Don’t mess with librarians, ok? Behind our messy buns, glasses on a chain and supernatural “shushing” abilities, we have real skillz. Mad skillz. We are so skilled, in fact, that the CIA has a team jokingly called “Vengeful Librarians” whose purpose is to scour the Internet, Facebook posts, blogs, Tweets, news sites, etc. in order to take the pulse of a region and build profiles used by the White House. Important stuff.
While I was in library school, I often was asked what I learned. How to shelve books? The Dewey Decimal System? Frumpy Dressing 101? Seminars in perfecting the librarian glare? I assumed the real question was more along the lines of wondering what was so hard about working in a library that it required a Master’s degree. I’m cynical like that.
The article beautifully illustrates what librarians know how to do: find information. Analyze it. Disseminate it. We are drowning in information, and we need librarians more than ever to cut through the noise and help us make sense of it all.
The article also notes that this team is analyzing mood and making predictions based on what they discover. This is huge. Professionally I’m very interested in text analytics and what it can reveal. Sentiment analysis is becoming a must-have part of text analytics for organizations monitoring and analyzing comments about their brand in social media. It’s great that people are talking about you, but are they talking positively or negatively? Overtly positive or negative comments are easy to interpret, but overall, sentiment analysis is difficult. I remember that when SAS’s social media monitoring suite came out a few years ago, it was a big deal because it included sentiment analysis. I’m sure it also had a big price.
Predictive analytics is hot right now and is also something in which I am interested and researched in, yes, library school. Much of data analysis is backwards-looking in order to answer “what happened?” You see this often in social media when a major event happens and tweets and posts are mined to put together a timeline of events as in this article on the genesis of the #OccupyWallStreet hashtag. While that type of analysis is useful, imagine how much more powerful it would be to be able to figure out what’s going to happen next and be able to put together an action plan. While such abilities may conjure up images of crystal balls and tarot cards, some companies have figured out how to do it.
My point is that what this group is doing is cutting edge. Instead of being an obsolete profession, this group is demonstrating what modern librarianship is all about. And all it requires is a Library Science degree and a smile. Ok, ok, and knowledge of a few foreign languages. You get my point.
So give your librarian a hug today. You never know how s/he might be saving the world.