Special librarians too often hide much of the true professional added value of their work. To mitigate that, I think the following activities should be added to communication with end users—either collectively or individually—so librarians can demonstrate value and impact.
1. Don’t neglect the importance of the cover memo. Even if this is just a handwritten note, formal memo or introduction to a report or package, ensure that you clearly state the professional decisions you made and the quality of the resources you used.
2. Sign your work. Don’t just sign the reference and research results deliveries to individuals and teams, also make sure that you add your authorship on digital products such as LibGuides, portals, posts, emails, dashboards, and e-newsletters.
3. Use professional language that differentiates your contribution from the original authorship of the content you provide. Start by outlining the comprehensiveness and limits of your research. Then make sure to share your opinion on the qualities of the content you’re delivering, note knowledge gaps, opportunities for further investigation, and any biases you detect. Start sentences with phrases like “In my professional opinion”, “The profession of librarianship regards this source as…”, or “This content was selected by the information professionals in our organization as authoritative and complete”, etc. Promote your personal name(s) as well as your library or team brand.
4. Be part of the storyline. Don’t just stay focused on your contributions to the question of the moment or the fire you’re fighting. Be clear on how what you do and what you create makes a difference in the real business of your organization. Know and tell your story of impact, and commit to being known as a contributor—not simply for delivering information quickly and well.
It’s simple really. Librarians do awesome work. Let’s make that clear and visible. Databases, OPACs and Google are mere collections and access points until our intelligence makes them dance. Demonstrate how special librarians add value and impact. Let’s sign our work.
To read more ways special librarians can demonstrate value and impact, download a copy of Stephen’s 2018 book from Lucidea Press Succeeding in the World of Special Librarianship.