Layzell Ward, P. (2004), "Building and Running a Successful Research Business: A Guide for the Independent Information Professional", Library Review, Vol. 53 No. 5, pp. 285-285. https://doi.org/10.1108/00242530410538436
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Of the many professional and managerial texts that I have read in the past year this one stands out as the best. It lives up to its title, provides practical advice for professionals working in a comparatively new and fast‐growing sector, and, as an important bonus, it is very readable.
Increasingly, many smaller organisations are realising that it is cost‐effective to bring in a person with an expertise in finding and presenting information. Special library and information centres realise that outsourcing queries beyond their subject expertise, handling a work overload, or just knowing there is an expert who can help, is not an admission of failure on their part, but simply follows common practice in other departments within their organisation. Identifying and hiring special skills and expertise makes good sense.
The flip side is that more professionals are dreaming about starting a business but are not sure where to start. This is where the advice from a successful independent information professional is needed – and it comes at a remarkable US$29.95! A great investment.
An introduction discusses where independents come from and how to get started and up and running. This is followed by 35 chapters divided into four sections: getting started, running the business, marketing, and researching. Four appendices cover the Association of Independent Information Professionals, staying up‐to‐date, independent info pro tools, and contact information for people noted in the text. There is also a good index. The chapters in Section 2 – Running the business – give an indication of the practical nature of the volume: managing your clients; money, money, money; setting rates and fees; subcontracting, or I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine; ethics and legalities; professional development, and strategic planning.
It is difficult for writers to be able to stand back and produce a uniformly relaxed style which makes the reader feel they know Mary Ellen and are having a series of tutorials with her. But the text here is presented in an even, informal style and probably benefited from having an editor. It also contains a great deal of information, with stories that make points stand out or summarise those made.
For the person contemplating a change of direction and striking out on their own, or for an experienced independent, this volume offers a very valuable guide to running a business and gaining a list of returning clients. Although the text is written from a US standpoint, 99 per cent of the content will apply in any part of the world.
As this is a volume that will receive much use, hardback might have been easier to handle rather than a floppy volume that is 9.25 × 7.5 × 1 inch.
Anyone who is considering striking out in this career direction must read this volume. Among the experience she offers is that you need to consider one important factor in particular. You can't do it overnight – it needs planning – if only to get that that vital cushion of savings to cover the first months of business. Mary Ellen indicates why this is essential. If you follow her advice you will know how to keep your business account in the black and make a real profit. And for UK readers it is good to see that FreePint rates a number of mentions as does CILIP – but nowhere is Aslib mentioned!