Wednesday, October 18, 2006

New skills, new services, new opportunities

Librarians, I've argued, aren't in the information warehousing business - we're in the improving people's lives business. We help people find, evaluate, and use information so that they can accomplish those things that are meaningful to them. Those "things" could be learning a new skill, completing major research projects, learning about a new or personally interesting topic, finding employment, doing self-exploration, filling in the family tree, communicating with friends, creating works of art or any one of countless activities that enrich patrons' lives. How exactly we go about our life-improvement business is changing. Patrons want and expect different things from us and they have more alternatives than they did in the past. These changes may be a little scary because they create a lot of uncertainty, but they are also incredibly exciting because they give us the opportunity to find new ways to apply our talents and resources. And we're not the only ones doing a lot of introspection these days.

Duct Tape Marketing blog author John Jantsch advises small businesses on marketing. In this post, John offers the following bit of advice, "This principle is one that every business can and should think long and hard about. How can you become more valuable to your clients. What can you offer to do, even if it's not really your job, that would help them be more successful, get better results, solve more problems. Do that, and you will find the universe will make you more successful in the process.[emphasis mine]" I agree. On a related note, I was doing research for an assignment and found this article about how the financial services industry is struggling with its own sense of purpose. The gist of the piece is that wealthy Baby Boomers demand more services from their financial planners. These clients don't just want financial advice anymore, they want input on their life goals, career choices, and help with how to achieve their dreams. Essentially, Baby Boomers want help with being successful in the big scheme of things, and right now they're unsatisfied with what planners have to offer. To meet these new demands, planners are going to need to develop entirely new skill sets and operations. They will have to broaden their areas of expertise and discover new ways of managing clients. Does any of this sound familiar?

The point of these two business examples is that we're not alone in confronting the question of how to redefine ourselves given the realities of the modern marketplace. Some of what we've always done will remain, but I believe that librarians will have to develop new skills (like marketing?) and uncover new opportunities to turn our stuff into meaning for patrons. We will have to become adept at finding ways of helping our patrons be successful in their pursuits. Doing so means that we will have to leave our comfort zones, continually refresh our skills, and become indispensable partners with our patrons. Our success, it seems, is directly linked to our patrons' success.

Categories: random_stuff

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