Simply put, my philosophy is that management and leadership strategies in specialized libraries are essentially at their core, cultural strategies. By this I mean that we work—through our talents, tactics, services, and resources—to have an impact on the key cultural precepts of the values and missions of our organizations.
We focus on improving the quality of organizational decision-making; we focus on learning as it has an impact on our colleagues in the organization; we focus on aligning with the real goals and dreams of our enterprises. We bring information to IT, IS, and RM. We bring relationships to CRM. We combine the four pillars of strategic success in one operation: people, service, content, and technology. In short, we’re awesome—and often underappreciated.
Special libraries differ from other libraries in that they focus on diverse and specialized resources with a limited subject scope, serve specialized and limited groups of customers, and often deliver technologically advanced specialized services. Special libraries develop their mission and goals based on their parent organization’s imperatives and provide services to meet the organization’s goals. They acquire, provide, and often archive information resources aligned with the parent organization’s specialization. The Special Libraries Association (SLA) highlights some of the distinguishing characteristics of the information professional in a special library setting via their core values: Leadership, Service, Innovation and Continuous Learning, Results and Accountability, and Collaboration and Partnering.
The special librarian offers information access and specialized or custom services to ensure rapid delivery of information that meets clients’ unique information needs. Technological developments significantly influence the role of special libraries, and provide the means to rapidly and proactively deliver information. Information professionals with their creative, innovative uses of technology are often the leaders for their organizations’ innovation and technology initiatives. My book for Lucidea Press, Succeeding in the World of Special Libraries, describes the origin of special libraries; the work environment; the roles, responsibilities, and competencies of information professionals in the special library environment, and the opportunities and challenges that are unique to special libraries.
I introduce the concept of aligning services and strategies with the goals and dreams of the host organization, and talk about the concept of knowledge, learning and decision-making, and how special librarians support these key foundations for organizational success.
Special librarians play a key role in knowledge ecosystems. Data professionals, information professionals, and knowledge workers are different.
Classic skills for special librarians include versatility and generalist knowledge; these translate seamlessly into a virtual library environment
Tips for special library survey design. Surveys are great for collecting user data that informs special library strategy and changes.
Collections development skills for special librarians include placing digital images of photographs in finding aids and catalogues to increase usage