by Cindy Shamel :

"As librarians and information professionals, we have an excellent track record for adapting to the ever-changing industry landscape. Despite ongoing discussions of obsolescence, the profession carries on. With the advent of microfilm in the 1930s, one college library committee posited that the book would become as obsolete as the horse and buggy. We adapted by becoming experts in microfilm technology and the opportunities it offered. Librarians sounded the alarm in the 1960s when the telephone came to the reference desk, concerned that users would simply call in their questions and never come to the library again. People still came to libraries, and info pros adapted by increasing levels of services so that now we include phone, email, online chat, and text messages.

Today, when end users freely search the medical literature through PubMed, legal cases with FindLaw, and the internet via Google, our role again seems threatened. The professional discussion remains robust, as illustrated by a Dialog search of what I broadly defined as library literature (ERIC, INSPEC, NTIS, Social SciSearch, Dissertation Abstracts Online, Gale Group Magazine Database, British Education Index, Gale Group Trade & Industry Database, and Library Literature & Information Science). Using the terms librarian? and google ANDed with synonyms for competition, with results ranked by year, a steady increase from one hit in 1997 to about 80 per year over the last 6 years appears. So, what’s the info pro to do? How can we thrive in the environment of the empowered user?


At the 2012 SLA conference, ProQuest brought together a powerful panel of information industry practitioners and thought leaders to discuss the issues. Panelists included Mary Ellen Bates, president and founder of Bates Info Services, Inc. and an expert in customized information research; Blanca Chou, associate director of the Information Resource Center at Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc.; Betty Edwards, senior research analyst in information resources and management at The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, Inc.; and Roger Summit, founder of Dialog, who foresaw the paradigm shift that would be created by the development of online information services. Libby Trudell, a longtime member of the Dialog, and now ProQuest, management team, moderated the panel.

Trudell led the discussion, posing questions related to how information professionals can redefine their service offering and their value proposition, whether the industry is on the right track with discovery tools, and where the gaps or opportunities lie today. Panelists drew from their work experience and industry knowledge to offer wisdom and strategies for thriving in the age of empowered users, revealing several common threads and a few unique insights."