Corporate librarians, or special librarians are information resource experts dedicated to putting knowledge to work to attain the goals of their organizations. They are employed most frequently by corporations, private businesses, government agencies, museums, colleges, hospitals, associations and information management consulting firms.
The value of information provided by special libraries was demonstrated dramatically in a study conducted at five large corporations. Four out of five of the surveyed executives felt that the information provided by their special librarians helped them decide upon a course of action. And three-quarters of them felt the information helped them avoid making a poor business decision. Equally important, special libraries save money. Extensive research has shown that special libraries are likely to save several times their cost of operation by reducing the time that employees have to spend to acquire needed information. That’s time that can be spent on the employees’ primary duties. Research also was done regarding to what extent special libraries can save staff time. Approximately two-thirds of the executives and managers surveyed at five large corporations felt that the information supplied by special libraries helped them avoid wasting their own time and other people’s time.
Facilitating Better Decision-making
Corporate jobs are fast-paced, often involving deadlines, depending on the organization. Corporate librarians serve many different professionals. “In some cases, libraries are being downsized, but there are great opportunities for the information specialist who is well aware of information technologies,” says John Latham of the Special Libraries Association. “They may not call themselves librarians now. In a way, you don’t have to be sitting in a library any more, and actually, you have to work for every department.”
Special Librarian Titles include:
- Information Specialist
- Research Librarian
- Research Specialist
- Senior Research Librarian
- Knowledge Specialist
- Knowledge Manager
- Manager of Information Services
- Manager of Information Centers
- Director of Information and Communications
- Director of Information Services
Adding Value to Information
Today’s corporate librarian does more than just locate information. With new technologies, “they also evaluate analyze, organize, package, and present information in a way that maximizes its usefulness.” In their article, “Special Librarians: Putting Knowledge to Work”, the Special Libraries Association (SLA) gives a few examples of the varied responsibilities of corporate and special librarians:
- Preparing research reports in response to staff requests for specific information;
- Gathering competitive intelligence;
- Identifying research done at other organizations to avoid unnecessary duplication;
- Verifying facts for external and internal reports and publications;
- Creating databases for organizations to access their internal information;
- Searching patents and trademarks;
- Evaluating and comparing information software and sources of data prior to purchase;
- and Training other staff to efficiently and cost-effectively use online databases.
In addition to these responsibilities, corporate librarians can also be found doing traditional library duties such as reference, collection development and evaluation and indexing.
Corporate librarians are meeting many new challenges as technology changes. With the growth and expansion of the Internet, users are now more than ever capable of research and information retrieval from their desktops. The result is librarians provide instruction to colleagues such as: Teaching workshops on effective research skills how to search online databases. Provides support to colleagues using electronic resources. Provides online reference support.
Librarians are faced with the obstacle of marketing their skills. A common theme within corporations is the need for management to see a Return on Investment (ROI). Librarians must be able to demonstrate their accomplishments to management and convey what the library is doing to improve the bottom line.
Another challenge for librarians is the need to be innovative. Librarians must be one step ahead of the times; looking for what value-added services they might bring to their company. Many successful corporate librarians have taken on non-library jobs, working with other departments such as information systems to enhance the use of information within the company. In addition, corporate librarians must be proactive, taking information to the client before the client comes to them. This may involve electronic newsletters or emails to colleagues with information tailored to their interests.
Corporate librarians also face the task of keeping current in their particular field as well as with new technologies that might benefit their company. This is essential to providing information to their patrons in the most efficient and cost effective manner possible.
Managing internal and external information is vital, especially intellectual property. That becomes an organization’s main competitive asset. So how do you manage that information? Knowledge Management (KM) is the notion that the information that resides in the heads of employees should be tapped for use by the organization. Corporate librarians have found themselves developing KM initiatives such as intranets whereby employees share information.
For example, one of the ways Hewlett-Packard has linked people with information is through an internal system called Connex, a Web-based system that provides expertise profiling. It’s based on people’s knowledge, their professional affiliations and their interests. Not only does it come up with the person’s name, it gives you their background and a profile, and you could immediately send them an email message or call them. It’s the epitome of a knowledge management tool.
Competitive Intelligence is the practice of researching and analyzing a field or industry to predict trends and future initiatives in order for an organization to find niches for future success. Corporate librarians have been called upon to provide these types of services as they have the research skills.
Information Brokers are those information professionals who work independently providing information searches for those who require information. Information brokers are usually self-employed and contract out their services to information centers and corporate libraries.
The Value of a Corporate Librarian
In a widely reported study conducted by the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., the position of Corporate Librarian is named one of the top three hot jobs for 2004, with an average salary of $60,000 to $65,000 per year. The study concluded that the demand for employees with library science degrees extends far beyond the corporate sector; government agencies, law firms, advertising agencies, museums, medical centers, research laboratories, and professional associations are all clamoring for librarians.
The study also supports findings by the Special Libraries Association. Data in SLA’s 2003 Salary Survey (released October 2003) confirm that the average SLA member’s salary is $61,522, with the highest average salaries in New England at $66,179 and the Middle Atlantic at $66,091.
Furthermore, a study conducted by SLA in 1999 revealed that 85 percent of companies ranked in the top 100 of the Fortune 500 list had libraries and information centers, compared to 50 percent of the companies ranked in the bottom 100.
A library or information center makes an important contribution to the successful execution of an organizations’ strategy, whether it is in a government agency, non-profit, law firm, or corporation. Yet, many people, including top managers, still don’t get it.
As the studies have shown, the bottom line is that using the services of a professional librarian can save patrons/clients/users time, money, and endless amounts of frustration. In the long run it can help them to make more informed business decisions.
The Advertising/Marketing Librarian
Leo Burnett is a company that provides product advertising support. It employs more than 8,000 people and has sales of more than $6 billion. Its greatest strength lies in its ability to create branding by means of icons to market specific products. Some examples of successful branding icons to specific products are Tony the Tiger (Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes) and Speedy (Alka Seltzer). Leo Burnett monitors several publications for public opinion as well as developments in various aspects of its business. Several departments are involved in sifting through information obtained from public sources that focus on competitors and advertising in general. The library also collects information on whatever may be discussed about the company. Burnett’s famous Great Commercials Library (GCL) was founded in 1998. The GCL contains more than 6,000 award-winning spots from the 1960s onward. Each commercial has been coded and entered into a database to which employees have access worldwide. Teams can build lists of commercials they wish to check out before writing and shooting their own.
Advertising Web Resources
SLA Advertising and Marketing Division—Established in 1942, the Advertising & Marketing Division is concerned with the collection, retrieval, and dissemination of information devoted to advertising, marketing, and related disciplines, and in the management of libraries and information centers in these areas.
Ad * Access—Presents images and database information for over 7,000 advertisements printed in U.S. and Canadian newspapers and magazines between 1911 and 1955.
Ad Council—Visit the site of the leading producer of public service advertising. View and read about campaigns dating back to the council’s founding in 1942.
AdAge.com—Provides industry news, statistics and a career center. Be sure to check out the Data Center.
adbrands.net—Profiles companies and their brands as well as their advertising agencies. Use this product to perform market research and prepare for job/internship interviews.
AdCritic Online Commercials—View newly released TV commercials.
adforum.com—Find industry news, agency profiles and information on festivals and awards. There’s also an ad search.
Advertising at the Super Bowl—This AdAge.com site features the 2004 Super Bowl advertising lineup, 38 years of ad statistics and news concerning television ads during the game.
Advertising Educational Foundation—Features all kinds of information for advertising instructors and students.
Advrt 301 Resources—Find information vital to planning a campaign, including market research, demographics, psychographics and media contacts.
Adweek—The online version of the weekly magazine. Find articles, view the best commercials and look for jobs.
Advertising World—A marketing communications directory provided by the University of Texas-Austin Department of Advertising.
American AdAgencies.com—Link to advertising agencies by city.
American Advertising Federation—The trade organization representing advertising professionals. There is also AAF college chapter information.
American Association of Advertising Agencies—Visit this advertising trade association site offering an agency search and other networking services.
America’s Greatest Brands—Read about the current market, history and promotion of the country’s favorite brands. Australia’s Greatest Brands is also available with information on some very familiar products.
Audit Bureau of Circulations—Find circulation data for newspapers and magazines.
Commercial Closet—View and watch all types of advertising affecting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender audiences. Some ads date back to 1917. Search by theme, agency, company and keyword.
HarpWeek Presents 19th Century Advertising—Provides a taste of the advertisements found in the pages of Harper’s Weekly from 1857 to 1916.
The Living Room Candidate: Presidential Campaign Commercials 1952-2004—Watch campaign commercials and read historical overviews and analysis on political ads. Search by election year, type of commercial, issue and by keywords.
One Club/One Show—Promotes creative excellence in advertising through exhibits, awards and scholarships.
RedBooks—Contains profiles of 13,500 international advertising agencies, including information on their accounts, specialization, gross billings and contact information. Accessible only in Hamilton Hall.
Xtreme Information Ad Search—Search for TV, radio, newspaper, magazine and poster advertisements.
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