"Our research is the foundation for every case in which our company consults. We are involved in every aspect of the research from the initial retention of the client through issue resolution," said Amy. "My goal is to provide our economists with information that they didn't even realize they needed or thought would be helpful."
Amy's team — consisting of three information professionals — acts in the capacity of a corporate library, which has been exclusively online since the late 1980s. In her 15 years with the company, Amy has gained tremendous skill researching various topics for a wide range of industries. Working closely with the economists, Amy develops search string templates which quickly and efficiently retrieve the exact information needed. She also proactively relies on the clipping and alerting service to track topics of interest for the economists.
"Anticipation of research needs prior to being asked for them is part and parcel to the services we provide," said Amy. "We try to keep abreast of the topics, companies, and industries that our economists follow and provide them with the latest developments so that they are aware of what is going on in those areas. They are so busy...we read the news so that they don't have to."
Looking back, Amy remembers the days of acoustic couplers, dot matrix printers, a DOS-based environment and 2400 baud modems. Technology has certainly changed over the years, and she is thankful that her company provides the 'latest and greatest' in state-of-the-art technology. According to Amy, the senior management team believes that having the best technology, with access to the best research materials, is a key element of the superlative work product that they provide their clients.
Amy credits technology for making her job easier. For example, the availability of academic articles online in pdf format has allowed Amy to access research much more quickly. Also, spreadsheet-based data retrieval software has allowed her team to rapidly download very large quantities of data.
Looking ahead, Amy sees the increased popularity of blogs and wikis creating true "information overload" for user populations. She looks at this trend as an opportunity for information professionals.
"We have the skills to parse through the 'junk data' and find, determine, and package information that is truly valuable, credible information for our constituents. There is so much out there that it would be difficult for someone working in another capacity to be able to flesh out value without the consultation of an information professional," she predicts.
Amy Affelt works for Lexecon, one of the world's leading economics consulting firms. She has been a member of SLA for over 15 years and is currently serving in an executive board position as the Membership Chair of the Business and Finance Division. She is also a member of AALL, CALL, and the Reference Advisory Board of the Metropolitan Library System of Chicago.
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