Demystifying current awareness

Current awareness is central to any organisation. To maintain an edge in a competitive legal and business environment, they rely on information services to manage and deliver personalised and targeted updates on news, markets, clients, and industries.

As I shall discuss, current awareness provision is changing. It is useful to define what I mean by current awareness; although it is something familiar, there are many facets. Library scholarship over the past 40 years proves it is nothing new; the concept has been around for a long time. But I define it broadly as the entire process of keeping up to date, from searching to delivery…and beyond.

Current awareness used to be manageable as we scanned and clipped a limited number of daily newspapers. However we are now dealing with a growing range of sources. We are all struggling to rationalise and make sense of everything available. Happily, innovative technology is enabling us to manipulate content in new and interesting ways, and our clients are benefitting from flexible and personalised current awareness services.

New Friends

News aggregation services are the information professional’s friend. They are harvesting resources from thousands of premium news sites, as well as non-traditional news services from across the globe. They include internal company information, insight/opinion/thought leadership pieces, blog and user generated content, institutional, and governmental press releases.

Not everything on the web is worth reading; dubious clickbait and fake news are topics for another day. We work with aggregators to ensure quality. We can send them trustworthy RSS feeds, or promote certain sources within searches. I am careful to exclude articles with irritating adverts which may reflect badly on our services, as well as be incompatible with mobile technology. This information professional intervention leads me to my next point.

Client Choice

How is the client accessing the information? Clients demand choice regarding where, and on what, they will be reading their daily news. It necessarily has to fit in with routine and work flow which can be a technical challenge. Email remains our main focus but many clients are demanding bulletins which are compatible with mobile technology.

This makes sense, with the virtually ubiquitous wifi on commuter routes – even on the London Underground. Effective curation sits at the centre of all current awareness.

Ultimately current awareness provision is more than setting up a search and letting it run.

Results, feeds, sources, all require constant monitoring and updating as new quality material becomes available. We must remain in communication with client and aggregator. This is where we are essential; information services need to know clients and trust them to tell us what they need, and they need to trust us to facilitate the technical aspects of services.

Only in this way can we ensure that we can start providing not just current awareness but ‘future awareness’. Trend spotting is a natural progression for aggregators so as information professionals we need to look forward to think about tomorrow’s news, rather than this morning’s.  On behalf of our clients, we are taking a once isolated and routine morning job and making it central to our clients’ working day.