Thursday, November 19, 2009

The New York Information and Intelligence Forum

The New York Information and Intelligence Forum, hosted by the New York Chapter of the Special Libraries Association and curated by 2010 President Elect Pam Rollo, offered a fresh perspective on the economic and business-related events that rocked 2009 - not an easy feat considering the pervasive analysis of this calendar year by most perceptive news sources.

Keynote Speaker William Duggan kicked off the day's events with discussion on strategic intuition, or - to put it into laymen's terms - the process by which our knowledge of history combined with a quieting of the mind can create insightful ideas which have the potential to lead to the next big breakthrough in business strategy or services. That's a mouthful, but considering a few examples can help.

Consider, for example, Napoleon's early success as a military strategist. His knowledge of the tools of the trade (portable canons) plus military history (the defeat of the British in the American Revolution) added up to a major win for Napoleon at the Siege of Toulon in 1793. Another pertinent example is Henry Ford's moving assembly line, which combined the Oldsmobile model of the stationary assembly line with the method of slaughtering livestock in the Chicago stock yards. A gruesome example, to be sure, but a pertinent one - remember, insight comes from a diverse set of places, so be on the lookout! And, moving more closely to out era, remember that Steve Jobs had the insight to pair small, portable computers with Xerox's newly developed Graphic User Interface, which sparked a revolution in personal computing.

The Take-Away: learn all you can about the past, let quiet the mind, and let the insights roll! Then, of course, comes the hard work...

The next event slated for the day was the Provider's Panel - a group of four high-level executives from our favorite vendors. On hand to answer moderator Bill Noorlander's insightful questions were Trish Frankenfield from Capital IQ, Steven Goldstein from Alacra, Clare Hart from Dow Jones & Company, and Scott Livingston from Lexis-Nexis. This group of savvy individuals answered a wide range of questions from how these companies reacted to the fall out of the financial services bust in 2008 to what the outlook for the corporate library profession could look like in the future. Spectators were relieved to learn that the vendors worked very closely with their clients during the economic downturn, focusing on the needs of businesses in transition throughout the year. Despite the upheaval in the financial markets, our vendors remained financially solvent, taking the opportunity to narrow their business focus appropriately and even investing in new products and services as needed. The most salient points for the library crowd included a discussion about what types of jobs are up and coming which will utilize our hard won information retrieval and organization skills. All four members of the panel see a wide variety of opportunities to come for those with research skills, and each encouraged today's librarians to diversify their skill sets, focusing primarily on what it is that you're most interested in pursuing.

Following a lovely lunch and social hour, we saw two presentations of innovators in the field today. Bill Patterson made the journey from Pricewaterhouse Cooper's campus in Tampa FL to present on current trends in the analysis which his group provides to clients of PwC. Bill sees knowledge services in general trending toward future-oriented analysis and away from the more traditional desk reference. Librarians are in a great position to move into these roles, as we're likely already performing user-oriented research. Karen Kreizman Reczek was on hand to discuss her tireless work in turning out a product for her company, Bureau Veritas, which collates years of research on compliance and industry guidelines for manufacturers. Karen shared her experience with creating a physical, tangible product within a timeline of eight months (yikes!) - the fruition of which is a true testament to the value that libraries can provide for the organizations and clients. Imagine what kind of a book most of us could write with all of the information we've researched and collated for our end users!

A break-out session wrapped up the day, with most participants heading out to discuss the future of libraries. Other sessions included the lasting effects of 2009, mechanical methods for accomplishing our big goals, and influencing library policy at the national level. Each group then reported their findings to the whole. A recurring theme from these breakout session involved the need for more business-oriented training for current and future librarians, and the need to address these issues with the library schools in New York.

All told, this was an expertly curated day of speakers, panels, and break-out groups. Thanks to Vida Cohen's tireless efforts, the day ran extraordinarily smoothly and was punctuated by ample time to mingle and speak with other participants. Most attendees with whom I spoke seemed to walk away from this event feeling galvanized and ready to take on the challenges that await us in the coming year.

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