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See You in DC

Until next June, this is the SLA Information Today blog signing off! But we’ll be covering other conferences in between, so do check back.

Marydee Ojala

Editor, ONLINE: Exploring Technology & Resources for Information Professionals

On to Washington DC

 

There’s a very old joke that goes something like this: "What does the DC in Washington DC stand for? Oh, that’s easy, it stands for Da Capital." OK, not all that funny and you very likely know that DC really stands for District of Columbia. 

Next year SLA will capitalize on being in Washington for its centennial. Although at the closing annual business meeting, SLA Treasurer Sylvia James assured us that the association was in reasonably good financial shape, while acknowledging "difficult financial times," some officers of individual units told me privately they were concerned about financing their activities for the 2009 conference.

After this year’s theme of "Breaking Rules, Building Bridges," will the 2009 theme be about building bank accounts?

I’m looking forward to next year’s conference, whatever it’s theme may be!  And George Washington, who decided to join the farewell party at the last minute as you can see above, is looking forward to it as well.

Marydee Ojala

Editor, ONLINE: Exploring Technology & Resources for Information Professionals

 

SLA + Seattle = Success

Here are the official numbers from SLA’s 2008 annual conference in Seattle: There were 5,011 total registrants, 845 first time attendees, 1,681 exhibitor registrants, 464 booths, 283 companies, and 50 new exhibitors. This compares with last year’s numbers of 5,047 total registrants, 801 first timers, 1,702 exhibitors, 445 booths, 275 companies, and 38 new exhibitors.

Next year in Washington DC, I’d expect the numbers to go higher in all categories, since it’s the Centennial of the association.

Thinking back on this year’s conference, I noted an upbeat tone. Attendees were enthusiastic, not just about the conference, but also about the profession and their jobs. The conference seemed less chaotic than in previous years. The timing of sessions worked well. I liked the hour and a half sessions, with some sprinkles of two hour sessions. A few odd glitches were build into the schedule. For example, on Monday, sessions ended at 10:30 but the exhibits didn’t open until 11, leaving a half hour with nothing planned. Then on Wednesday, the exhibit hall closed at noon, the afternoon sessions ended at 1:45, but the closing general session didn’t start until 2:30. Again, some unexplained dead time.

Overall, however, an extremely successful conference. Congratulations to all the conference planners.

Marydee Ojala

Editor, ONLINE: Exploring Technology & Resources for Information Professionals

 

Farewell Reception

New this year was a farewell reception following the final session and business meeting.  Attendees enjoyed food and drink in a beautiful atmosphere.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today

Get Your Meatballs…Godin Book Signing

Seth Godin met some fans and signed copies of his books before his presentation in the closing session. As he later said, Digital stuff needs to spread–the souvenir stuff we need to keep and treasure.

Paula J. Hane
News Bureau Chief, ITI

 

Seth Godin—Marketing Man Extraordinaire

Some of us may have had doubts about hearing a keynote address by someone who wrote a marketing book titled Meatball Sundae. What does this have to do with librarians? But, any reservations changed quickly to anticipation when I checked him out before the event. Seth Godin is a best selling author, entrepreneur, and agent of change. His last 6 books have been best sellers around the globe and have been translated into 15 languages. And he has a very powerful message for librarians.

He said, “It’s hard for me to find smart audiences. I wanted to talk to this group because you get it—you understand opportunities. Every person in this room is a marketer. Librarians spread ideas—truth is meaningless if it doesn’t spread—we need to figure out how to do that.”

According to Godin, marketing can change what librarians do all day and the issues we wrestle with. The era of mass marketing led to average stuff for average people—large numbers of people want to buy. But there’s clutter. Clutter on the store shelves—and clutter from the information providers—more books, journals, etc. We deal with clutter with more clutter. We’re in a real industrial revolution.

Bring this message to your organization, he said—yelling and hoping to make enough money doesn’t work. People won’t be forced. When people know the story we want them to know, we’ve done a good job. He said, “Either keep pushing against the wind or change what you’re doing and have the wind at your back.” Tell a story.

He highlighted a number of interesting trends—and we need to pay attention to these.
• Direct communication – the internet lets us do this
• Amplification of individual consumers – consumers can put up comment or videos or complaints. It can be really bad news or good news.
• Authentic stories – we need to have stories to spread and sell
• The Long Tail – it’s an era of unlimited shelf space … people will get what they want because they can
• The dicing of everything – this gives users information out of context.
• Infinite channels for communication
• Consumer to consumer – we can connect directly to each other
• Who vs. how many – what we should care about is who
• It’s not about controlling eyeballs anymore, it’s about leading…and people will choose to follow you
• Scarcity vs. ubiquity – you can’t make a living selling something that’s ubiquitous

Here are some questions to ask our CEOs. Are we in the business of finding customers for our products or are we ready to find products for our customers? Is it success before commitment? No, it’s commitment before success.

Paula J. Hane
News Bureau Chief, ITI

Inmagic Works Some New Magic

The magician at the Inmagic booth was really good—he had attendees’ rapt attention as he made dollar bills reappear inside lemons and did some amazing card tricks. It was a great draw to the booth, but those who took the time to talk to the Inmagic reps found out about the magic the company has been working of late. The 25-year old company is transforming from a vendor of software in a box to a provider of solutions and services, thanks to an infusion of $5 million in funding from Edison Ventures.

I talked with CTO Phil Green (on left in photo) and VP of marketing and business development Mike Cassettari (on right) about the company’s new strategic direction and product lineup—Social Knowledge Networks. The company works closely with its customers, such as NASA, and was hearing requests for tight integration between content and social tools—with the goal of enhancing the content, adding value, and driving content use. By this fall, a new version of Inmagic Presto will be available that will integrate social tools, such as tagging, ratings, discussions, collaboration, blogs, and wikis. There’s a white paper available on the Inmagic site if you want to learn more (www.inmagic.com).

Inmagic launched the company’s first blog, at http://blog.inmagic.com/. The blog is designed to be a resource for organizations looking for expert insight, opinion, and commentary on the trends and issues facing corporate information knowledge managers today. The company also has a newly expanded management team, new board of directors, a new customer advisory board, and a redesigned website. We’ll be watching to see some more new tricks from this company.

Paula J. Hane
News Bureau Chief, ITI
 

Can You Keep a Secret?


(L-R) Harry Markopolos, Kevin Desouza, Victor Camlek (moderator)

Two experts provided us with a fascinating look at some techniques for keeping your secrets secret. Do you know how to protect what you have? Intellectual property and knowledge is your company’s most precious secret, and information professionals with their skills are highly qualified to be on the front lines.
 
Know your knowledge assets, decide why they are important, and classify them so you know which ones must be protected. Kevin Desouza gave a list of some things that should be on the list:
  • Humans and their expertise (back up your data!)
  • Technology devices (especially laptops)
  • Knowledge-based alliances
  • Physical security and physical assets
  • Partnerships (you are legally responsible for their actions)
Joining the security team is an excellent opportunity for an information professional to make a lasting contribution to the future success of their organization.
 
Harry Markopolos is a private investigator specializing in frauds and has had long experience in helping companies with their security issues. Here are some his points of wisdom:
  • Contracts only keep honest companies honest.
  • Be especially cautious with laptops and guard them closely when you travel.
  • Don’t put anything on social networking sites that you do not want to be publicly available. Allowing company employees to participate in LinkedIn is a good way to provide your competitors with proprietary information.
  • Be careful about tradeshows—it’s astonishing what you can learn, but there is also a lot of vague or misleading info passed around. So take it with a grain of salt. The social receptions are very fruitful!
  • You have no online confidentiality!
  • Many companies do not take care of their people adequately, so their employees are not motivated to protect the organization.
  • Every culture has its own weakness; America’s is that we’re too open.
  • CEOs don’t get any training in security!!
  • If you are concerned about information leaks, periodically sweep offices, conference rooms, and executive cars (don’t forget their golf bags!) for bugs.
  • Keep critical information off laptops, and encrypt hard drives.
  • Use e-mail encryption for sensitive communications.
  • Don’t trust public Wi-Fi sites.
  • Subscribe to an anonymizing service for Web surfing.
  • To catch internal corporate spies, offer rewards for information.

That’s all excellent advice.  Some of it may be well known, but there were some things presented in this session that I had not considered.  I sure you will have the same experience.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today

Transformational Roles: Breaking the Rules

 
The first thing I noticed when I entered the room for the Breaking the Rules session this morning was that one rule had already been broken: the chairs were arranged in a square with the presenters’ platform in the middle of the square, which was quite different from the traditional arrangement. This session was one of the highlights of the conference for me. A panel of distinguished professionals described the twists of their careers (and they were varied and unusual) and presented some of the lessons they have learned. 
 

(L-R) Gary Price, Chief Editor, Resource Shelf;
Jessica Baumgart, Quality Assurance Engineer, Renesys;
Mike Crandall, Chair, MSIM, The Information School, University of Washington;
Gloria Zamora, Field Representative to Sen. Jeff Bingaman and SLA President-Elect;
Stephen Abram, VP, Innovation, SirsiDynix and SLA President;
Jane Dysart (moderator); Principal, Dysart & Jones Associates
 
As you will see , despite the tremendous variety in their careers, several common themes emerged.
 
Gary Price
 
Some people think you should not put “librarian” on your resumé because many people have a stereotype of what a librarian is. We need to correct that. Many people come to this profession without ever thinking about it beforehand—something just “clicks”. I like representing the library community outside of it. It’s OK to ask for help—people appreciate being asked to share what you have to offer. Core skills: collection development (we should be building the internet and open core collections. Talk, speak up, sell what you have to offer. Learn how to talk and talk well—we all represent each other in this profession.
 
Jessica Baumgart
 
Many customer service inquiries are answered using reference skills. Think about your audience when you write. Do not be scared of new technology or of trying new things.
 
Mike Crandall
 
Take advantage of new technology to help people find information. Use metadata to support search and retrieval. Organizations need the skills that librarians have. Learn as you go along from great people. Three things forming a large part of what you need to know are people, information, and technology. Everything we do involves people—you must understand people, how businesses work, etc. If you do not understand technology, you are dead in the water. We need to think of how it serves people’s needs. Information is what people need to get in order to perform effectively. 
 
Do not be afraid to do something you do not know to do; just jump in and learn how to do it. Use your skills to find out how you can learn. Networking with others is critically important. Your network brings you opportunities, but you must have skills to back up what employers are looking for. Be curious and think about the big picture.
 
Gloria Zamora
 
How do you find information; how do you use it; how do you figure out what people want and give it to them? Open yourself and seize every opportunity that comes along. The grounding you get in a library education is the foundation of everything you do. It sets you up to learn how to do research. Your background in training helps you adapt to different situations. 
 
Stephen Abram
 
Overcome personal obstacles in your life and personality to become effective and cause positive changes. Get coaching if you need it. How do we make the world change? How do we influence it so we do the right things, make informed decisions? It’s not so much your skills (you can always add them) it’s attitudes. Do not fall into the trap of thinking you cannot do things? Get confidence. You have to think about it all the time. Sustain trust by being consistent enough that people know what you’re doing. Act professionally! You do not need to take personality out of personal interactions. Put your sense of humor into events—you do not have to be a cookie cutter!  The model of behavior is you, which you can transfer everywhere. Feedback is a gift; accept it and learn from it. Recognize that you are in control—if you give people power, you are giving up control.  Don’t be afraid of stereotypes; build on them and use them to advantage.
 
Concluding Thoughts
 
What is the single biggest threat (or need) in the profession? Some responses:
 
“We have seen the enemy and it is us”.
 
Recognize that the people now in library school will be managing our future. Offer them the curriculum that will give them the skills they will need.
 
Teach people that there is a difference between searching and researching and how to evaluate the quality of the information they find and not just take the first results from a search engine.
 
Two behaviors that must end: (1) do not run down the students coming out of library school, (2) if you cannot speak positively about your profession, resign and go somewhere else. Criticize what needs to be improved and use critical thinking—that’s important, but do not criticize without suggesting a solution.
 

What a great session this was!  I hope it’s repeated at a number of other conferences because I think that people who have been in the profession for a long time have amassed a wealth of experience that can be transferred to future generations.  We can ill afford to lose this.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today

Coping in a World of Disinformation

Librarians are trained to question sources, look for experts, check facts, and crosscheck. So a session on finding facts in a world of disinformation seemed a bit like preaching to the choir. However, Brooks Jackson, director of FactCheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, gave a fascinating look at how the organization monitors political debate discourse and political ads, pointing out the exaggerations and inaccuracies. He also revealed some deceptive advertising consumers have been hit with—products built on deception and misleading health claims. We might assume that consumers are protected by “truth in advertising” but the reality is that our protections are quite limited and we’re bombarded daily with false ads. He says the Federal Trade Commission is small and underfunded and bound by legal due process—it’s simply outmatched

There’s no government agency that has oversight over political ads—and he showed some outrageous and manipulative examples. Falsehoods are also spread by viral email—these can be especially potent and insidious and usually can’t be traced.

The bottom line—unfortunately, disinformation works. People believe what they see and hear. And brain scans reveal physical evidence that people cling to their biases and beliefs.

So, what’s the remedy? The internet, which is a place for spreading misinformation, is also a place to access open and good information, when used properly. He advises these ways to stay “unSpun:”
• Look for expert agreement
• Check primary sources
• Know what counts (with statistics)
• Know who is talking (consider the source)
• Cross check everything that matters

He mentioned some other fact check initiatives by media organizations, including the The Fact Checker from the Washington Post. In fact, one of the most read articles posted in the Information Today NewsBreaks/NewsLinks was on Political Fact-Check Web Sites, which discusses many of these: http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/nbReader.asp?ArticleId=39759.

Paula J. Hane
News Bureau Chief, ITI