In reading my previous post, it has been pointed out to me by a fellow information professional that I’m wrong to say that “I exist only to serve”. In fact, says the colleague, you give strategic direction and advice, too.
The fellow information professional went on to say that, as a profession, we have an unfortunate tendency to feel ourselves subservient to other staff members and that we are there purely to serve. Upon reflection, this is a true comment, I’ve seen it many times.
I was wrong to limit my services to solely “serving” my users – which also sounds rather passively reactive, rather than proactive and I love to be proactive!
The more I know about my colleagues’ interests and needs, the better I can target information tailored for relevance. The more I know about the business and its direction, the better I can advise and suggest: spotting trends, up-and-coming markets, and new companies that may be worth approaching as potential clients. This is, of course, still serving the organisation, but it enables a better, more active service – delivered with a large helping of understanding and insight.
Understanding and insight come through communicating. I’ve always maintained that there’s no substitute for talking to people. I think I have tended to do this somewhat “invisibly” through an informal chat around the coffee machine or over lunch, rather than through pre-booked meetings, which my colleagues are constantly having. This may have been another error on my part as I sometimes get the impression that my colleagues weren’t sure if I ever talked much to anyone! Perhaps a few more pre-booked meetings would be a good idea, for visibility, if nothing else.
So, as well as existing to “serve”, I have reminded myself that the information professional exists to guide and advise, pushing relevant information through current awareness, providing market and trends analysis, spotting new opportunities and companies, finding and assessing new resources. The information professional needs to talk with colleagues (and be seen to talk with colleagues) regularly to find out about their pressures and concerns, business direction and initiatives.