When I read in a recent Washington Post article that a law firm does not need a librarian or research professional because technology enables lawyers to do their own research--and that this could be continued without hurting service--I had to write the Editor to voice my opinion on the subject.
It’s easy to empathize with Rep. Dennis A. Ross and his viewpoint on government inefficiency ( "Workforce panel's new head arrives with a goal: 'We've got to cut' “ by Joe Davidson, January 26 FEDERAL DIARY) when he tells the story of three different crews trying to install a TV that was not a TV at all, but rather a monitor. But when he states that technology means employees can "work smarter, not harder" and uses the example of not needing a librarian or research assistant in his law firm because technology lets lawyers do their own research, he confuses finding information with finding the right information. This is not smarter at all, and may be a much more costly decision in the long run.
Technology has created an explosion of both good and bad information. With so much information available, the challenge is not finding and accessing it, but finding information that is correct, trusted, and authenticated and putting it to use efficiently. This is what librarians and information professionals do best: efficiently collect, analyze, and disseminate good information to facilitate accurate decision making. Thus, “working smarter” would entail using an information professional to find and deliver information—at a much lower hourly rate than that of an attorney.
Difficult economic times require hard decisions and budget cuts, but it is imperative to fully understand the impact of these cuts beyond the immediate goal of saving money. There are many good ways to trim budgets and maintain efficiency, but eliminating information professionals from the mix is most certainly not one of them.
Chief Operating Officer
Special Libraries Association