But Can It Do All That and Mix Drinks? Selling Information Literacy to Non-Info Pros

by Alexis Rohlfing, former Head Editor, INALJ New Hampshire
previously published 10/17/13

But Can It Do All That and Mix Drinks? Selling Information Literacy to Non-Information Professionals 

alexisrohlfingOne of the upsides to working in a non information professional job is that it forces me to think outside the box. Every day, I reevaluate my working world and say to myself, “Where can your education and skills make the difference?” A few months ago, I wrote about trying to forge my own way in a world that had opportunities, as long as you were looking.

That quest continues on, but as I was working on a project designed to show my fellow associates (as well as management) some basic tools that would help with resource navigation and efficiency, I found myself commiserating with my fellow information professional about trying to make people see the value of information literacy. After weeks of trying to explain the basic idea of why we should be teaching our associates such basic skills and knowing when they need information, knowing where to look for it, and knowing how to use it, our discussion was like a breath of fresh air. Finally, someone who understood!

She mentioned that it’s very hard in a corporate environment (almost ANY corporate environment) to get “buy in” on the idea of information literacy. I was ranting to my husband about it later and he responded “Well, sure, why would we need that? I’m just arguing from their point of view, but if you have an idea of what a role is, and what it consists of doesn’t involve anything approaching information literacy or any aspect that might need an information professional, why would they buy in?” I snipped back that, during law school, no one simply plopped him in front of Westlaw or LexisNexis and said “Go to, baby lawyer.” He paused for a moment and then realized that no, no one had simply given him a link. He had some training on it at the outset and then certain searches were baked into the classes.

Even though he conceded the point, he still wondered why I would expect a non information professional to “get it” or “buy in.” I had convinced a few people, but a few people is just a start. I was so used to thinking about my job in librarian/information professional terms and I was forgetting one teensy weensy, but ever so crucial, detail: no one else does. I was taking for granted an idea that wasn’t on the table. I had to rephrase my argument, and fast. Rather than talking about “information literacy,” I had to redefine it in more corporate terms. Rather than discussing data usage, the argument needs to be framed around ideas like “empowering associates,” “efficient usage,” and “increasing customer satisfaction by increasing comfort with tools and resources.”

It can be easy to forget that, in many respects, we speak another language within our field. We have to act as translators, reframing our arguments in the language of our audience. That can be said of many arguments, but it is so important for us. After all, if we can’t communicate the importance of the information we’re presenting, where does that leave us?