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Librarians who have moved out of the library space. Are you willing to be interviewed?

I am doing some research into librarians who have moved out of the library space without undertaking further study – that is they have built a new career based on their library skills and knowledge. This includes those who have moved to new organisations, new positions within their organisation and those who have moved out of libraries and have also returned to working in libraries after undertaking other roles. It may be you have moved to records management, knowledge management, project management or a position which on first impression looks like it is not even related in any way to information management. It may even be that your ‘library’ no longer resembles a ‘library’ as such.

The research will be in two parts:

  • first an online survey to gather the demographics – this data will be aggregated up so I get a general profile of the group being interviewed in part 2.  I do not intend to identify individuals unless they are happy for me to do so. You can link to the survey here;
  • second will be one on one interviews to gather the narrative (or individual stories) about your key skills, knowledge and attributes which made your library training valuable outside libraries. This will include how you have made the move and what parts of your library/information management skills and knowledge have been most valuable in achieving the move. Interviews will be achieved via Skype (if possible) to keep costs down.

I intend to publish the results of this piece of research late in 2012 or early 2013.

If you are wondering why I want to to do this research my story is as follows:

From 2006 to 2009 I was engaged as the Program Manager for the Knowledge for Regional NRM Program at Land & Water Australia.  The team had a total of three professional librarians (including myself).  We also had an ecologist, a science communication professional and an environmental science practitioner in the team.  It was an excellent and diverse mix of individuals and we all learnt a huge amount from each other.  One of the things we noticed as we moved around the National Resource Management (NRM) organisations across Australia was that we experienced similar conversations and comments from our stakeholders when they discovered the library background of the three librarians.  It was basically “Thank goodness you are here”.  Every organisation we went in to had challenges with information and knowledge management and the identification as a ‘librarian’ brought about a very positive reaction.

Since leaving my position at Land & Water Australia and the Australian Public Service to set up my own consultancy I have had nothing but positive comments about my library background.  I constantly discover just how much I know about finding information in comparison to my clients and colleagues. I used to call myself a ‘recovering librarian’ but now am happy to state that you don’t recover as your librarian skills, knowledge and attitude is one of your greatest assets.

As the 2012 President of the Special Libraries Association ANZ Chapter and a former Chair of the KM Division, I decided it was time to get some hard evidence on why librarians are viewed so positively outside the traditional library sector. As such I invite you to be part of my research.

To take part please send me an email to with a brief background and contact details (especially your Skype ID) and I will be back in touch with more details.

A brief update on this project – I will be sending out the survey component the first week of July as other work pressures are keeping me busy at the moment.  There is still time to participate by sending me an email.

It is Information Awareness Month again and there is a wonderful selection of events occurring across Australia.

  • actKM is running a session on the 15th of May where Dr Graham Durant-Law will be presenting on Network Numerology.
  • Celebrate the start of Information Awareness Month by coming along to the next AGLIN/ALIA Information Sharing Forum which will  be held on Wed. 2 May.  Come and hear Dr. Paul Koerbin, Manager Web Archiving at the National Library outline the selection and retention policies used for Pandora in respect to  collecting and preserving government web material. He will give details of any proposed changes and developments  to the system. There will be time for your questions at the end of your presentation. Wed. 2 May 4.00 pm in the Ferguson Room, National Library

Everywhere you turn there seems to be someone complaining about ‘Information Overload’, but what does this really mean?  Yes, there is an exponential growth in the amount of information availabe for us to access, but it is how we handle the information that determines whether it makes a difference.  I have been thinking long and hard about this issue and have come across some interesting theories to do with just too much information, plus a few theories of my own.

Firstly we have Information Overload

This is where you are not in control of the amount of information being directed at you. It could be that it is all work related and there does not seem to be a way to turn it all off.  We have seen a proliferation of courses (such as Personal Effectiveness Program – PEP), systems for prioritising emails, new ways of managing meetings etc – but it just seems you cannot turn the information tap off. I am not sure there is a solution to this one – except for turning off the world and becoming a hermit.

Secondly we have Information Obesity

To me this is similar to the issues described by Clive Hamilton in Affluenza where we just want more and more and more.  Luke Naismith called this Infoluenza – but I think it is more like the obesity issues we have in our society.  We feel like we have to have it all or we might miss something.  This one really is self-induced and probably requires a level of therapy to overcome the problem. I also suspect this one has a lot to do with lack of information literacy as I am sure there are a lot of people who unable to make a judgement on the value of the information they are busy collecting.

Then we have Information Anorexia

Like the eating disorder ‘anorexia’, information anorexia is where the information receiver starts off trying to limit the amount of information they are consuming.  This control becomes an obsession and they run a real risk of limiting their intake to such a degree that they only see a distorted view of the world.  I have seen this when working in libraries when doing information research where the client says I want information on ‘x topic’ but I only want you to look at this source and that source (often these were 2-3 think tanks only).  By limiting or controlling the source you end up missing potentially important and perhaps counter-evidence in your research.  Potentially a very dangerous situation if you are doing research for public policy, medicine, intelligence or legal issues.

And finally we have Information Dismorphia

This is a symptom I have seen often where the information receiver is so obsessed by the detail in the information they miss the big picture. I remember a situation many years ago where I sent a data visualisation example to a colleague and suggested they have a look at the method being used to communicate complex data only to have it sent back telling me there were gaps in the data being used.  If  I remember correctly I made a decision not to pursue the idea as I was aware that my colleague was unlikely to understand what I was driving at as he was too far down in the weeds to see the landscape.

I know I am probably in the information obesity category – but my excuse is that I love finding information and then being able to send it to someone I know is also interested in that topic.  I just wish I had more time to read and learn about new and exciting topics.

If you have ever wanted to know more about taxonomies or wondered how you could better explain taxonomies to your colleagues this is the workshop for you.

Patrick Lambe is amazing.  I heard him present in New Orleans in June at the Special Libraries Conference and he had the audience completely spellbound – and yes he was talking about taxonomies.

We are lucky enough to have him visiting Australia in March 2011 when he will be running a 2 day workshop in Sydney.

Full details of the workshop are on Matt Moore’s website.  Also, it is such a bargain – $900 for a 2 day workshop of this quality is fantastic value.

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