Internet Librarian 2009: Librarians Get Enterprising

Oct 30, 2009

With a theme of "Net Initiatives for Tough Times," this year's Internet Librarian show in Monterey, CA tapped into the key issue facing librarians and information managers in every setting: how to do more with less, while always proving your contributions to the success of your organization. On Tuesday, October 28 the Enterprise Trends and Practices track, moderated by Cindy Romaine of Romaniacs Intelligence Research, delved into how those pressures are being addressed in enterprise settings.

The good news is that during these difficult times, creativity is flourishing in libraries and information centers. The better news is that many librarians seem to recognize, sometimes more clearly than the organizations in which they work, the role they can play in helping employers weather the current economic storm.

One major trend is the willingness to leverage free Web 2.0 tools and collaborate with peers in other organizations, to surface and share information. During a talk called "Web 2.0: The Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll of Tough Times," Jaye Lapachet of Coblentz, Patch, Duffy & Bass LLP and Camille Reynolds of Nossaman LLP described how they and other law librarians working at mid-sized firms in San Francisco developed a collaborative wiki on judicial profiles, too time-consuming for any one librarian to create alone but a valuable asset for all the firms involved.

Lapachet pointed out that the lack of a budget shouldn't stop a project from getting underway. "Look for free Web 2.0 tools to show proof of concept," she advised. "Then, once you've shown it works, maybe you can get a budget later when things get easier." This "just do it" theme was also reflected by Walter Nelson, the library webmaster of the RAND corporation who shared his experience in creating a digital library on a shoestring.

That nonexistent budget may give traction to the idea of refreshing an old data source. In a session called "Archive Metamorphosis: Caterpillar to Social Computing Butterfly," Gerry Lukos and Jody Hopper of Intel talked about taking Intel's long-dormant Virtual Research Library (VRL) database and updating it with Web 2.0 features and functions to increase usage. They've also found a way to repurpose the data, using VRL publishing statistics to validate expertise in a new Expert Finder. "We learned that you can work with what you've got," said Lukos. "And weigh the cost of perfection versus 'good enough.'"

Rethinking the structure of the information professional's role in order to better support the enterprise's success was another topic. Ruth Kneale, systems librarian for the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope project in Tucson, started the "Expanding Enterprise Roles" talk by asking audience members to raise their hands if they worked in something that included "library" in the title. Fully half of those present kept their hands in their laps, illustrating Kneale's point that aligning librarian skills within an enterprise's functional groups is becoming more prevalent, and is an effective means of both expanding librarian skill sets and raising visibility within the organization.

Her co-presenter, Jerry O'Connor-Fix, is one such "embedded " librarian for Waters Corporation, a provider of analytical science solutions. "Team librarians attend every product vertical meeting," O'Connor-Fix said. While time-consuming, it enables her staff to develop individual information plans for team members, providing customized newsfeeds for each co-worker to help them in their specific roles.

The day's presentations ended with a discussion of how two corporate libraries are using mobile devices - specifically, eReaders available for loan - to entice library usage and experiment with this new delivery channel. Britt Mueller of Qualcomm found that employee interest was high - a long wait list exists for the devices in this pilot program, and the library has had record numbers of visitors - but that content availability for professional material still lags. "The question we always get is 'What do you have that I can read on the device?'" said Mueller. "We want more library materials than can be used on the device, untethered. The model is still very much consumer-oriented."

During the morning's keynote interview of Paul Holdengraber, director of public programs at the New York Public Library, he talked about the importance of making the library irresistible. "Get to know your audience, and give them something they don't even expect," Holdengraber advised. The presentations at the Enterprise Trends & Practices track showed that especially in these tough times, IL2009 attendees are making every effort to do just that.