Information brokers are information research consultants. They locate,
analyze and interpret information for you. Individuals, businesses, government
agencies, colleges and others hire brokers to do research for them.
Paula Eiblum is president of a research services firm in Rockville, Maryland,
that serves libraries in the U.S. and Europe. The firm specializes in tracking
down difficult-to-find literature and obscure reports.
"The librarians with whom I work value that expertise," says Eiblum. "Our
satisfaction comes from being a silent partner of the librarian."
Some brokers perform other information services, from designing web pages
to teaching and writing. They search for information using computer databases
and the Internet. Often, they subscribe to commercial database services.
"I usually start with a quick sweep of the Internet to see what information
is available," says Derek Pugsley. He is an information broker.
"Then I move to [exclusive] online databases, which are sometimes more
reliable sources. This improves the value of the information I retrieve for
the client, and provides greater quality assurance."
Most information that clients need can't be found online. So brokers hit
libraries and other institutions. They check public records and talk to experts
on the subject.
Information brokers only research and interpret legally obtainable data.
They never steal information or try to break into private or confidential
Knowing how the information will be used helps them know where to look,
what to look for, and how much information to collect. Before starting their
work, they ask for as much information about the project as possible in a
Tools of the trade include a personal computer, telephone, high-speed fax
and modem, photocopier and printer. They also need access to the Internet
and commercial databases.
"You must know how to use personal computers," says broker Richard McEachin.
"A sound knowledge of word processing and database management software is
necessary. You also need an understanding of communications software and networks,
particularly the Internet."
Brokers often work together. In smaller firms, when one broker has a client
but doesn't have the time or special expertise to perform the work, they can
subcontract the work or refer the client to a more qualified broker.
In larger information research firms, referrals are usually handled internally.
So information brokers are often clients of fellow information brokers.
Brokers often work long hours and face short deadlines. They must be able
to manage their time resources well -- multiple clients and multiple projects
are a normal part of the job. Balancing those clients is a challenge for self-employed
"A researcher must have a curious and analytical mind, bulldog-like determination,
strong verbal skills, an outgoing personality [you must be able to sell yourself
to a client], good knowledge of business processes and good management skills,"
says Larry Mrazek. He is an information broker in St. Louis.
"I'm responsible for running every aspect of a business," he says. "This
includes marketing, accounting, sales and, of course, completing projects
for clients. Industry-specific knowledge can also be a plus for individuals
looking to market to a particular niche."
There are no major physical requirements for this job, though visually
or hearing impaired people may find it challenging. That's because you may
need to research material that is not available in braille and will need to
interview sources for information.
Today's information brokers tend to specialize. "While I'm a generalist,
I've been focusing on the agribusiness and biotechnology industries," says
Mrazek. "Clientele varies from major corporations to one-person consulting