In the face of the global pandemic, information managers in R&D intensive organizations remain vital to the advancement of science. Some are adjusting to the new realities of providing quality information services from their homes to colleagues around the world. Some work for companies on the front lines of COVID-19 research and are still going to the office to enable access to high quality, relevant information.
CCC invited information professionals to share how they’re adjusting to the changes happening around us and to offer any advice or tips they may have for their peers. Here’s what they had to say:
Mary Ellen Bates, Bates Information Services
Information professionals have a superpower that, while not often recognized, is particularly valuable as we all enter into uncharted territory. You see, info pros specialize in finding what’s hard to find, what’s difficult to define, and what simply doesn’t exist in the form their client would like. After all, if it were a simple question, the client would have found the answer in Google. Info pros have developed a number of strategies and approaches to finding and evaluating information during a time or in an area for which there are many uncertainties.
- Find the authoritative sources on this topic and look for resources within their web sites.
- Look for parallel or similar situations or industries to the one you are researching. What are other organizations or institutions doing, and how might that apply in this situation?
- Identify signals or indicators of a trend. What are the signs an organization gives out when it is preparing to expand?
- Examine charts and graphs carefully. Are they based on unbiased, current data? Is the information in context?
During times of uncertainty, info pros’ superpowers in finding reliable, relevant information and resources are especially needed.
Tara Murray, President, Special Libraries Association (SLA)
Library associations are adapting their offerings to help members adjust to new working conditions. SLA members continue to provide essential information services to academic institutions, cultural organizations, corporations, government agencies, healthcare providers, researchers, and the public, but we are doing so in very different circumstances than normal.
In SLA, we know that members are missing the opportunity to connect with each other. In-person community events are cancelled or postponed and we are working in physical isolation. We have postponed our Annual Conference from June to October.
Some of the new and expanded services SLA is offering include:
- Weekly live virtual events, including roundtables focused on a specific topic and informal hangouts.
- Free access (no membership required) to the current issue of SLA’s magazine, Information Outlook.
- Live and on-demand online learning opportunities.
SLA’s many communities and members are also offering virtual events, including Twitter chats (like #librarianlunchchat and #LISProChat), webinars, and virtual meetings.
Heather Desmarais, HJDesmarais Consulting
Before we were all forced to work remotely, I started hosting in person library office hours for some of my clients. People could drop by with their questions and we could work through things together. During this crazy time, we’re all trying to stay connected so I’m using Microsoft Teams to host virtual office hours. I set up a Teams meeting for my usual office hours and people can drop in, see me via video, chat and get help. The technology that we have available to us is so key right now!
Jill Konieczko, MLS, SLA Board of Directors and Marketing Manager at Elsevier
In light of the research needed to fight COVID-19, I have been working with sales teams and customers, particularly those in Asia-Pacific and Latin America, with very customized presentations and webinar tutorials that provide specific examples for finding the necessary experts and funding opportunities for their COVID-19 related efforts.
Blanca Chou, Otsuka Pharmaceutical
At Otsuka, we’re adding value as information professionals by taking the opportunity to provide reliable and current information to decision-makers in a time like this when they need it most. As a result:
- The Information Team was invited to join company’s COVID-19 Task Force
- The Information Team provides daily intelligence briefing that aggregates a multitude of global information sources to help shape company’s strategy and decision.
- The Information Team has increased virtual-friendly activities for users, such as global trainings and key stakeholder meetings.
Jill Shuman, Information Management Consultant
Much of my team has been virtual up until now, so the real differences are around morale, attitude, and workspace (Internet) issues.
- Recognize that the Internet is likely to be clogged and connections might be slower than what you’re used to remotely. Try to ameliorate this if possible. For example, I have increased the speed of and access to my Internet connection by purchasing ‘WiFi range extenders,’ which has greatly improved Internet access to my third-floor office.
- I’ve continued our once-weekly team meeting, but have allowed folks to change the time to what works for them each week. With kids at home, it’s been difficult to maintain a 9AM routine. One team member is the facilitator for that week, and chooses the time that s/he wants to call the meeting
- I have computer ‘office hours’ for 1.5 hours every day, typically via Skype or Zoom. These are informal times for individuals or teams to talk with me about things that are going on with work, home, frustrations, anxieties, etc. There is a 24-hour window to sign up.
- I’ve been sending out silly little things every day, first thing in the AM. Might be a word of the day, a trivia question, a fun medical fact…anything to keep people upbeat and feeing connected.
- We have created a private Facebook page where we can share—family photos, flowers popping us, recipes (most of us have lots of time to cook), etc. We’ve also been sharing lots of tips/links to control anxiety, etc. There is no requirement to join, but 90% of the team has done so!
- We’re using a shared drive to post new scheduling spread sheets, content pieces, etc. Everyone has read privileges, but only certain people have editing privileges. We keep stressing that folks SHOULD NOT keep team materials on their hard drives.
Have a tip for fellow information professionals that you’d like to see included on this list? Email firstname.lastname@example.org to submit your feedback.