Mary Ellen Bates, in The C-Level Suite and You webinar sponsored by Springer last Thursday, spoke about how we, as information professionals, can show our worth to employers. Ms. Bates started off by tackling the challenge of proving the human component is just as important as the resources and tools needed in performing research. Computers and databases may be able to provide answers to your questions, but cannot offer insight or interpretations of those answers. Humans bring perspective and non-linear thinking, and info pros know what questions to ask to get the best results, even if the client doesn’t.
We are curious, neutral, persistent, analytical and perceptive.
These skills enable us to assess information for its relevancy. Resources and tools like computers are wonderful, but info pros function as high-end filters.
Explaining what we do can also be a challenge, but one important goal is to emphasize terms that show value, rather than just stating a fact:
- “We search premium databases” -vs- “We bring perspective from the outside”
- “We provide research services” -vs- “We enable better decision making”
- “We are experts in finding and organizing information” -vs- “We make critical information findable”
In order to do this, though, we need to learn what’s really valued in our organizations by:
- Questioning all assumptions we have about our organization and its informational needs to see what we’re missing. Do I know my organization’s strategic goals?
- Asking clients to describe situations in which they couldn’t find the answer they needed, in order to ascertain their research habits and better help them in their search and to provide the resources that will give them what they need.
- Finding out if, after a trip to the information center, our clients feel like they have enough information, or maybe more than enough. Were their needs met?
- Listening for phrases like “I don’t know if you do this, but…” so we can help our clients to know that we’re capable of more than they may think.
- Soliciting input by asking clients:
“If you could change one thing about the information center, what would it be?”
To make the most out of a reference interview and have your client feeling that they’re getting the highest quality service and information, Ms. Bates suggests asking yourself:
- Do I understand the context and purpose of this project? Why are they asking? Why do they need this information? What will they do with it? How can I make it more valuable?
- Do I know what will happen to my deliverable? Will it be distributed to colleagues or used as sales or promotional materials?
- Do I know when I can stop? What is good enough?
- If I can’t find exactly that, what would be second best? Find out not what they think the answer should look like, but what the answer is. What can I do to help my client accomplish that? How can I make it more valuable?
- How am I reinventing myself?
- How can I move my professional comfort zone higher? — Have you given a speech? Led a group? Initiated a project?
- What am I to the bottom line? Am I overhead to be controlled or involved in generating revenue as strategic decision support?
- Am I selling what I have or what my clients need?
- Do I focus on effort or results?
- Do I track examples of my impact? What has changed as a result of my work?
- Am I visibly contributing to my organization’s goals?
- Where can I strategically expand? Who else in the organization depends on strategic information? Who is expanding into new areas? Who is on a high-level task force?
Try new things… Just call it BETA!
- Bates Information Services – Mary Ellen Bates website
- The C-Level Suite and You – Springer-sponsored webinar by Ms. Bates
- The True Value of Information: Making the Case for Value-Added Aggregators – Factiva-sponsored webinar by Ms. Bates
- Additional Value Resources via the Special Libraries Association
- ROI: Return on Investment – SLA Future Ready 365 blog post by Regina Mays and Gayle Baker with links to other resources