Data Sets Are the New Collection Item

Computational knowledge is all the rage.  The recent WolframAlpha Data Summit was a sellout event as a wide variety of database owners gathered to explore how to generate answers from data that may be just sitting gathering dust.  The range of data under consideration is expanding, including data from movies, UNICEF, and BBC.   The conference, was by invitation only and interest exceeded capacity.  The community hosts a blog at to stay updated on their latest ingestation of data.

Washington, DC chapter of Special Libraries Association, hosted Troy King of the US Census Bureau for an overview of data available from this agency.  The most striking point of his presentation was education needed to understand the data.

The Census Bureau offers a great model of information literacy.  Although ‘everything’ is on the Web, that does not equate to easily understood statistics, followed by responsible use of data.  Supporting complex electronic data with free training opportunities, offered in a variety of instructional formats, seems to be a socially responsible solution.  I personally like the human interaction approach, but perhaps that is why I became a librarian!

Information Seeking

User services often incorporate library instruction to address information seeking research when dealing with either complex problems or  collections with both frequent and infrequent  visiting patrons.  This includes not only academic research, but can also extend to approaches for digital resources in corporations and government, museums, special archives or interests such as genealogy.  Instructional programs can range from orientation tours, book talks, bibliographic resources, information organization, information literacy and research process, database  instruction and more.   The following are useful models that aid design and production of curriculum. 

Kuhlthau’s information search process

Eisenberg and Berkowitz’s Big6 stages of seeking or applying information to solve a problem

Bloom’s Taxonomy that help to develop different types of learning

Lorenzen provides a historical overview of library instruction in the U.S. at

Management Competencies

Cherry Blossom Quilt by Michelle Polchow

Cherry Blossom Quilt by Michelle

Information professions and librarians have been identified on the organizational chart as “serving the white spaces.” It is essential to learn to work with and through others to achieve effective and efficient operations of libraries and information services.

Professor Blane Dessy sees the process beginning with self-managment.
•Management Aptitude
•Best Manager/Worst Manager
•Working in an Adaptive Culture
•Ethical Work Climate
•Personal Decision Style?
•Organic vs. Mechanistic Organizational Structures
•Want to Be an HR Manager?
•How Tolerant Are You?
•Personality Assessment: Jung and Myers-Briggs

These exercises helped strengths and weaknesses dealing with all the areas which managers must be proficient as identified in the SLIS proessional competencies for management:
1) strategic management and planning; 2) human resource management; 3) budgeting and financial management; 4) marketing, including promotion; 5) ethical management; 5) leadership; 6) communication; 7) negotiation and teamwork;   8) the management of technology; 9) change and innovation;  and 10) and the evaluation of organizational processes and programs.

What Do Librarians Do These Days? (Part II-Resource & Collection Development)

Textile Museum Library

Textile Musuem Library

Resource and collection development competencies start with a foundational understanding of the philosophy of reference service.  This includes the legal and ethical responsibilities by members of the profession relevant to the provision of information. Due to the wide variety of settings where librarians and information professionals may practice, the philosophy also explores an understanding of the economic, political, cultural, and social importance of the information profession, which may not always be in sync with the workplace values. 

The American Library Association’s (ALA) code of ethical conduct:

 The Library Bill of Rights from ALA:

 The Association of Independent Information Professionals (AIIP) has a code of ethics: 

AIIP also has a Statement of Policy Concerning Intellectual Property Rights

American Society for Information Science and Technology has Professional Guidelines

Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals also has a Code of Ethics  

The expertise for resource and collection development skills involves the ability to evaluate, acquire, organize, disseminate, manage and preserve information.  Evaluation begins with professional standards to determine the fitness of sources to meet particular information needs.  A broad skill set requires familiarity with multiple and emerging formats of information.   User group diversity, due to Internet communication and global population migration patterns, is another labyrinth to navigate.   The complexity for selection  decisions reaches beyond format and subject matter, but also must  incorporate multidimensional issues such as ethnic, cultural, linguistic, and geographic diversity.  Resources must serve information seekers in a global society.   

The proliferation of both print and electronic sources requires demonstrated proficiency in retrieving all formats of information, starting with the ability to design basic search strategies.  Not only are these skills required for using information technologies, but the ability to articulate this process to users is equally essential.  Information retrieval incorporates evaluation, synthesis, interpretation and application skills. Writing and presentation skills are critical for information delivery as well as facilitating information management.  

An external awareness of economic, political and social trends is necessary for anticipating current and future user needs.  A large measure of curiosity, dedication to professional growth, drive for continuous learning, and  desire to apply new knowledge to improve information systems and services is critical for information professionals in such a fast paced society.

 Information resource management encompasses de-selection in a cost effective manner, along with establishing and maintaining storage, preservation and conservation plans.   Disaster planning, working with archival standards, managing circulation and determining access control are also possible responsibilities.  Electronic resource management includes  contract negotiation, contractual compliance,  technological support, and a current  understanding of intellectual property, digital rights, copyright, licensing and intellectual freedom.

Library and information service staff must successfully communication across the organization and be skilled in articulating the role information services plays in terms of institutional value.  Managers must know the principles and methods to effectively assess current and emerging situations or circumstances.  Organizational knowledge is vital for successful design, implementation and development of appropriate resources.  Leadership and negotiation skills help develop effective policies and procedures for the provision of services. This also requires a strong aptitude for marketing, public relations and library promotion in a time of information overload and stretched economic resources.

What Do Librarians Do These Days? (Part I – Professional Identity)

Book mural at Rehoboth Beach

Book mural at Rehoboth Beach

Competencies provide a measure of skill, knowledge and ability assessment integrated into the School of Library and Information Science at a program level and then broken out into specifics for each course.  In academia it provides a framework for the curriculum and measurable learning outcomes. From my perspective, it’s the assets I bring to an employer.  It is also the very complex answer to “what do librarians do these days?” 

From the broad prospective, the competencies include: 

  • Information Organization;
  • Management;
  • Professional Identity;
  • Resource And Collection Development;
  • Technology;
  • User services.

Starting with the professional identity grounds the theory for all the other competency areas.  Librarians have a long established history for taking leadership in society as the defender of information and the importance of preserving it for cultural heritage.  Advocates for open access to information have professionally established values, principles, legal and ethical responsibilities they bring to the work environment.  Librarians have an enduring sense of commitment to advance the knowledge of individual users and collectively to better humanity, particularly important for a democratic form of government to thrive. 

 Several professional associations provide a code of conduct to cover the field of library and information science.  The American Library Association is probably best known and represents the members most visible to the public through public libraries, school libraries and academic libraries. American Library Association (ALA) Core Competences of Librarianship, approved by ALA’s Presidential Task Force on Library Education, May 2008

 The Special Library Association combines common goals, problem solving and innovation between organizations such as museums, federal libraries, hospitals, law, universities, research, news, and more.  Special Libraries Association (SLA)

 These are additional specialized professional library associations and organizations that bring professionals together for continual learning, mentoring and career development.

Intellectual Freedom & American Library Association

Molly Raphael, presidential candidate for the American Library Association, spoke at the CUA campus on March 17.  Her wide variety of experiences and broad perspective of libraries appealed to me.  However, what resonated most was her “defending core values.”  In praise of this, I offered by support on her Facebook page:

Thank you for taking time to visit Catholic University of America’s School of Library and Information Science.  I am excited about your stated priorities and share your drive to maintain open access to information.  This is particularly alarming as our society becomes more electronically driven and at the same time the economic downturn is forcing more middle class people to stop their connection service.  Libraries have become a sole source of connection for these people, in addition to the low-income segment of our population.  Now more than ever the U.S. cannot afford to have lawmakers blindly reduce library budgets, that thereby reduce library hours, which results in closure to information.  Lawmakers need to recognize that a democratic society cannot exist without freedom to access information and how essential library services are now, more than ever, in the increasingly digital information dependent society. 

Mullen Library computer terminals

Mullen Library

If books are the only image that comes to mind when someone says “libraries,” remember this is just one small faucet of today’s institutions.  At the foundation of libraries lies intellectual freedom, privacy and open access.  The reinforcements of reading and information literacy are equally vital to a fully functioning democracy. 

When visits take place within library walls, a collection of exceptional materials based on professional criteria awaits the patron who can select from this prearranged material to meet their needs as they see fit.  It now all seems so old fashioned.  But just think how much more important this institution should become as society flails in a flood of unfiltered information.  Information searches conducted outside the library often eliminate the librarian assistance element.  When high quality databases are bypassed, excellent web sources are overlooked, and time is wasted in frustrating attempts to find desired information, some may long for the simpler building and book scenario. But rest assured librarians are still here.  So, next time you hear the word library, don’t forget to envision extraordinary databases and websites right beside information that remains to be found only in books.