Tasks for Modern Info Pros: Actively Communicate

In November 2013, SLA published The Evolving Value of Information Management, a report summarizing the results of research commissioned by SLA and the Financial Times. The report, which was based on surveys of and interviews with information professionals and senior information users, identified 5 essential attributes of modern information professionals and set forth 12 key tasks they must perform in order to develop the five attributes.

Several SLA members have agreed to share their thoughts about the 12 tasks. In this post, Natalie Brant describes her experiences communicating across a global network of information users to educate them about the library and its services.

NatalieBrant

Communicating across your entire organization and getting to know your entire user base are essential to maintaining the relevancy of your library and information services within your company.

I took over as head of library services at The Open Society Foundations (OSF) just a few months ago, and implementing communication across the entire organization has been an extremely important aspect of my new position. I have been tasked with assessing and improving OSF’s information services and integrating them throughout the organization’s global network. I’ve only just begun this process, but creating and increasing communication across this network has become my top priority.

OSF works in more than 100 countries and is supported by just two librarians. Until recently, the library focused mainly on providing services to the U.S.-based programs, but that is changing.

One of the first things I did to increase communication was extremely simple and extremely effective—I crafted an e-mail outlining all the services the library can provide to the global offices and offering examples that would directly relate to the tasks my colleagues need to accomplish. The response was overwhelming: I received several replies filled with amazement and gratitude, many from staff who had no idea these services were available.

Needless to say, we got bombarded with requests, and there were a few weeks of working late. But the tactic accomplished my goal: the global network now knew about the library’s services and understood that we didn’t support only the U.S. offices.

Next, I sat down with small groups and individual staff members and started learning about their current projects and brainstorming how the library can support their work. This has been a great way to meet my colleagues as well as get them talking to each other about the library and information services. Often after a meeting, I’ll get a call from another program area requesting a similar meeting because they heard it was so helpful.

I have also been lucky enough to start expanding these face-to-face collaborations by traveling to the international offices and meeting with staff. This has been very beneficial to both the library and the network. Putting a face on the library seems to really encourage people to reach out and use our services more widely. For the library, it’s wonderful because I’m able to learn more about how the global offices interact and connect with each other so I can do my job more efficiently.

I’m sure this is just the tip of the iceberg, and I have a feeling that as I move forward with my services assessment, I will find more ways of reaching out and connecting with my far-flung colleagues. My ultimate goal is to have the library act as sort of a nexus within OSF and, ultimately, to make sure all staff know that the library is there to not only disseminate information but to also make connections.

To communicate across your organization, take the following action steps:

  • Communicate your services by using examples that make them relevant to the work of each department;
  • Initiate meetings with small groups of colleagues to share information about library services; and
  • Learn how different departments in the organization are inter-connected.

—Natalie Brant is head of library services at the Open Society Foundations in New York.

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