Whew! This year’s SLA 2015 conference was a doozy. There is too much to cover in a single blog post so I’ve boiled it down to a few observations I made during this four-day event geared towards information professionals.
Knowledge/Content/Digital Asset Management are pretty much the same thing
This was a significant realization for me. Suddenly I was part of a much larger community. I now understandd why the purview of my job keeps wanting to expand. My domain doesn’t stop at rich media. To my newfound colleages: how can we collaborate to 1) educate employers on what we do and 2) find new ways to increase the value we bring to the companies we work with. One knowledge management professional suggested giving an elevator pitch at the beginning of each presentation. There’s bound to be someone in the back of the room who doesn’t know what you do. I am networking like crazy with knowledge and content managers. It is exciting to find an entire new group with which to exchange information.
Taxonomy can be used for more than just classifying content
If you spin it around, its exhaustive application can return useful information. For example, a professional in publishing can determine what subjects the company publishes on the most and highlight areas that need more focus. By reverse classifying authors by the subjects they write about, you can intelligently assign them upcoming articles or analysis projects.
Rights management at most companies is like the “wild west”
Information professionals need to educate their colleagues about copyright. Seek buy-in from upper management to produce a copyright management policy. Use fear tactics. Bribe them with pizza. Draw diagrams. Trust me. It is worth your effort. Your company will be glad you did.
Atuoclassification is imperfect without us humans
Like OCR, autocat produces a lot of noise and false positives. Best to combine machine and human tagging when you can. Admittedly there is too much digital content to categorize manually but that is no excuse to layoff your librarians and expect computers to learn how to tag stuff and adapt to shifting user needs and new content on their own. Hiring untrained interns to manage your content is an equally poor option. Trained humans are best at indexing but pretty slow. Machines are mediocre at autoclassification but really fast. Once you combine the two you start reaping the benefits of both worlds. Also, I encourage you to cover your ears and recite your favorite song at top volume whenever a vendor gives you the “technology is magic” speech. It is unconscionable and they know it.
Users are king
Content’s seat has been usurped. Again and again speakers placed users at the center of their work. Sessions on taxonomy design, image cataloging, knowledge management for advertising, etc. all harangued the same point: know your users. User Experience (UX) design was front and center during many of this year’s SLA sessions. When speaking about digital libraries, one professional dared to say what everyone had been thinking: your metadata schema doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to support how your users retrieve digital material.
Do not underestimate leadership
Several SLA 2015 sessions I attended focused specifically on this concept. And it is a good one. Everyone from the receptionist to the top executive should strive to be a leader. What’s a leader? Someone who breaks the rules, applies new ideas, and isn’t afraid to fail. Coincidentally leaders are not perfectionists, consider their projects permanently in beta, and improvise more easily than the traditional types. Oh ya, they also listen to their customers and peers so that they can better respond (or pivot) to change. Leadership can’t be taught. Some people arrive at it quickly, for others it takes more time. Managers can insprie their staff to discover it for themselves. The company will benefit from having many leaders, but only if its culture supports it. That means establishing a safe-to-fail environment. Yep. That is a thing. Read “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries to learn more.
So what does all this mean? For starters, information professionals are finally getting wise to how things are getting done in the business world. They are becoming nimble, educated, and flexible. They have realized the value they can bring to most companies and want to work for companies that will embrace their new ideas. A common perception is that librarians are stuck in the 20th century where they enjoy solitude and quiet. In reality, librarians are a raucous bunch. They are learning to speak up so upper management will take notice. So get ready for them, world. They are going to rock you.