Librarian in a Hard Hat

Hat’s off to those who proactively address research challenges.

August 1, 2012

Today I had an atypical on-the-job experience that reinforced the importance of providing necessary data in a timely fashion.

It was a perfect storm. Our archivist is on vacation and I’m resident “Accidental Archivist” in his stead. He wished me good luck if I needed to find anything as our offices are currently under construction, and his files are somewhat disheveled.

Likelihood of an archival emergency? Remote.

Lora Kloth is a research librarian at CUNA.
Lora Bray is research librarian at CUNA.

And then Chad Everett died.

Mr. Everett is important in CUNA history as our spokesperson during a 1970s advertising campaign. Our news staff needed photographs and information. Immediately.

Moments after the alert, I found myself greeted at the cordoned-off construction site by a human resource representative. He extended a hard hat, a smile, and dubious best wishes. Then he left.

I bravely dove in. The blaze orange hat and disorganization clashed with my classy librarian togs, demeanor, and usual retrieval methodologies. I persevered, intuitively located the relevant files, and hastily evacuated the Historical Hot Zone. Mission accomplished.

Information retrieval and dissemination is important for all of us in fostering teamwork. We each play a role in meeting strategic objectives.

Data often provides a crucial link, and we need to rise to the challenges the accession of information sometimes provides: be it a construction zone, convincing a reluctant sharer, working under difficult time constraints, or even gaining access to others who can help in our pursuit of knowledge.

Consider the information you manage and determine what you might do to enable its flow.

Ladies First

Women get a research nod this week. “Oceans Apart: The Higher Health Costs of Women in the U.S. Compared to Other Nations, and How Reform is Helping” by The Commonwealth Fund makes us aware of the economic and health implications for women who are at risk without insurance. Many have problems paying the bills.

“An estimated 18.7 million U.S. women ages 19 to 64 were uninsured in 2010, up from 12.8 million in 2000,” the study notes. “Affordability problems were particularly acute for U.S. women who lacked health insurance, half of whom (51%) reported problems paying medical bills in 2009-10 and more than three quarters (77%) of whom reported going without needed care because of cost.”

Do you reach moms as a target market? Suggestions and insight abound in “The Truth About Smart Moms” by McCann. Moms are influencers in purchase decisions. “Three-quarters of moms say that other moms always ask them where they bought things and how they got such a good deal on them.”

Since mother knows best, how might you make an impression?

Loans

Are graduation caps flying in the air? See the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s “Private Student Loans Report” for an update on the private student loan marketplace: “Fueled by investor appetite for asset-backed securities, the financial institution private student loan market grew from less than $5 billion in 2001 to over $20 billion in 2008, before contracting to less than $6 billion in 2011.”

Are private student loans risky for consumers? “Lenders increasingly marketed and disbursed loans directly to students…as a result, many students borrowed more than they needed to finance their education...additionally…lenders were more likely to originate loans to borrowers with lower credit scores than they had previously been.”

Still at school, note “While Strongly Valuing College, Families Continue to Cut Costs, Says National Study by Sallie Mae and Ipsos.” This study reveals changes in how Americans pay for higher education.

Students are footing a higher percentage of the bill as parents scale back. “Thirty-five percent of students borrowed education loans…25% borrowing federal loans only, 9% using a mix of federal and private loans, and 1% tapping private loans only.”

Other student spending trends, such as credit card expenditures, are also explored.

Meanwhile, we’re asked to consider the impact of credit card disclosure regulations via Boston College’s commentary in “Credit Card Act Increased Payoffs.”

“The size of card holders’ payments, relative to their debt levels, increased, and…fewer card users are paying only the minimum.” Further, findings “…Provide support for the increasingly popular notion that more precision and clarity in financial-product disclosures can be effective.”

Hold on to your hats: A mortgage crisis looms for older Americans, says AARP in “Nightmare on Main Street: Older Americans and the Mortgage Market Crisis.”

“Despite the perception that older Americans are more housing secure…millions of older Americans are carrying more mortgage debt than ever before, and more than three million are at risk of losing their homes.”

This robust study “examines loan performance based on borrower age, loan type, and borrower demographics.”

An analysis of the financial crisis continues in “Household Financial Stability: Who Suffered the Most from the Crisis?” As posited by The Regional Economist, “In dollar terms, older, wealthier households lost the most…In percentage terms, however, the largest wealth losses typically were suffered by younger families, which tend to be less wealthy.”

This interesting study analyzes in depth the impact of the recession across various demographics.

Finally, see “How Can Debt Enhance Self-Esteem?” The cost of a college education more frequently requires accession of debt, which may bring with it prestige in this context.

However, young adults may not fully appreciate all ramifications of debt loads. This interesting examination of the psychology of debt concludes, “the sheen of self-esteem wears off by…age 28.” With age, “significant negative effects of debt reduce feelings of mastery” as debt levels become burdensome.

I could have been intimidated or annoyed with my foray into the archives, but rather I found my part in this reconnaissance mission invigorating, interesting, and critical to task completion.

Put on your thinking cap! Consider how you proactively address research challenges, what you might do to enable information flow with a teambuilding mindset, and how your organization might benefit from such collaborations.

My hat’s off to you!

LORA BRAY is a research librarian in CUNA's business-to-business publishing department.