The unique role and value of information professionals in special libraries

New research highlights the need to clarify the difference between IT and IM

(17 August 2017, Canberra)  A new report from the Australian Library and Information Association suggests that there is confusion in management circles about the degree of overlap between the work of ICT and library and information professionals.

The report, The unique role and value of information professionals in special libraries, was produced by Dr Katherine Howard and published in August 2017. Her main finding was that, while there was overlap with business and systems analysts and programmers, database and system admins, ICT support and test engineers, as well as management and organisation analysts, the role of special librarian remained distinct and of significant value to their employer. She also found that work carried out by special librarians could not be replaced by the digital technologies available at this time.

ALIA CEO Sue McKerracher said, “Some people just look at the IT pipeline and don’t think about what flows through it. They see one entity rather than thinking about the platform and the content as two separate elements. That’s a serious problem for library and information professionals when the people we’re talking about are decision-makers in businesses and public sector organisations.

“It’s a problem where the responsibility for the library staff has been given to an ICT manager who doesn’t understand what information professionals do. It’s a problem where the management team is questioning the need for a library as ‘everything is available on the internet’. This confusion about the role of special libraries is something we must address if senior teams in government, health, law and other corporate settings are to make evidence-based decisions using reliable sources of information.”

The report was commissioned as an outcome of the ALIA Special Libraries Summit, held in Adelaide in August 2016, and chaired by Julie Rae, former ALIA President and chair of the ALIA Special Library and Information Service Advisory Committee (SLISAC). The full report was endorsed by SLISAC and is available on the ALIA website

At the same time, ALIA has launched a new advocacy toolkit for special libraries, 10 ways that libraries power high performance organisations. The kit comprises an A3 poster and an A4 handout and is available to download from the special libraries page of the ALIA website. 

The announcement is here.