Tasks for Modern Info Pros: Understand the Business

Approximately one year ago, 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 five essential attributes for modern information professionals. The report also set forth a list of 12 key tasks that information professionals must perform in order to develop the five attributes.

Beginning with this post, several SLA members will share their thoughts and experiences about the 12 tasks. In this post, Leslie Reynolds, senior associate dean of libraries at the University of Colorado, discusses the importance and value of understanding the business or industry in which your organization competes.


You are a modern information professional. When you know what your colleagues or customers are striving for, you can find ways to help them achieve their goals. It is your business to know their business. Modern information professionals understand the mission and goals of their clients, investigate what is keeping them up at night, and identify opportunities to help them solve problems and achieve their goals.

It is critical that you develop deep relationships outside of the library or information center and build trust with your clients. PricewaterhouseCoopers used to run a series of advertisements with the theme of “lessons in life are the lessons of business,” and one of the ads highlighted the importance of engaging at a personal level with clients. This lesson holds true for information professionals. The way we demonstrate our value is by understanding how we can contribute to not only the big-picture mission of our organization, but to the focused needs of individuals carrying out ground-level tactics.

Stephen Barr says that even in an academic institution, this task is critical. Writing in The Guardian, Barr noted that Purdue University “emphasizes the importance of framing services from a faculty rather than from a librarian perspective. Librarians engaged in research support need to ‘present themselves as someone who can solve a problem research staff are having directly’.”

So, the first step is knowing what is important to your organization or institution. For example, academic liaison librarians should get to know each of their faculty’s research interests and become embedded in courses to understand the business of the university and its instructors.

Take a moment and consider an individual in your organization with whom you would like to work. Do you know and understand his or her challenges? Take the time to ask this person some questions and listen to his or her answers. This will help you find ways to become a pathway to the information this person needs for real solutions.

Barr, Stephen. 2012. “How Should Academic Libraries Communicate Their Own Value?” The Guardian. August 20.

Any large business structure consists of several units, and local teams are formed in each department who are competing with each other. Spy app can play a key role in this struggle.

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