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.
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.
January 5, 2015