The New Info-Rental Economy

I was talking with a community college librarian the other day and she commented that her 20-something patrons come into the library asking to borrow textbooks for the entire semester, not realizing that they need to go to a bookstore and buy the textbook if they want it for more than a few weeks.

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The new free-vs-fee calculations

Info pros have always worked through a mental checklist when they decide what resources to use for a given research project. “Should I use that fee-based service and pay, or should I see if I can find something similar in free sources, even if it takes me longer to find?”
With the proliferation of high-quality content in open access sources and the introduction of paywalls on reliable news sources, the old free-vs-free calculation no longer serves us. Here are the questions I ask myself today when considering which resources to use.

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What’s in my ear today?

“In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.”  -Eric Hoffer

How do you maintain an attitude of life-long learning in a world of non-stop news, the siren cry of social media, and more work than you have time for? Being mindful of the need to keep myself sharp and my perspective fresh, I use my workout time for exercising my brain as well. The podcasts I’m currently finding thought-provoking (and that can keep me engaged for an hour at a time) include:

Invisibilia When I heard that the 2017 SLA conference keynote speaker was Lulu Miller, the co-founder of Invisibilia along with Alix Spiegel, I went into full fangurl mode. Got a seat up front. Sat transfixed. Tried to tweet highlights while not taking my eyes off her. (See a great write-up of Miller’s talk at What’s Invisibilia about? Unseeable forces control human behavior and shape our ideas, beliefs, and assumptions. Invisibilia—Latin for invisible things—fuses narrative storytelling with science that will make you see your own life differently.
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Tips for finding hidden business resources

Finding so-called “grey literature” — material from publications not produced by commercial publishers — has always been a challenge for researchers. The most valuable grey literature is often not easily retrieved through a simple query in a search engine; it resides inside a specialized database, buried deep within an association’s web site, or is simply not ranked as relevant by a search engine’s algorithm.

The problem of finding grey literature is not new; research on and discussion about grey lit in the STM field has been going on for years (see, for example, the International Conference on Grey Literature, which has been meeting since 1993). More recently, business researchers are finding that sometimes non-traditional resources have the best — or only — information on a narrow topic or current issue. Following are some of the tricks I use for finding hidden or grey-lit business resources.
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Would you take a free taxi?

According to Google’s latest annual 10-K filing, over 85% of its revenue comes from advertising—yes, it’s actually listed as a risk factor. Seeing that, I recently landed on an analogy of what Google web search is like for professional researchers and info pros.

Imagine a taxi company that offers free rides anywhere you want to go. They’re practically ubiquitous, and a luxurious self-driving vehicle can be summoned on a moment’s notice. And did I mention that it’s free? How do they do it? Read More

What does a “value-added deliverable” look like?

When I give presentations and workshops about research strategies, I often include a mention of the need to create value-added deliverables after you’ve found all that great information. But what exactly does that mean? Isn’t everything you do added value, just because it took your skills and expertise to find the information?

Actually, value-adding is more than “merely” finding the information. It means transforming it into something more. One metric I use to evaluate a deliverable:

  • If most of what my client reads is my own writing, I’ve provided added value.
  • If most of what my client reads is others’ writing, I’m providing little value.

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Limiting Google News searches by time

At the Searcher Academy pre-conference workshop at Internet Librarian 2018 conference this year, I learned a clever trick from Greg Notess for conducting an advanced search in Google News.

When you’re just using Google web search (e.g.,, along the top of the search results page is a button labeled “Tools”; click it and you’ll get a pull-down menu labeled “Any time” that lets you limit your search to results updated within the past hour, past 24 hours, past week, and so on. It’s a nifty option and I frequently use it to limit my searches to the past two years.

Google News doesn’t offer a similar option, so you can’t easily limit a search in Google News by date. If you type a query in the search box at the top of Google News, you may retrieve articles from weeks or months ago. As Greg pointed out, the way around this is to start your search in In the search results page, click the link for News, then click Tools. Bingo – there’s a pull-down menu labeled “Recent” that lets you limit your search by date. I have been surprised by how many times this little trick has come in handy over the last couple of weeks. Thanks, Greg!




It’s not what you know, it’s what you learn

The more expertise you have on a topic, the narrower your thinking and the less creativity you may bring to a novel problem. As Shunryu Suzuki noted in the classic, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”

Recently, I was listening to an episode of Hidden Brain, one of my favorite podcasts. (Rebel With A Cause, July 23, 2018) Host Shankar Vedantam talked with Francesca Gino, author of Rebel Talent: Why it Pays to Break the Rules at Work and in Life. She has given much thought to the story of captain Chesley Sullenberger, Read More

Tapping into LinkedIn’s brain

As a researcher who looks a different industry or market every week, I’ve often tapped into LinkedIn’s advanced search options to find an expert or, better yet, a librarian who can point me in the right direction. (Pro tip: You can identify librarians by including “Libraries” as an industry filter.) And I’ve mined job listings to glean insight into the strategic direction of an organization.

Given the relatively professional level of conversation in LinkedIn posts, a search facet I have recently been using more often is Content search, which just searches posts. To get to Content search, just click the Search box in the upper left, and a drop-down menu will appear with search options, including Content.

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