I recently spoke at a Transportation Librarians Roundtable virtual event about finding hidden web resources (slides here). As often happens, the most interesting part was the conversation after I finished presenting, and one question really got me thinking.
I had mentioned that I have sometimes included a slide from a presentation deck in a client deliverable, although I always hesitate when I do. I described a project in which I simply couldn’t find any reliable information other than from a slide deck that an association executive had given a year ago. I reached out to the executive to confirm that the statistics were still correct and that the information had not been published elsewhere and, with a bit of trepidation, I included the slide and explanation to my client. One of the Roundtable participants asked me what the client’s reaction was to the unexpected content and I answered that he didn’t give the format a second thought. He assumed that, because he brought me in as the information expert, whatever I gave him would be reliable and the best that I could find.
And that sparked a Roundtable conversation about the importance of us information professionals stepping up and claiming our role as information experts. Sure, we may find information on the open web, or through a library resource directly available to the client. But our clients are coming to us because they trust that we bring an extra layer of skill to searching for hard-to-find information and a practiced eye for the most credible sources.
As we search experts continue to expand our information reach into grey literature and deep web resources, we need to feel comfortable sharing those results with our clients, along with an explanation of how we have evaluated and validated nontraditional content.