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Lynn Donches

Lynn Donches
Rodale's Lynn Donches

As Chief Librarian at Rodale, a publishing company focused on healthy living issues, Lynn Donches oversees an information center which offers services ranging from the typical — document delivery, literature searches — to the cutting edge — a virtual library which offers employees in different states nearly instant access to information from a wide variety of editorial, advertising and business databases.

Donches is one of ProQuest's 2010 InfoStar award winners for North America. The award is given to information professionals who exhibit a high degree of innovation and quality in their work.

Rodale reaches more than 70 million readers worldwide through media properties, trade books, subscription online properties and integrated marketing solutions. The company is also a leader in direct response marketing and has more than 26 million active customers in its database. Rodale publishes several high-profile health and wellness lifestyle magazines, including Men's Health, Prevention, Women's Health, Runner's World, Bicycling, Running Times, and Organic Gardening. The company also publishes books on health & wellness, fitness, cooking, gardening, spirituality, nature, and the environment.

The private company is family-owned and has a home office in Emmaus, Penn. There are satellite offices in New York City, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. These offices are home to about 900 employees in all.

"I was drawn to the organization because Rodale's magazine and book products matched my lifestyle," said Donches, who joined the organization in 1977 as a Library Technical Assistant and climbed the ladder from there. "Also, I felt I could contribute to the betterment of the world by working for Rodale's mission to inspire and enable people to improve their lives and the world around them."

At Rodale, Donches works with a team of eight, each of whom brings a different expertise to the table. Thanks to the varied strengths of this team, Donches said they are "always" exploring the possibilities when it comes to new products and services for users of the information center.

"Currently, we are investigating the feasibility of a discovery type service which would provide our users with one search box on the library portal, which would search across multiple databases, including our WebOPAC," she said by way of example. "It will be similar to a federated search, but more powerful."

For Donches, this is all a part of trying to anticipate what users may need in the future and responding accordingly.

"We learn about new products at conferences, we offer trials for our users, and we subscribe to those that the users feel will be beneficial for their business. We're also working on migrating to a different content management system to provide enhancements to our services," she said.

Donches explained that the wealth of information her team oversees for use by Rodale's employees benefits far more than just those employees.

"The information and research is used by the editorial teams to write articles published in Rodale magazines and books, or posted on the corporate and brand websites. That knowledge, in turn, is read by external customers and has the potential of changing or improving a person's life," she said. "The information is also utilized by the advertising, marketing and business planning departments to build a case for business, to develop relationships, to collaborate on ideas with clients, and for competitive intelligence."

Rodale has stayed on the cutting edge of information for years — Donches points to the company's 30-year use of a current alerting bulletin, which highlights the most relevant research about the most relevant topics to Rodale employees as one example — and the chief librarian believes the trend of staying current will continue.

"It amazes me how much change has taken place in libraries and publishing in 30 years," she said. "As information technology and the internet have developed, I have seen a shift from librarians doing all the research to empowering users to search for information. Another change is the speed at which information is needed. Users require same-day delivery of information in order to continue updating website content and meet more demanding deadlines where in the past within two weeks was sufficient."

Donches is also anxious to see how the development of search tools will look in the coming years.

"I think people and customer service will continue to be the most important aspect of information services. Users will find the low-hanging fruit and continue to request aid for more complex and time-consuming searches," she said. "Search engines have made searching simple, but users get frustrated when so many irrelevant results are displayed. It will be interesting to see if the companies with the strongest taxonomies and resources applied to accurate indexing fare better than those who do not invest in these resources."

Donches holds an Associate of Arts degree in library science from Penn State Technical College (formerly WACC), and attended Villanova University. She also holds an SLA Certificate in Competitive Intelligence. Before coming to Rodale in 1977, she was a library assistant at Air Products for three years.

She is a member of SLA Competitive Intelligence, Knowledge Management and Advertising and Marketing divisions and SCIP.

InfoStar Profile: Lynn Donches

I became an info pro because: I decided to become a librarian when I was a young girl. I played librarian with my mother's Readers' Digest condensed volumes, checking them out, putting them in order, and pretending patrons needed my help. I was a page in a public library during high school, and loved the many varied aspects of the work. I especially liked helping patrons find what they were looking for. That firmed up my decision.

What do you enjoy the most/the least about being an information professional? Mostly, I like working with people and the hunt for the elusive answer. One of my least favorite things is maintaining the balance between the selection of the most effective products and services available, while remaining sensitive to budgetary constraints.

Interests outside of your profession? I enjoy travel, walking, backpacking, discussing political and social issues, scuba diving, and reading.

What books are you currently reading? K-2: Life and Death on the World's Most Dangerous Mountain, Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking has Undermined America, and, of course, Maria Rodale's new book, The Organic Manifesto: How Organic Farming Can Heal Our Planet, Feed the World, and Keep Us Safe.