not assure accurate results.  If you are searching within a specific industry’sdata and that industry serves multiple audiences that use similar terms that talk about vastly different topics,  you will understand that search is more than keywords.

Taxonomies, language structure, database structure and more affect how information is retrieved.  The average user doesn’t think beyond their own interpretation of  a topic and may turn away frustrated or satisfied when they have no information or the wrong information.  And therein lies the danger because the average user does not recognize that the correct information is there, just beyond their keywords.

Without the education provided by information professionals the inaccuracies caused by amateur searchers could have significant impacts on business and research.  Our profession must iterate the importance of information literacy that reaches beyond keyword retrieval.  Verification of sources, currency, accuracy and complex search techniques are critical skills.  No one is better able or placed to teach those skills than librarians.

So my fellow professionals, take up the charge and continue the fight.  We must demonstrate the need, the problems caused by not meeting that need and why we are in the best position to meet the need.  Teach information literacy beyond keyword search.  Teach to cause and effect and champion yourself as the key weapon in the battle for information retrieval.


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