Susanne Bjørner

I started my professional life in information management as a librarian in the late 1960s. Through various twists and turns of jobs and interests, I have been called librarian, online searcher, freelancer, independent information professional, researcher, consultant and contractor. Coincident with and extending beyond those appellations, I can add instructor, author, compiler, columnist, editor, and--since everyone is one on the Web--publisher.

My writing has been shaped by my career, and writing has shaped my career.

In 1979 a request went out from Library Journal, seeking reviewers of books on death and dying. As a public librarian at that time, I worked with seniors and was observing how some of these people approached death, so I volunteered. I soon went beyond reviewing works on death and dying, to subjects on business, computers, and some family issues. I learned to write succinctly for a specific audience who made decisions based on what I wrote.

In 1981 I started a new library, with no assistant but an Apple II+ microcomputer. As I explored the miracles of what I could do with that personal computer, I shared my enthusiasm and techniques in conference presentations and newsletters. When email systems (not interconnected) proliferated, I tried them all and was invited to write about Dialmail, a service offered by Dialog Information Services, for ONLINE magazine. That article began an association that lasted a decade.

In a column on "Output Options," for seven years I regularly investigated what could be done with online information retrieval and the emerging personal computer technology. Conducting searches for faculty and researchers at MIT gave me more than enough material for case studies. I wrote some features for Online Inc. magazines ("Where in the World is The New York Times?" and "The Funnies Are Here: Cartoons and Comics on the Web"), and for two years I served as editor with overall responsibility for ONLINE magazine.

The mid-1980s explosion of newspapers onto online systems, providing full text--and my own inability as a searcher to keep track of what was available where--gave me the idea for Newspapers Online, a book, directory, and instructional aid. Compiling this book gave me enormous insights into the world of journalism and news libraries. But after three editions, the rigor of keeping up with what, from printed newspapers, was in an online file (and what wasn't) nearly did me in--and this was pre-Web and pre-Tasini.

During this time I also wrote a regular column for Link-Up, branching beyond writing for professional librarians and online searchers to talk to end users (otherwise known as "normal people"--my old public library clientele). I tried to provide techniques for finding useful information using online technology, all the while trying to improve knowledge of the information literacy skills that I had been defining formally since my master's in education project at Antioch New England.

In the mid-'80s my library-related career shifted to self-employment, and since that time I have been continually creating and recreating jobs for myself. In Information Brokering, a special issue of the Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science, I contributed an opinion piece attempting to explain the range of independent information professionals operating businesses, and commenting on ethical guidelines offered by AIIP and ASIS. In one sense, this was a follow-up to "Which Hat are You Wearing Today?," an article published earlier for a different audience (and under a former name, but still me) in Library Trends in 1991.Pencils

I was honored to contribute a chapter, "An Itinerant Librarian," to Betty-Carol Sellen's What Else You Can Do with a Library Degree (1997 edition), a book that continues to inspire me by title alone. While composing that chapter, I was serving as a consultant to Denmark's National Technical Library and Knowledge Center, an experience that significantly strengthened my Danish language skills and brought me again into daily, "live-in" contact with libraries, books, and paper journals--and with the explosion of the Internet into libraries.

In 1998 I returned again for a time to books and libraries and full-time employment at Choice magazine. This position gave me an opportunity to edit short reviews of the type I had first written for Library Journal at the beginning of my writing career; it gave me the chance to work in the fields of philosophy and religion, my undergraduate majors; and it provided interesting and invaluable experience in the process of developing an Internet-accessible online version of a 35-year old magazine- and card-based review service. If I had only known then what I know now!

Throughout my career, I've made numerous conference presentations, but they rarely are memorialized in printed Proceedings volumes. Fortunately one, given at IATUL (International Association of Technological University Libraries) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1991, did ... and I remember it from time to time. I began with a quotation from Russell Baker, spoken in Esperanto. Baker's English version:

"The curse of technology is its habit of trying to improve what it already does almost perfectly. The result: What was once simple becomes complicated."

(The New York Times, 15 December 1990, p.27)

My work aims to un-complicate that technological improvement, through simpler design, development and writing.

 

Contact

bjorner@earthlink.net

 

Spain

Urba. Montebello, Buzon 65
03176 Algorfa (Alicante)

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