By Carmen Davids, Sanlam IT Research Centre
The 11th SAOIM Conference should have come with a disclaimer:
Warning: May cause headaches, palpitations, confusion, sleepless nights and wild aspirations!
When I left the conference after three days of intense presentations and workshops I was reeling but I felt more energized than I had in years! My mind was buzzing with all the things I’d learnt, all the concepts I wanted to investigate further, all the quick wins I wanted to implement at our library… and then I got back to the office and real life took over (but that’s a story for another day). So I guess the challenge for all of us is learning how to innovate and move forward while dealing with business as usual and budget constraints…
As a librarian from a highly specialised (IT) corporate library it is always been difficult for us to benchmark ourselves against our colleagues from other types of institutions. However, this conference taught me that while we may all have different challenges and environments, the one thing that unites us is our passion for the profession. Also, the fact that, irrespective of whether they are lawyers, politicians or university students, we all have clients who we want to do our very best for.
I also realised that we are also all ultimately in the business of learning and development – it is not something that is only reserved for the academic libraries. All our clients (hopefully) learn and develop due to the research that we provide.
I was delighted to discover that I am now what is referred to as an “embedded librarian” – a role which takes librarians out of the traditional context and embeds them in the organizations they serve.
Embedded librarians are client-centric relationship managers who are focussed on specific groups or communities, and who are trusted by clients to provide packaged research on a reactive and proactive basis. The speakers unanimously emphasized that we need to reach our clients in the way that they wanted, where they want it. The Library is no longer a building. It is all about services – which is why social media is becoming more and more important when it comes to engaging customers and keeping abreast of new trends!
The organizing committee proved that they were on trend by having a social reporting team and also encouraging delegates to interact via Twitter, blogs and Facebook. The strong emphasis on technology as an enabler, and the high calibre of speakers was very exciting. As an IT librarian my heart sang when I saw a Gartner hype cycle at a library conference. And when we were trending on Twitter I just burst with a mixture of pride and disbelief!
The disbelief was probably due to the fact that we sometimes do not take our own profession seriously, and think that what we have to offer is not of as much value or as exciting as other industries. We often perpetuate the stereotypes and are scared to stand as equals who have something valuable to add.
I am generalising of course because some of the dynamic people I met at the conference look like they probably give their Directors sleepless nights! I think we can heed all the presenters’ advice to PLAY more! Have fun, innovate, embrace technology, delight customers and don’t be afraid to take risks!