Information Organization, Retrieval, and Management
The ability to organize, retrieve, and manage information for stakeholder benefit is contingent on several things. First, what defines a “stakeholder?” Second, how does information organization differ from information synthesis or management? Is information retrieval any different from information location or access?
To begin with, stakeholders are not always patrons. As the parts of the word imply, various people can have a “stake” in something without being clientele. Library employees, including library management, are stakeholders. Other community members, whether they patronize a library or not, are also stakeholders. Other affiliated libraries or organizations, such as universities or professional associations can also be stakeholders. The list can go on and on. It’s important to recognize that people do not walk around with a “library stakeholder” tag on, and as such, there are many opportunities for an information professional to organize, retrieve, and manage information for a stakeholder’s benefit, even if they don’t recognize that person as such. For example, a librarian may want to start a new library program, and to do so, will need financial data about the proposed program in order to put a grant together. The information professional that helps this librarian is organizing, retrieving, and potentially managing information for a particular stakeholder’s benefit. Furthermore, this hypothetical librarian might also be indirectly benefitting other library stakeholders if the program comes to fruition and brings more people into the library.
Once information professionals have established what information they are retrieving, and for whom, they must take steps quite similar to that of a reference interview –again, even if the stakeholder in question is not library patron! A needs assessment determines how the resulting information should be organized, when it needs to be delivered to the stakeholder, what format the stakeholder needs, and whether or not the information needs to be managed for the long term, as with cataloging records or various library guides.
Information organization, retrieval, and management are very similar to information location, synthesis, and translation, although the two goals differ in their intended audience: stakeholders in general versus clients in particular. Therefore, the process may involve working more closely with stakeholders than a professional might with a one-time client. For example, a librarian might work with various co-workers over a period of several weeks to build an annual report or every few months for quarterly reports that build up to an annual report. That these sorts of projects involve a great deal more research and may be referred to in the future necessitates a deeper level of information organization, retrieval, and management. Another difference is that the onus on information retrieval is on the professional, rather than the client; in a scenario where a patron is requesting information about a topic, a librarian helps that client determine what sort of information to find and where, but doesn’t necessarily give direct answers. In contrast, information professionals who are organizing, retrieving, and managing information for stakeholders will likely assemble their efforts into a deliverable, and manage that product over time.
Information organization, retrieval, and access is a balancing act between internal work, for those parties more frequently identified as stakeholders, and external work, for clients. Ultimately, any work an information professional does has bearing on someone else’s activities somewhere else. This is why “stakeholder” can have such a broad definition: anyone impacted by a library or information professional’s activities can “have a stake” in the continued availability of that library and its resources, including its employees.
For myself, I hope to help other people in a library environment by utilizing my skills for organizing, retrieving, and managing information. These skills will support me both every day, with short-term tasks and deliverables for patrons, but also over the long-term, by demonstrating how I can consistently provide quality information within the constraints given to me by stakeholders. This, in turn, ties into other skill goals, such as being able to network, collaborate, and build relationships with library stakeholders.
Unsurprisingly, throughout my Organization, Access, and Retrieval of Information (LIM 503) course, various assignments dealt with the processes outlined in the course name: organizing, accessing, and retrieving information. The process of organizing, accessing, and retrieving information differs slightly from the one outlined in Program Goal F in that the location, synthesis, and translation of information doesn’t necessarily speak to the long-term management of information, nor are “access” or “retrieval” synonymous with “locating.” Finding information resources is one thing, but actually accessing the information in order to retrieve it is different. Furthermore, while organizing information could feasibly involve synthesizing it and translating it into an actionable form for a stakeholder, it’s equally possible that information organization is far more simplistic, as with creating a cataloging record for a new resource. Therefore, while some coursework feasibly applies to the goal of locating, synthesizing, and translating information as well as the organization, access, and retrieval of information, other assignments demonstrate this goal in a unique manner.
One such assignment from this course is an abstract series based on a research question that I developed that relates to the information profession. This series included an introduction to the research question, related sources to aid in answering the question, and original abstracts that served to analyze the sources in relation to the research question.
Another assignment is a MARC record created for a small collection of items that share a central theme. This assignment, created with a partner in the LIM 503 course, includes original MARC records for a fiction item, a non-fiction item, a multimedia item (such as a video), and a non-information item, as well as a collection introduction.
Artifact course context and relationship to goal. The creation of the abstract series as an artifact demonstrates not only my understanding of what information organization, retrieval, and management are but how to perform those tasks. Typically, an information professional doesn’t develop a research question, but for the creation of this abstract series, I chose an area of inquiry related to the library profession and the need for information organization, access, and retrieval. Specifically, I focused on the different classification (information organization) methods used in libraries, including the factors involved in switching from an established system like the Library of Congress (LC) or Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) systems to the Book Industry Standards and Classification (BISAC). I also aimed to determine what factors would be involved in making such a move.
Roles, responsibilities, and process. I was solely responsible for the creation of the abstract series throughout each of its steps: identifying a research question, retrieving useful information sources, organizing my findings and managing it over the course of the semester to develop it into a completed series.
Building an abstract series involves more than simply putting citations for several sources into aa document I had to organize the information that I found into a coherent form that both permitted me to answer my research question and discuss the implications of a library moving from either LC or DDC classification to the BISAC system. The process of organizing information for my abstract series entailed breaking down the research question into several parts: explanations of the different classification systems used in libraries, the strengths and weaknesses of each system, and the factors involved in switching from the LC or DDC classification systems to the newer BISAC system. To that end, I managed my information sources according to whether they related to the BISAC system itself or to the process of moving from another classification system to BISAC or similar reader interest classification systems.
By retrieving, organizing, and managing information for the long-term, I equip users to think critically and assess the data provided so that they can make their own decisions, without me leading them in one direction or another. The abstract series does not aim to answer whether or not a library should switch from LC or DDC to BISAC, but to identify the factors involved in such a switch, should an information center consider it.
Skills and abilities. For any course in the University of Southern California’s entirely online Master of Management in Library and Information Science program, I used different technology skills. Using WebJunction’s Competency Index for the Library Field (Gutsche & Hough, 2014), it is possible to broadly classify these technology skills as Core Technology Competencies, and include E-Mail, Hardware, Internet, Operating Systems, Software Applications, and Web Technologies for accessing course materials online, creating and editing shared documents, and compositing multiple videos together for submission.
Additionally, for the creation and use of the abstract series, I used a combination of Learning & Innovation and Reference skills to research an area of personal interest that intersected with the study of information organization, access, and retrieval. Learning and Innovation skills require flexibility in regard to the process of locating information (developing innovative search strategies to locate both viable sources, and information in a variety of formats), and critical thinking for organizing and assessing a source’s value to the research question. Reference skills include the ability to identify a user’s needs through a deconstruction of the research question or area of inquiry, as I did by breaking down the question of “What factors are involved in switching from LC/DDC to BISAC or another reader interest-focused classification system?” into two parts: the efficacy of different classification systems, and the factors involved in switching from an entrenched system to a reader interest-focused one. Knowing about the USC Libraries’ discovery layer and its search refinement tools enabled me to use it as an excellent starting point, rather than defaulting to Google or another search engine that would likely pull in too many irrelevant sources. Patrons may turn to reference librarians when they have attempted to locate something on their own and have failed to find what they’re after. Not only are librarians in possession of reference skills able to directly help more people, but they are able to share their research strategies with users and thereby build a network of future researchers.
Artifact course context and relationship to goal. MARC Records are one common way in which information is organized, retrieved, and managed. As machine-readable records, the retrieval aspect is normally left to computers, but it is information professionals that are responsible for organizing MARC records in such a way that they can be processed efficiently. Additionally, librarians must manage those records as materials enter and leave the library system. In developing a MARC record for a small collection of items under a theme of our choice, my project partner and I put our information organization, retrieval, and management skills to the test. We learned about what symbols mean what to a system capable of understanding MARC records and how to organize them by researching how cataloging records are structured: what information do they contain? What shows up when a person performs a search using an online public access catalog (OPAC)? In creating records for otherwise disparate items, we had to carefully manage the individual records so that it was clear that they are part of a greater whole (the collection). While people might expect all the books in a library to have a MARC record, this assignment taught me that unexpected items can very well serve as library resources, and therefore must also have a record in order to keep track of them.
Roles, responsibilities, and process. I proposed the topic that my partner and I ended up using to build a series of MARC records for a small collection. Following a template provided to us by the course instructor, we each tackled the different components of the MARC record by locating items we felt would make good additions to a collection about the Japanese animation series “Sailor Moon.” The assignment requirements dictated we find a fiction item, a nonfiction item, a multimedia item, and a non-information item. My partner and I divided up the work evenly: I put together the MARC data for the fiction and nonfiction items, while he built the record for the multimedia (video) and non-information item.
While building the record in a shared Google Docs spreadsheet, we communicated mostly through email and text message, and a few live meetings using Google Hangouts. Furthermore, we each commented on each other’s progress on the spreadsheet in regards to the different MARC record codes and fields that we felt would be relevant for the individual item, while ensuring we met the minimum assignment requirements of supplying data for specific field codes.
Skills and abilities. For the creation of the MARC Record artifact, I utilized skills in a number of areas, including Collaboration, Leadership, Reference, and Cataloging. My partner and I collaborated together to build the final collection record, but we acknowledged that, since I proposed the topic of our collection, I would be aware of possible sources to use for the different items. For that reason, we divided the responsibilities such that I would supply information for the items I had ready access to, while he would handle building the records for items he might be able to find with relative ease. As we built the record in the spreadsheet, we commented openly and honestly about questions regarding the complex system underlying each MARC record, to ensure we were both getting the most out of the assignment and its intended purpose: for us to understand one method of information organization, retrieval, and management. Understanding a system normally meant for machine-reading and not human eyes entailed a certain level of problem-solving, especially when it came time to create leaders for each item in the collection, full of alphanumeric characters in a specific order. Having a second set of eyes to check each contributor’s work increased our confidence in the accuracy of the final product.
I acted as leader for this project, identifying several possible topics for our collection theme and encouraging my partner to suggest his own. Together, we determined that one of my suggested topics would make for a unique collection that met our assignment requirements, and that we should each take ownership of building records for two particular items. I set and helped us to meet our goals, since the project was due in the second-to-last week of the semester, and paid close attention to the different fields that we needed to fill with data.
In selecting a collection theme that I possessed great familiarity with, I utilized Reference skills in identifying readily accessible items that met our identified assignment needs. Furthermore, I demonstrated advanced search skills in finding out how to create a MARC record from scratch for items that might not traditionally have such a record, such as our non-information item (a pen). I synthesized information from a variety of sources, including WorldCat, Amazon, and elsewhere to fill in the field data with complete and accurate information. Finally, I demonstrated proficiency with editing the Google Docs-based template provided to us by our instructor, formatting the spreadsheet to make a MARC record that was also human-readable.
Perhaps the most obvious skillset that I used in the creation of this artifact is that of Cataloging. The application of “appropriate bibliographic control standards” (Gutsche & Hough, 2014, p. 15) like MARC is vital for organizing library materials and resources. Even if patrons don’t see MARC records as my partner and I constructed them, the information they push through an OPAC or other library system must still provide user access to the items. For that reason, we endeavored to include a multimedia item with a “bibliographic [link]…to electronic and other remote sources” (Gutsche & Hough, 2014, p. 16) in the form of an online streaming video. In this way, the collection record “responds to the community’s changing needs and interests” and allows room for “the ongoing development of the collection” (Gutsche & Hough, 2014, p. 16).
Future Work Environments
The ability to organize, retrieve, and manage information is part and parcel of the daily work of librarians and other information professionals. Whether stakeholders are identified as clients, patrons, co-workers, or some other group, processing information in this manner is one way of networking, collaborating, and building relationships with others over the long-term. Furthermore, in order to demonstrate my qualifications for a leadership position in a library environment, I first need to show that I am capable of handling the basic duties of a library job: organizing, retrieving, and managing information for stakeholder benefit.
Gutsche, B. & Hough, B. (Eds.) (2014). Competency index for the library field 2014 (2nd ed.). Dublin, OH: OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc. Retrieved from http://www.webjunction.org/documents/webjunction/Competency_Index_for_the_Library_Field.html