Library caught in web

Library caught in web

By Siobhan Chapman

The humble librarian risks budget cuts and redundancy, unless they embrace the Internet and overcome the spinster image, warns an information management expert.

Since the arrival of the Internet on the desktop of most workers, there has been a growing appreciation of knowledge as critical to the success of the organisation. Yet many corporations and Government departments fail to use the Internet effectively and undervalue the humble librarian, according to an international information management consultant and former librarian.

"Librarians have an image problem," said Mary Ellen Bates, principal of Bates Information Services, a consultancy firm in the US. Ms Bates, who has run a consultancy for ten years and, prior to this, worked in the library of a corporate law firm for 12 to 15 years, has seen "radical changes" in information management since the advent of the Internet.

The web threatens to usurp the librarian, according to Ms Bates. Librarians need to educate corporations on their worth and overcome the spinsterly "grey hair in a bun image" held by management, or risk losing their budgets.

"Librarians challenge is to make sure people realise they are more than information finders. Before the days of the Web, people didn't understand how we got our information. We never bothered to explain the skillsets involved," she said.

"On the surface there is a lot of information available on the Web. But the Web is not what it appears to be. The Web is not yet truly a global information resource. It will only have information to a certain extent. Google doesn't cover everything," she said. "Much of the best information is still not available electronically. Every bit of research that costs money isn't being given away on the Web."

"The career of librarian is a helping profession. The value of information may be given, but the value of the librarian is not as easily given," Ms Bates said.

Ms Bates will be in Sydney to present at the Information Online 2003 Conference & Exhibition held on 21 to 23 January 2003 at the Sydney Convention Centre, Darling Harbour. Information Online 2003 is convened by the Information Specialists Group of the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA).

In addition, Ms Bates will conduct some specialist workshops in Townsville, Queensland and Sydney where one of the objectives is to show librarians how to measure the value in the internal workings of a library.

Workshop details:

  • 17 January, Power Searching From the Experts all-day workshop with Chris Sherman, Townsville QLD (organised by ALIA).
  • 20 January, Moving Up the Value Chain all-day workshop with Elizabeth Swan and Maree Lipschitz
  • 22 January, Breakfast with Super Searchers
  • 22 January, Global Research in a Non-Global Information Environment
  • 23 January, The role of the information professional plenary session
  • 24 January, Power Searching From the Experts all-day workshop with Chris Sherman

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