PROFILE: Deborah Hunt and Information Edge

BayNet is doing a series of profiles of members who work in little-known libraries and information services around the bay. Deborah Hunt is the Principal of Information Edge, an information service based in San Leandro, California, and a long time BayNet member.

How did you become interested in working in information services?

Deborah Hunt

Deborah Hunt

As an undergraduate at UC Berkeley, I worked part-time at Moffitt Library as a Student Assistant. I saw how the reference librarians worked with students to help them find information and that interested me. I also took the library introduction course and found a whole new world about how libraries work and decided the information world was for me. I then applied to the UC Berkeley Library School and started my studies right after finishing my undergraduate program.

Right before I graduated from library school, there was a glut of librarians in the Bay Area and I was not able to relocate to find work. We had a “job board” in South Hall (where the library school was located) and an engineering firm had called the school looking for a student to organize their library. I called the number, interviewed and wrote a proposal, stressing that I would be graduating in 2 weeks and expected to come onboard as a professional, not as a student. I was hired immediately and began work as a consultant to this engineering firm. I was there for 3 months. Many of their clients saw my work, which led to more consulting, and I had plenty of work to launch my business.

What are the services that your clients need? Please describe a job you did.

Information Edge specializes in the following areas:

  • Knowledge Services/Enterprise Content Management: providing solutions to organize intellectual content to make it findable, actionable and reusable.
  • Library Automation: making externally published content findable by reviewing the library collection and organizational needs to recommend the best solution to automate access to library materials to save staff time and frustration.
  • Proprietary Database Research: expert searching of millions of resources on hundreds of proprietary databases not available on the open Web. Information Edge then provides value-added analysis of content found, an executive summary report so the client does not have to comb through thousands of citations. This provides a complete research department at the clients’ fingertips when they need it.

It’s difficult to choose one job to share, but this one had lots of interesting elements to it… I was brought in as a consultant for a global architectural firm to assess their current information needs and recommend the best print/electronic software solution to maximize staff efficiency and ease of use. The client has six print and many digital library collections in each of its six offices. (There were many information silos and it was impossible for staff to find what they needed.) They wanted to be able to share, search and retrieve image and file information using an online database. They have an intranet and are using digital assets management software to manage 30,000 digital images. An inventory was needed because they didn’t know what they had in each of the physical nor digital libraries.

Information Edge (IE) performed an information audit to determine how staff find information and to ascertain where the pain points were. IE then researched and recommended software solutions and a taxonomy that would maximize ROI for finding information needed by staff to do their work. IE also recommended ongoing staffing needs to keep the system current and assisted with hiring a librarian.

As an independent consultant, what is the most important thing you are doing to stay competitive?
I try to keep my name and services in front of clients and colleagues (who often recommend my services to others or hire me). I do this by writing in the information professional and target market literature, presenting at conferences and seminars, and networking. I also stay in touch with clients by sending them unsolicited articles or information I think would be of use to them (though I do this only occasionally). I also have a new blog that I hope will provide useful information to my current and potential clients as well as colleagues.

What is your favorite (or most productive) tool you use in your work?
There are so many Web 2.0 tools that I could mention, such as LinkedIn, but a handy little tool I use when working on client projects is called TraxTime. It helps me keep track of the time I spend on projects and with clients. Those 10-15 minute phone calls and emails really do add up and if I didn’t have this tool, it would be difficult to track that time.

What has been your most memorable work experience?

Fourth Ward School

Fourth Ward School

There have been lots of them. One that I think is unique comes from my time at the Nevada State Library as the Collection Development Librarian. The State Librarian’s office had received a phone call from the Virginia City School District about some books that were in the long abandoned Fourth Ward School, a beautiful structure built in the heyday of the silver rush. It fell to the Public Services Librarian and me to go inspect the building and see what was there. We were both charmed by the beautiful building while at the same time appalled at its horrible condition. Bird and rat droppings were everywhere, but vestiges of the old beautiful schoolhouse were still visible — blackboards with the letters of the alphabet over each one, a few very old desks and worn, but lovely wooden floors. The books were not much to look at but we had a wonderful time seeing this historic old building. It has now been restored.

Why do you volunteer for BayNet and other professional associations?
When I first started in this profession, I found so many mentors who freely spent time answering my questions and helping me to stretch professionally. In turn, I want to give back to other information professionals. A really good way to do that is to volunteer either in a formal capacity (board or committee member or chair) or informally as colleagues and students contact me for advice. Many of my colleagues whom I have met through my involvement with professional associations have become good friends.

PROFILE: Sharon Miller and the Mechanics’ Institute

Located in the heart of San Francisco’s financial district, the Mechanics’ Institute is a nonprofit membership organization open to the public. Founded just after the Gold Rush to provide technical education and training for mechanics and to promote local and California industry, the Institute today is a vibrant intellectual and cultural center serving the entire Bay Area.

Mechanics’ Institute, by rockcreek.

Housed in an one hundred year-old landmark building on Post Street, the Institute serves its members with a large general-interest circulating and research library, offering book discussion groups, writers’ groups, and Internet research classes; the oldest chess club in the United States with activities for players of all abilities from beginners to grand masters; and an active program of literary and cultural events, including author programs, film series, salons, special events and art exhibitions. Source: Mechanics’ Institute.

BayNet speaks with Sharon Miller who is the Institute’s acting library director and BayNet’s newest Treasurer.

What is one thing your library is very good at? Personalized customer service. We take pride in meeting our members’ information needs.

Is there something else about your library that most people do not know? We are a full-spectrum library, no longer training men in the mechanical arts.

Who are your most frequent types of users? We have no one category, but daily see students, retirees, workers from surrounding retail and businesses, and children who are chess players.

What do you like best about your users? They all like our library!

Sharon Miller

Sharon Miller

As a library director, what are your primary responsibilities? I manage the budget and the personnel, oversee several book groups and writers’ groups, teach classes, give tours, and promote new projects. We are busy with technology upgrades and marketing ideas, and am always looking for ways to make our facilities more useful for our library users, so I enjoy talking with people. I love listening to the ideas presented by our enthusiastic members!

What is it about your job that most people don’t realize that you do? Fix photocopier problems.

What initially attracted you to library work? I wanted to spend my days in a library.  My family were enthusiastic public library users from my infancy.

What do you like most about working in your library? Our book discussion groups are fun, entertaining, and usually a wonderful learning experience for all of us.

What is most challenging about working in your library? Convincing people the Google is not always the best place to find information.

What accomplishment at work are you most proud of? Teaching people who have never used a computer how to do so, and seeing them successfully using email and other computer applications.

What is the most memorable experience you had at work? One of my everyday joys on the job is the physical place where I work: an historical building that is both charming and majestic. It is a delight to walk in every morning.

What is your favorite way to spend time off? My husband and I spend our weekends walking all over the city: doing errands (we have no car), seeing the sights, and enjoying this terrific place.

What do you think will be the biggest change in libraries and information services in the future? Changing the way reference librarians have traditionally interacted with people: rather than waiting for people to come to us, we will be finding ways to “push” information out. Libraries will be less of a “place” — although that will always be one part of who we are — and more of a service.

PROFILE: Janet Camarena and the Foundation Center

BayNet is doing a series of profiles of members who work in little-known libraries and information services around the bay. Janet Camarena has served as director of the Foundation Center-San Francisco office since 2001 and has worked for the Center in a variety of roles since 1995.

Describe a little about Foundation Center’s function.

The Foundation Center’s mission is to strengthen the nonprofit sector by advancing knowledge about U.S. philanthropy. Our San Francisco library/learning center has been pursuing that mission in the Western region of the United States for more than 30 years. Nonprofit and individual grantseekers rely on the free training and research tools available in our library/learning center to help them find funding for their work. Grantmakers use our information and research to help guide their funding decisions and make efficient and effective use of their limited funds. As a regional hub, our San Francisco resource center provides direct service yearly to some 12,000 people who visit our library and who take part in our educational programs on and off-site.

Beyond the local presence here in the Bay Area, the Foundation Center is a national nonprofit service organization recognized as the nation’s leading authority on organized philanthropy, connecting nonprofits and the grantmakers supporting them to tools they can use and information they can trust.  Every day thousands of people gain access to valuable resources through the Center’s web site and in its five regional library/learning centers (Atlanta, Cleveland, New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.) and national network of more than 400 funding information centers at libraries, nonprofit resource centers, and organizations in every U.S. state, Puerto Rico, Mexico, South Korea, Thailand, and Nigeria. Our audiences include grantseekers, grantmakers, researchers, policymakers, the media, and the general public. The Center maintains the most comprehensive database on U.S. grantmakers and their grants; issues a wide variety of print, electronic, and online information resources; conducts and publishes research on trends in foundation growth, giving, and practice; and offers an array of free and affordable educational programs.  Some BayNet members may be familiar with the Center’s online subscription database, Foundation Directory Online, which provides detailed information about more than 95,000 U.S. foundations and corporate donors and 1.7 million grants. It can be used free of charge on site at all Center locations and affiliated funding information centers, known as Cooperating Collections.  To see a complete list of our Cooperating Collections, visit

What is different about the San Francisco office from the others?

[Read more…]

PROFILE: Patricia Elliot and USCS Santa Clara Virtual Library

BayNet is doing a series of profiles of members who work in little-known libraries and information services around the bay. Patricia A. Elliot is an information specialist at a library with a long name: BAE Systems United States Combat Systems Santa Clara Virtual Library.

Patricia A. Elliott

Patricia A. Elliott

Tell me a bit about your organization.

United States Combat Systems (USCS) is a part of BAE Systems Land & Armaments Group. USCS develops and produces a full spectrum of gun systems, weapon launching systems and containers, as well as armored combat systems, i.e. Bradley Combat System, and next-generation systems for manned and unmanned ground vehicles. USCS also develops technologies in the areas of composite materials, hybrid electric power systems, integrated vehicle survivability, crew station design, and training systems. USCS employs more than 7000 people and has locations in Alabama, California (Santa Clara), Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, South Carolina.

USCS is the sole-source prime contractor on several programs comprising critical elements of the U.S. military force structure and have produced more than 100,000 combat vehicles.

USCS has three physical libraries — in York, PA, Santa Clara, CA and Minneapolis, MN. We’re in the process of making all three libraries into one library, with the best aspects of both the physical and the virtual library, to serve users at all locations. The Santa Clara library is 100% virtual.

Who are your library users?

The main users of the Santa Clara’s library are engineers: mechanical, electrical and software. They are located in Santa Clara and San Jose, CA. However, US Combat Systems is part of the Land & Armaments Group, which serves quite a few locations, too many to list here.

What are the main services that you provide for the users?

The main services I provide include web-based access to various resources including Knovel and I.H.S. standards and specs, NERAC and Dialog. I locate hard-to-acquire military documents that require a contract with organizations such as DTIC (Defense Technical Information) and NTIS (National Technical Information), and access to information from various associations, such as IEEE, SME, SAE, etc. Because of the unusual nature of the library, I manage a collection of “technical reports,” internal documents written by our engineers, as well as a collection of about 150 boxes of archived material stored off-site on the Bradley Fighting Vehicle.

And, of course, I answer any reference requests that may come my way, which might include questions like, “I know there was something written on wheeled versus tracked vehicles in a magazine. I can’t remember the title, but it was a couple of years ago and there was an armored personnel carrier on the cover.” Or questions like “Does the library have a book on Java?”

What is the most interesting and little known fact about this library?

I think one of the most interesting facts about the library is that it continues to exist in one form or another. Before my time, the then “Ground Systems” library had a physical collection of over 150,000 books and Army technical manuals and a periodicals collection of 70 titles. In those days, there was a staff that included a business reference librarian and a technical reference librarian.

I was the Reference Librarian at Ground Systems from 1993 through July of 2000. By then, staff was down to two librarians and one staff person. I was a solo librarian during my last two years there and continued to maintain a physical collection.

This is my second tour-of-duty here at the library. In my 8-year absence from 2000 to 2008, the library was transformed into a virtual library and we don’t even work tor the same company we did back then! That the library continues to exist at all, in one form or another, is a testimony to the resilience of libraries and librarians in general. We grow, we change, we adapt – but the one thing that doesn’t change is we continue to meet the needs of our users

When did you decide to become a librarian?

I decided to become a librarian when I worked at Indiana University of Pennsylvania back in 1982. I transferred to the University library’s Circulation Department and became a Stack Supervisor of about 30 student assistants, just to see if I’d like working in libraries. It was love at first sight. In those days, I wanted to become a Special Collections librarian in an academic library. However, getting that second master’s degree precluded my doing that. Fresh out of library school, in 1992, I went to work at FMC Corporation’s Ground Systems library. A defense library couldn’t have been farther from my original idea of where I wanted to work. But I’ve learned over the years that it’s not about the type of library, it’s about information, how to get it and how to make it available. The research methods remain the same.

As to what I prefer to be called, a librarian or information specialist: those outside the profession seem to resonate more with the title “librarian” because, of course, they are still thinking about books and they picture me stamping those books for checkout. I prefer the term “Information Specialist,” because it’s closer to what I do.

You identify with other solo librarians. Why?

Well, I finished my last two years here (the first time!) as a solo librarian and I know how hard it is when you’re on your own. Solos don’t always have colleagues within the company or library to bounce things off of or collaborate with. They have to be their own trailblazers and fight for their own budgets and collections, but there’s a tremendous amount of satisfaction to be had in both the independence and freedom that come with being a solo librarian.

I’m fortunate that, while I’m a “solo” here in Santa Clara, I’m still part of a larger library with sites in York, PA and Minneapolis, MN. I collaborate weekly with Dianne Bare in York and Crystal Clift in Minneapolis via telephone and online events where we share a desktop. I tell them they are my sanity check. Their resources and availability as consultants, colleagues and mentors is invaluable to me!

To stay in touch with the “outside” world, I am a BayNet member, and subscribe to the OPL Plus blog, the InfoToday blog and the Library Stuff weblog. I am a member of SLA (and the Solo Librarian San Andreas Chapter) and have been to several yearly conventions. This year I plan to attend Internet Librarian, an annual conference in Monterey, CA. I receive email pushes from LAC (Library Associates), Libgig, and Information Today. I maintain contacts with a number of librarians I’ve worked with over the years. And some of my friends outside of work are librarians.

What was the most memorable experience you’ve had as a librarian at BAE Systems?

One of my most memorable experiences is an open house we hosted back in 1994. We were the Ground Systems library of FMC Corp. then and had a physical library. We had a tradition of hosting an Open House every year around Halloween with a Halloween theme, and invited vendors from Dialog, I.H.S., and Dow Jones. Our Halloween costumes were “librarian stereotypes.” We dressed in long skirts, “sensible” shoes, cardigan sweaters, glasses hung from eyeglass chains and hair was sprayed with gray coloring. I was a new graduate of library school, so being involved with all the planning and execution of an event like this one was pretty exciting! While some came purely for the food, all went away with the knowledge that they had a library with resources available to them – the most important reason for the open house.

This year I staffed a booth at our annual Diversity Fair, right beside the Indian engineers group. We handed out library pamphlets and brochures from vendors. To receive a mousepad with library contact information and a list of resources, the attendees filled out a four-question survey. Being virtual doesn’t necessarily mean being invisible!

SPOTLIGHT: Him Mark Lai — The Master Archivist

Him Mark Lai is a scholar of Chinese America and a key representative of the Chinese Historical Society of America.