2020 was certainly a year of adapting for most industries, but even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, most professionals managing content resources and scientific information in the chemical industry have been no strangers to change.
According to the latest research from Outsell, the rate of work-related content sharing has tripled since 2016. But often, driving down operational costs and speeding up time to market are high priorities for chemical companies. That means the pace of content being shared doesn’t match hiring trends for those who manage said content. The result can be a makeshift strategy where content isn’t easily findable or accessible, and researchers waste time and effort looking for information that should be readily available.
To combat these challenges, we spoke with four individuals working in a chemical setting to share their advice for fellow information professionals in the field. Here’s what they had to say:
“Librarians today certainly need to be adaptable.”
I received my MLS in 1985 from SUNY Buffalo, and have always worked in corporate special libraries – my first job was with Revlon, the second with Prudential and my current position is with International Flavors & Fragrances. I am a solo librarian. In our profession, particularly working in a corporate setting, there has always been the question of whether the librarian should be a “subject specialist” – with a background/undergraduate degree in that specialty (chemistry, engineering, biology, etc). My BA in Sociology and internship at a hospital medical library has not been a hindrance in my work in various industries – indeed, my years working in these companies allowed me to absorb the technical information I needed to identify and find the information my clients requested. Every industry has its own set of resources – print/digital/human – that are the “go-to” for special librarians. I quickly learned how to discern the valuable from the mediocre. I am constantly reviewing my Library resources to ensure they are cost-effective and still valuable as daily tools for my clients. In all of the companies I have worked for, one of the best ways to ensure the librarian is meeting the needs of the staff is to talk to the “old timers” – those who have worked in the industry for many years. They can identify resources and services that they have relied upon throughout their careers.
Managing my library for so many years has been a joyful and frustrating process – I get great satisfaction from my high level of customer service, and my clients happily show their appreciation. It is frustrating to have to take frequent budget hits, but I try to fill in gaps with less expensive resources. Librarians today certainly need to be adaptable and we are becoming a rarity in the corporate world. Join professional and industry groups to further your knowledge, network with other librarians, and stay visible within your company.
Susan Joseph, MLS
Research Library, IFF Inc. R&D
“More challenging to deliver new relevant publications to each desk of all chemists.”
Every year, but especially in 2020 with COVID-19, it became more challenging to deliver new relevant publications to each desk of all chemists — where colleagues are working more from diffused working places (lab, office, home) and physical (paper) information and personal discussions are limited. Therefore, I would aim for an easy corporate access to chemical journals and other sources with table of contents and short highlights about articles (for free). And the option to order full text with direct link based on RightFind subscription.
Allnex Netherlands B.V
“If you are persistent and adapt to the needs of the faculty then you will become a fully integrated and indispensable member of the team.”
Forming good relationships with the people you serve is fundamental to accomplishing your goals as a librarian. You will need to research what is happening in your department thoroughly. This means reading about the research interests of faculty members, learning their course schedules, and attending department events. Faculty are often not aware that librarians can help with more than finding books or accessing databases. Your first job should be to reach out and inform them that you are available to help them with their coursework and research as well. You will likely only get a few people interested at first, but if you work well with them and their students then your role will begin to expand. It may take a few years, but you if you are persistent and adapt to the needs of the faculty then you will become a fully integrated and indispensable member of the team.
Joshua Borycz, MSIS, PhD
Librarian for STEM Research, Sarah Shannon Stevenson Science and Engineering Library , Vanderbilt U.
“Ultimately, commercial companies are all about ‘how much?’ – at least until you establish a reputation for budget management.”
The biggest thing I had to learn was to reset my brain to be able to pitch along ‘the bottom line,’ rather than softer selling points like improvements to accessibility, user-friendliness, or even efficiently. Ultimately, commercial companies are all about ‘how much?’ – at least until you establish a reputation for budget management.
To give an example: there was a journal that multiple departments had small 10-man subscriptions to. We told them that if they all pooled their resources and added a little on top, we could afford a full global subscription for our tens of thousands of employees. We thought this was a no-brainer, but all that the budget holders heard was ‘a little on top’, and they all rejected the proposal.
Of course, budget holders in the academic and public sectors will also be attuned to cost, but in a commercial setting, it’s a mindset that is held across the company, and if you can’t get yourself to adopt that way of thinking and speaking in some meetings, then you will be considered the outlier!
Library and Information Supervisor – Medical Excellence, RB
Interested in learning more? Check out:
- What Isn’t Being Taught to New Chemistry Researchers (Hint: Information Literacy and Scholarly Publishing)
- Making Open Access More Approachable for Researchers in the Chemistry Setting
Did you know? RightFind Enterprise streamlines access to scientific literature, makes copyright-compliance easier, and improves research efficiency to power innovation. By consolidating multiple workflows and information management tools into an integrated and scalable solution, demonstrating content ROI in minutes has never been easier. Learn more about RightFind for Chemical Companies.