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A tale of two conferences: what it has to do with your career future

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times ...

I’d like to share an observation having just attended SLA 2009 in Washington, D.C. earlier this month and the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston last week. The contrast between the two conferences could not be more stark.

But let’s start with what the conferences seem to agree on: the information glut is accelerating, and users can not find the information they need to perform their jobs effectively. However, the approach to the two conferences propose to solving this problem could not be more different.

SLA continues to be dominated by large content publishers. When you walk into the conference hall, you know who the 800-pound gorillas are, and these companies have been the gorillas for a long time. The general consensus among content providers, practitioners, and vendors is more advanced products to control and organize the flow of information from the content providers.

At Enterprise 2.0, the exhibit hall is mostly filled with companies that did not exist five years ago. The consensus here was at the opposite end of the spectrum. Your employees know the answers, but they do not have the tools to organize and publish this knowledge. Luckily, enterprise 2.0 tools solve this problem, and empower the users with the ability to help each other and learn from each other, in ways that you could not imagine even a short time ago.

It’s as if the two groups are talking past each other. SLA still seems very uncomfortable with the wisdom of the community, and the notion that users represent 100 percent of tactic knowledge, and that tapping this knowledge store is critical for an organization to perform in an optimal manner. On the other hand, the Enterprise 2.0 folks seem amazingly naive to overlook the mountains of explicit knowledge that organizations already have and that must be further leveraged to enable optimal organizational productivity.

As a person and a vendor that believes we need to find the intersection of these two philosophies (with Inmagic Presto we call this a social knowledge network, where explicit knowledge is informed and enriched by the wisdom of the community), I must admit I vacillate between joy and despair.

Joy in that the melding of these two philosophies seems so logical and needed, and despair in that I can’t understand how all these really smart people do not see the same thing. And most important, I believe this is a huge opportunity for librarians to help bring these two philosophies together, and I hope that we don’t all look back in five years and say this was another missed opportunity.

So please, get involved in enterprise 2.0! Embrace the new technologies that enable users to collaborate more rigorously. Become a champion of socializing your content, and not just of using social media in the library. I think you will find that empowered users do not need less vetted content, but more.

The next generation of librarians needs to learn and master how to supply vetted information not via the standard library OPAC, but into the messy and often chaotic enterprise 2.0 slipstream.

Just remember, your users are finding information via a pop-gun (their favorite tool, Google). But you are armed and dangerous. You are equipped with the knowledge and expertise to find the right information from the right source(s), and know that the information you find has veracity and will stand up to intense scrutiny.

As you establish your enterprise 2.0 credentials (sorry, yes, you will have to prove your value -- add all over again. The diploma won’t do the trick), you will become very popular indeed, and your position within your organization will be secure.

In summary, the revolution is happening right now and the choice is yours. Get involved and master your library 2.0 destiny, or let the fate of your library 1.0 be determined by others.

1 comment:

scbrown5 said...

Terrific post! The combination of information and social networking tools is powerful. It's happening already - and information pros (aka librarians) need to realize this is happening with or without them.


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