Interview with Ruth Hahn-Weinert
Editor: How did you become an information manager?
Hahn-Weinert: All my life I have been curious, eager to learn things. As a child, l was a keen user of our public library; becoming a professional information manager was a logical choice. I moved to the University of Applied Sciences in Hamburg, Germany to do my Masters in Information Science, and my professors stimulated my curiosity even more. But if I am in information management today, it is because I joined a multinational company in 1986. That is when I started to do information management for real.
Editor: Were you immediately successful?
Hahn-Weinert: In the past 24 years I learned about all facets of information management - not in universities, in the libraries and information centres of private companies and international organizations. I held positions as a cataloguer, Chief Acquisitions and Cataloguing, Head of Information Processing, Head of User Services and Chief Librarian. I am the chair of the UN Library and Information Network for Knowledge Sharing. I also coordinate the International Nuclear Libraries Network. Over the past years, I have led the implementation of a 100 workstation information management system and conceptualized intranet and internet presence. I was also actively involved in the conceptualization and implementation of library exhibitions and cultural events. My focus shifted from technical to conceptual tasks: Today, I provide direction, coordination, management and resource allocation for the IAEA Library as well as for INIS and Nuclear Knowledge Management activities. Together, we represent a workforce of 68 staff members and an annual budget of 7 million Euro. Most importantly, I was always lucky to have supportive supervisors who helped me to enlarge my experience.
Editor: Can you identify any crossroad in your career?
Hahn-Weinert: Joining the United Nations as a young professional in 1989. I felt that working in an international environment would be professionally and personally stimulating. And I believed that I would probably have an interesting life.
Editor: Usage of the IAEA Library and INIS grew exponentially under your leadership. Did you plan that?
Hahn-Weinert: In 2006, I was appointed Chief Librarian of the IAEA Library. In addition, to my responsibilities as Chief Librarian, in 2008 I was assigned Acting Chief of the INIS and Nuclear Knowledge Management Section. Information services are under constant scrutiny. Many consider them as a pure luxury. Joining forces was a viable option. Together, the Library and INIS present an information pool of over 3.2 million bibliographic records and 260.000 full text documents. Since April 2009, when access to INIS was made freely available on the Internet, an average 66.000 searches per month are executed.
Editor: You have launched a few changes, such as open access to lNIS on the Internet and implementing full text search. Would you like to try more things?
Hahn-Weinert: In information management, stagnation is not an option. The information world is constantly changing, and so do the expectations of our customers. We need to be able to adapt to changing demands, or, even better, foresee emerging trends: The impact of moving images is growing and we will have to explore this avenue. And we will have to tackle the challenge of digital preservation.
Editor: What is the secret to staying relevant?
Hahn-Weinert: Flexibility, ability to adapt to changing demands and intellectual curiosity. In information management, you have to be prepared to take calculated risks. Not everything is going to be to everyone's taste, and not everything is going to work. But accepting the status quo is not an option.
Editor: You are very close to your staff
Hahn-Weinert: You have to show faith in your staff and lead by example. You ask your staff to be prepared to do more with less, so you have to be prepared to do the same. Leadership is about having a clear vision in uncertain times. It is about sharing credit for success and accepting responsibility for failure. One of the most important things - and sometimes the most difficult - is to have an open mind. Beyond that, you need to be yourself. Don't try to be somebody else. I am lucky to do what I am good at, and on top of that, see people succeed.
Editor: You, Dobie Savic (INIS) and Yanko Yanev (NKM) have been partners for 3 years. What do you think makes a partnership work well?
Hahn-Weinert: Mutual respect and trusting each other's opinions. You have to accept that you cannot agree 100% of the time and understand that decisions can be made anyway.