October 12, 2009
Earlier this month, JH blogged about the list of top 50 jobs in 2009 from CNN Money. He rightly noted that "librarian," was not in the list - though there were other jobs that had snippets of what librarians do on a regular basis. He noted that attorney/lawyer was listed 18th and corporate paralegal was listed 36th. In the CNN list there were other close matches. Consider the IT Project Manager ranked 5th, or the Intelligence Analyst ranked 9th. These are careers unto themselves, but also overlap what many librarians do on a regular basis. It reminded me of an op-ed piece from Mary Ellen Bates that appeared in the Sept/Oct 2009 edition of Online Magazine titled: Do I Look Like a Librarian?
In the article, Bates discussed this very issue. Other often new fangled jobs are described in terms that also describe what we and our librarian ancestors have done for a very, very long time: discover, organize, enhance, manage and deliver information. She also discussed the SLA Alignment Project and its mission to help us remedy and reverse this trend.
The Project presents data on the roles and habits of information professionals and the perception of their roles and value by C-level executives (CEO, CFO, etc.) and other professionals who are in a position of hiring or evaluating information professionals. The results are the product of 18 months of indepth research conducted by SLA in partnership with Fleishman-Hillard International Communications, Social Technologies, and Outsell.
One of the aspects of the study that I found interesting involved a language analysis. Words and phrases that described librarians or the work of librarians was introduced to focus groups to gauge their reaction. Did they like the phrase or not? For example, the phrase 'special library" was considered bland, and not as appreciated as the phrases "culture of continous learning" or "knowledge sharing." Likewise, the often used phrase "manage and disseminate" was unpopular while the phrase "value-added intelligence" was well perceived.
The utility of the language analysis should not be overlooked, especially for those of us seeking positions and rewriting resumes. For those of us in management who may need to describe the need for a new position in the current economic climate - or justify a position that already exists - these phrases can be turned to our advantage!
The Alignment Project is an excellent initiative by SLA to help its members in a professional and scientific study. For more information I would recommend the Project wiki. (VS)