When Marilyn Levine, then-professor of library and information science at the University of Wisconsin and owner of Information Express, an information brokerage, brought 26 people together in 1967 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, they wrote a new chapter in the history of the information industry. The group came from all over the United States; most did not know each other before the meeting. All of them were owners of fairly small information companies who recognized a need to define their emerging profession and to form ties with colleagues. And, as a result of that two-day meeting, all of them were participants in the formation of a new association - the Association of Independent Information Professionals (AIIP) - giving a developing sector of the information industry a new identity.
Today, AIIP has more than 600 members who own businesses delivering a wide variety of services, including online and manual research, document delivery, database design, library support, consulting, writing and publishing. The association publishes a quarterly newsletter and an annual membership directory, sponsors a private electronic bulletin board for networking and AIIP business, hosts exhibit booths at trade shows, acts on behalf of members in negotiating special discount programs with vendors of print and online products and services, and holds an annual conference every spring.
The growth of AIIP mirrors the growth of the information industry in general and, in particular, the growth of independent information entrepreneurship. Independent information professionals represent a hybrid of sorts; we combine traits of both the academic/intellectual and the entrepreneurial worlds. Thus, AIIP serves its members in many ways, functioning both as a trade organization and as a professional organization.
In this special section of the Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science, several AIIP members define and demystify the world of the independent information professional and point to bridges, or connections, that we believe have always existed between independent information intermediaries and information professionals in academic institutions and special and public libraries.
The articles represent a sampling of current thinking about information brokers and information brokering and some of the issues and opportunities facing us and the information industry.
Our view begins with a brief history of information brokering by Marilyn Levine, followed by Alice Sizer Warner's comparison of the field as it was described in a 1976 issue of the Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science and as it might be practiced in the future.
To help readers understand how information brokers operate, Susanne Bjorner tackles the eternally renewing question, "Who is an information broker?" and, then, Susan Detwiler offers some guidance on selecting an information broker.
Deborah Sawyer discusses the need for professional accountability and other issues that surround questions of certification. Stephanie Ardito looks at complexities of information retrieval and dissemination and the protection of intellectual property. Finally Paula Eiblum writes about the impact of technology on document delivery.
We hope that you find these discussions illuminating, informative and provocative and that future ASIS and AIIP forums will be created so that we may continue to share our unique points of view as well as our many points of common interest.