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Well, They’ve Gone from Baltimore

The SLA exhibit hall closed down Tuesday night, the last sessions were Wednesday, there were a few tours on Thursday (only four this year, I guess people just can’t spend an entire week at a library conference), and attendees started heading home Wednesday night or Thursday. We, the ITI bloggers, had a few more sessions to report on, but now it’s time to close up this year’s coverage of the Special Libraries Association annual conference in Baltimore.

It was an exceptionally good conference, I thought. The usual mix of practical, theoretical, business, and whimsical topics was evenly balanced. The attendee enthusiasm level was high, with most librarians feeling fairly upbeat about their work situations and/or job prospects. The exhibit hall was busy most of the time, even while sessions were going on. There were a few technical glitches, such as malfunctioning microphones and computer connection problems. And who was responsible for scheduling only half hour breaks for lunch?

We’ve been blogging SLA for several years now and every year it gets a bit easier. Thanks to the SLA staff for being so responsive to our needs. It’s wonderful to have partners like the SLA and we look forward to seeing them again in Denver for SLA 2007 and in other cities at other learning events.

Marydee Ojala
Editor, ONLINE: The Leading Magazine for Information Professionals

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Where Have All the Librarians Gone?

So what does the future hold for librarians in the workforce? We’ll soon find out, according to Jose-Marie Griffiths from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In a Tuesday morning session, Griffiths updated the progress of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)-sponsored study that is designed to help us figure out how we need to adjust to the changes impacting library and information science professionals.

“Well, we all know the workforce is changing,” said Griffiths. When we add an aging workforce of librarians into the equation, we have a big challenge ahead. Technology is changing the workforce, and the Web is changing knowledge management. Sure, everyone is hooked on all this information and technology, “but people don’t know what they’re not getting in terms of information.” Users are missing out on lots of information, pure and simple. That’s where a good librarian comes in handy. How do we adapt to this big changing world around us?

Griffiths outlined the parameters of the study, tackling the problem from all angles: eight goals, four tasks, 10 surveys, user-service competencies, staff education, planning and budgeting, subject specialties, and more. The IMLS Future of the Library Workforce survey will be sent out to public and academic libraries, as well as a sampling of special and school libraries during the next few months. Griffiths makes an appeal for all librarians to take the time to fill out the survey and ship it back so all the voices can be heard.

Project partners include the SLA, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Pittsburgh, Syracuse University, Association of Research Libraries, and the American Society of Information Science & Technology.

Barbara Brynko
Editor in Chief
Information Today

And Speaking of Sharks

With many corporate parties being held at the National Aquarium at Baltimore, it seemed fitting that I stopped by the SharkRepellent.net (part of FactSet) booth on the exhibit floor. This company sinks its teeth into vital data to ward off corporate takeovers and build corporate defenses. Check out research data compiled on more than 4,500 U.S. incorporated public companies in concise, easy-to-digest charts, graphs, and pop-up screens that bring corporate power plays to the surface: takeover status, poison pills, voting records, pending legal actions, or corporate takeover strategies. If you hear about takeover rumors and know a few of the key players, you can check out their track record and see what kind of defense is the most effective (whether it’s your company or one you’ve invested in). With new information coming in waves every minute, this is a real plus for keeping an eye on hedge funds. Clients can customize reports or rely on the SharkRepellent Support team, available 24/7, because we know sharks never sleep.

Barbara Brynko
Editor in Chief
Information Today

My Vote for Coolest Cocktail


The martini luge was the hit of the LexisNexis party held Tuesday evening at the Baltimore Aquarium. It was a cool end to a hot day of activities.

Paula J. Hane
News Bureau Chief
Information Today, Inc.
www.infotoday.com

Springer to Launch eBook Collection

Several folks from Springer took time during the show to tell me about the new eBook Collection that the company will officially launch later this month at ALA. The site is set to go live on June 20. To accommodate the ebooks, the company is also launching its redesigned SpringerLink that will allow users to access ebooks, electronic reference works, and journals on a single integrated platform. At launch, the eBook Collection will provide 3,000 imprints from 2005, with a target of 10,000 total titles in 2006. The company plans to add 3,000 new ebooks every year. Libraries can purchase a complete collection of all titles from a year or choose from among 12 topical categories. The service allows unlimited, simultaneous access to ebooks. There’s more product information and an online demo linkable from the Springer site. Watch for additional details in an upcoming NewsBreak.

Paula J. Hane
News Bureau Chief
Information Today, Inc.
www.infotoday.com

Company Data in a Snap

The market research company Snapdata had a few new things to talk about in the exhibit hall—but, the company had not yet officially announced them. According to CEO Debra Curtis, the company now offers Company Snippets, which, as the name implies are concise company overviews. She said they are designed to provide a quick way to review a company’s history, M&A activity, management, products, brands, and joint ventures. Each report includes links to further sources but doesn’t provide financials. The new series joins the Company Portraits, which launched in November 2005.

The company now offers free Market Alerts, which announce the latest news on industries and markets that are related to recent reports published to the Snapdata site. The links are updated and rotated monthly. Subscription clients receive these by e-mail with their monthly updates. Curtis said they are working over the summer to add RSS feeds.

Paula J. Hane
News Bureau Chief
Information Today, Inc.
www.infotoday.com

Chatting with ProQuest’s Skip Prichard

Despite the ongoing investigation into ProQuest’s financial filings, the president of ProQuest’s Information and Learning division, David “Skip” Prichard, was upbeat about the company’s activities and its connections with customers. He said that, despite the challenges, it’s actually been an exciting time for him, because he’s focused so closely on traveling around and talking with customers. “Staying close to our customers is key,” he said.

Prichard joined the company in 2003 and became president in October 2005. He said the company is not cutting back on its product development—more than $50 million has been allocated for the year. “We have plans well into 2007 and beyond,” he said. He pointed proudly to some of the ongoing digitization projects and some of the newer products, such as Historical Annual Reports (see Marydee’s earlier post about this).

As for the investigation, he said that the independent study commissioned by the audit committee of the company’s board was “weeks away” from providing a report. He then said a final restatement of finances possibly could be made in the late fall. While Prichard doesn’t minimize the seriousness of the situation, he said he was pleased that his team found the problems and reported them.

Paula J. Hane
News Bureau Chief
Information Today, Inc.
www.infotoday.com

Of Course It’s Legal

Throughout the conference, SLA provides numerous networking opportunities. Roundtable sessions encourage members to share their best practices and learn from the mistakes and success stories of others. Additionally, divisions host open houses in the evenings for a more social type of networking. On the last night of the conference all the divisions except for Legal have closed their doors and headed off home (as have the majority of conference attendees). Do these law librarians know something the rest of us don’t? I find that final division suite to be a place where I get into some of the best conversations of the conference. Thanks, Legal Division!

Marydee Ojala
Editor, ONLINE: The Leading Magazine for Information Professionals

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For A “Mile High” Conference, Wait Till Next Year!

Well, I’m home from SLA, having been stimulated, challenged, educated, entertained, and yes, tired out! It was a great conference, and the organizing committee is to be congratulated for all their hard work in making it so successful. The Baltimore Convention Center, despite its size and the extensive walking required to get from one session to another (good exercise!) was a very suitable venue, and there were lots of great restaurants and other diversions close at hand in the Inner Harbor area. I especially want to acknowledge the staff of the Press Room, who provided an excellent environment, refreshments, and the facilities to make the job of blogging much easier. Thanks John and Cara!

This is my last posting on SLA 2006 (however, I’m sure that my fellow ITI bloggers will have their own farewell thoughts). The photo above shows the date and place of the 2007 conference. It’s not too early to mark your calendar now!

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today

An Education About Social Networks

When I saw a session on social networks on the program for Wednesday morning, I was expecting to hear about blogs, wikis, systems like MySpace, and so on. This talk was not what I expected (although I did ask the speaker a question about blogs and wikis), but that doesn’t mean it was not interesting or relevant to information professionals in large organizations. In fact, judging by the size and interest of the audience, I would say that it was of considerable interest.

Patti Anklam, an independent consultant affiliated with Hutchinson Associates, spoke on “Net Work: The New Leadership Challenge”, and her talk was about networks of people in large organizations. She noted that we all use networks every day in both our work and personal lives. We ask friends for recommendations of things to buy and places to go on vacation, and with the increasing complexity of work projects today, we increasingly collaborate with colleagues in our organizations. According to Anklam, strong networks help us create “social capital”, which is the medium of creating wealth and knowledge, and people in strong networks tend to be healthier, happier, and better performers.

Network maps are used to visualize relationships. A network is any set of relationships or a collection of nodes linked by a type of relationship. Types of patterns found in networks include silos, isolated clusters, highly central people or functions, marginalized voices, and individuals with external connectivity, distinct roles, and influence. We can relate formal and informal networks and find out who moves information in the organization and who is the most connected—and such people are not necessarily those highest in the organizational hierarchy.

Organizational Network Analysis (ONA) is a management tool for organizational networks, and Anklam listed 10 steps in conducting an ONA program. One example that she cited of research on networks and ONA is a study entitled “e-mail spectroscopy” carried out at Hewlett-Packard (which looked interesting enough to me to download and print the report for future reading). She also noted the professional associations have been fostering networks for many years by their structure of regional chapters, affinity groups, conferences, and educational programs.

Although this session was not what I expected, I found it fascinating, particularly the different types of network maps that Anklam cited. (It just shows that you never know what you will learn when you walk into a session, which is one of the pleasures of attending a conference like SLA.) And oh, yes, in response to my question, Anklam said that as you would expect, blogs, wikis, etc. have had a huge impact on how knowledge flows in networks.

Slides from this presentation are available on Anklam’s website.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today