The Well Dressed Librarian
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Demand for corporate librarians rises
Information managers reinvent profession to meet modern needs.
By Kathy Carlson / Gannett News Service
When Kenlee Ray retired after 24 years with the World Bank, she first volunteered with a high school in Zimbabwe and then became an information-management consultant.
Her job at the World Bank?
Gone are the days of shushing and the Dewey decimal system, of linoleum floors and musty volumes. Now, being a librarian takes Internet savvy, organization, keen business sense and a touch of a detective's skills.
Librarians often manage a company's information resources, including "best practices" that successful company veterans want to pass on to a firm's new hires, Ray said. Another new avenue is corporate intelligence, or staying one step ahead of the competition.
It's all part of a push by librarians to reinvent their profession.
"We don't just live in the traditional four walls of the library anymore," said Mandy Baldridge, an account executive with InfoCurrent, an information-management staffing company. "We've made ourselves necessary to the organization so we can be in many different areas of the organization."
How librarians fare professionally and economically depends on how they define themselves, said Bonnie Hohhof, editor of Competitive Intelligence Magazine, published by the Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals.
The future is in electronic information tailored to an individual's or business' needs, she said. Librarians need to work on a "higher level, providing information that supports the decisions of the company."
That's where special librarians come in. Most often they work for corporations, private businesses, government agencies, museums, colleges, hospitals, associations or information management consulting firms.
American Library Association data indicate that, as of December 2003, there were 8,350 special libraries in the United States, a figure that included corporate, medical, law and religious libraries but not public, academic, armed forces and government libraries.
Demand for corporate librarians is expected to grow. The out-placement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. named corporate librarian as one of its top three hot jobs for 2004, with an average annual salary of $60,000-$65,000. That figure jibes with the Special Libraries Association's survey of members' salaries, in which the average annual pay was about $61,500 a year - higher than the salaries of librarians overall. Challenger Gray predicted more than 100,000 new jobs for corporate librarians between 2000 and 2010.