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Becoming a Successful Intrapreneur

A practical guide to creating an innovative information service

Sheila Pantry and Peter Griffiths


Library Association Publishing


The Successful LIS Professional Series




ISBN 1 856042928


Information services of all kinds need to be proactive within their institution by using entrepreneurial skills internally, marketing themselves vigorously and emphasizing their value to other departments and sections. This book offers a systematic approach to demonstrating their worth and for achieving wide support within their organization. They aim to promote the intrapreneurial skills required of LIS professionals to achieve their objectives including: intelligence gathering; taking risks, turning information into a value-added service, using performance measures.


This is one of the latest titles in the Successful LIS Professional series which aims to give practical guidance to LIS (Library and Information Services) practitioners on ways of managing particular aspects of their work. For example, other titles in the series cover time management, enquiry work, aggression and violence in the workplace. One of the authors, Sheila Pantry, is also the series editor.

This title focuses particularly on change, both in the employing organization and in library and information practice, which provide opportunities for considerable development of the services and, in doing so, for practitioners themselves as individuals. In her introduction the editor lists some of these areas of change, for example, contracting out, the de-structuring of organizations, the need for a flexible and multi-skilled workforce, and of course rapid technological change.

The need for flexibility in attitude as well as in skills is further emphasized in the Foreword where it says that ‘Unfortunately, some librarians have been slow to realize what is happening and to grasp the opportunities that have arrived. Their behaviour remains as it was before, reacting to events rather than leading them.’ This book aims to redress that, not necessarily by providing the mass of detail that would be required to deal with all the aspects of the variety of problems which need to be resolved, but rather by outlining what is going on now, and suggesting ways forward. As is noted in the preface the aim is to provide a series of stepping stones, and therefore not necessarily ultimate solutions.

I was pleased to see mention of some of key areas in which I have been directly involved over recent years, in particular knowledge management and the information audit. These are areas in which there has been considerable activity, particularly in special libraries, and where, if inhouse LIS practitioners had not taken the initiative to promote their ability, skills and enthusiasm, there could well have been little or no LIS involvement. Increasingly LIS functions are becoming part of IT services, or the research function, or if not part of, are certainly working more closely with other departments. Knowledge management is a prime example of this, as I learned from my own research in this field, Webb (1996) and subsequent work, Webb (1998). Such closer co-operation provides considerable opportunity for the LIS practitioner to demonstrate the wide range of knowledge and skills which he or she can contribute to the organization as a whole, which is what this book seeks to encourage the practitioner to do.

The information audit provides just that sort of opportunity. It is not only about finding out what the information customer requires by way of information, but also by way of service. Its success is dependent on an appropriate mixture of well-honed communication skills, a keen awareness of organizational as well as individual objectives and expectations, and the development of services based on clearly stated standards and measures of quality and performance.

As with all short works (the last chapter ends on page 78), the difficulty is often in deciding what to leave out, as much as what to include. I would have liked more on knowledge management given its key role as a catalyst for change, now and in the future. Whilst team-working, quite rightly, is discussed in some detail, this concentrates largely on the operational aspects, and the importance of team behaviour and personality mix, crucial to team success, does not receive the attention that it deserves. The first two or three ‘case studies’ are really brief descriptive examples, and do not merit the term, but as the book progresses the later cases do live up to the description. Those reservations aside, there is a lot to commend this as a book for those who need to start thinking beyond long-standing conventional practice. It is easy to read, following the current practice of repeating the main points in a box at the end of each chapter. There is a selection of recommended reading to help you move forward, and the appendices set out examples of forms which could provide a useful framework for assessing user needs, and act as a basis for service development.

Webb, S. P. (1996) Know-how and information provision in legal firms: individual knowledge and experience as part of the corporate information resource. Berkhamstead: Sylvia P Webb (British Library Research & Innovation Report, no. 1)
Webb, S. P. (1998) Knowledge management: linchpin of change – some practical guidelines. London: Aslib (Know How Series)

Sylvia P. Webb, Independent Consultant
JOLIS, June 1999

Inspiration for innovation

Now that we are all ‘knowledge managers’ rather than librarians we need to take a new view of our jobs and our place in our organisations. As intrapreneurs we have to be aware of the role and importance of information resources and make sure that our colleagues are too.

We don’t achieve this by complaining that we have excellent but underused services: if they are underused they are either not needed or not known, and it is our job to put that right.

This book sets out both to inspire and galvanise librarians into action and to give them a lot of useful suggestions on what effective steps they can take. It covers organisational behaviour, information audits, anticipating needs, innovative services, team building, standards and promotion. There are plenty of bullet points, a few brief case studies and an up-to-date list of further reading, including several Web resources.

The idea of service level agreements, an internal contract between the library and its clients, helps to focus attention on the active management of an information service that is aware of and responsive to the needs of its users. It is not a new idea, and some of the brightest lights in our profession have been taking this approach for years.

This book should help others to join them.

Leonard Will, Willpower Information, Enfield
The Library Association Record, 101(1), January 1999, p. 40

So who is an intrapreneur? According to the Collins concise dictionary it is a person who while remaining within a larger organization uses entrepreneurial skills to develop a new service. Sounds familiar?

This excellent addition to the successful LIS professional series is aimed at LIS managers and professionals wishing to provide innovative and customer-orientated information services. Specifically, the book aims to demonstrate the value of your service and help identify opportunities, skills and ideas to make your service central to your organisation.

The book is logically organised with the first chapter defining what an information intrapreneur is, then discussing the relationship between the intrapreneur and the organisation, in particular how to help your service fit in with your organisation’s objectives.

The chapter on internal information audit is especially interesting. Showing how to determine the organisation’s needs and how your service can fulfill these needs, it also features 9 key questions to ask to determine if your computers are capable of meeting these needs!

Information technology features heavily, and there is a chapter explaining how to deliver new and innovative services with new technology. It also explains how to turn information into a value-added service. There is an appendix containing sample audit forms you can use to help determine your expert and non-expert users information needs, how they currently obtain information and what they consider useful means of information dissemination.

The intrapreneur is not the only person involved in the information service. This is addressed in a chapter on teamwork, which discusses the skills and knowledge required from intrapreneurial team members, and how to train such a team.

The service provided is then explored, specifically examining why standards of service, service level agreements and performance measurement are necessary. The book then considers how to obtain feedback from your users by using tools such as focus groups and questionnaires.

The last chapter describes how to market and promote your service. It explains the importance of a marketing and promotion plan, and the importance of communication with customers. Advice is then given on how to evaluate the success of your marketing plan.

Each chapter has an introduction including learning outcomes, and a summary containing reflection points. It is arranged in an easy-to-read style with action points, bullet points and case studies from different types of libraries. I found the latter to be a particularly useful feature, very effectively illustrating the points the book makes.

There is a comprehensive contents page, which makes up for a fairly sparse index. It is also worth mentioning the strong emphasis on information technology. Many of the methods described are computer based and many of the references are to websites. Although at least one of the addresses of these sites was wrong, and another had moved, I did find them after some searching.

The information explosion has increased the public’s expectations of libraries. LIS managers are considering new cost-effective ways to provide information to meet these expectations. This book is an excellent how-to guide for managers to use innovation to do just that while demonstrating their service’s worth to the organisation.

Paul Gray, Health Promotion Library, Scotland
IMPACT, Nov/Dec 1998


Sheila Pantry OBE BA FCLIP manages an independent information services consultancy and electronic publishing business, including websites. She has had a long and varied career in information management in a range of industry sectors, and also in government as Head of Information Services for the Health and Safety Executive. She specializes in worldwide occupational health and safety information and is an experienced trainer, writer, editor, lecturer and conference organiser.

Peter Griffiths is an independent information specialist with particular interest in library and information services, knowledge management and wider aspects of information management in the public sector. He was previously Head of Information at the Home Office, a role that included being head of profession for librarians, information scientists and latterly records managers across the Home Office group. He is an experienced trainer, writer and speaker. Peter is currently 2009 President of CILIP, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals.

Available at a 20% discount to Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals members.
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