Information Broker  What They Do

Just the Facts

Insider Info

dotInformation 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."

dotSome 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."

dotMost 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 information sources.

dotKnowing 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 reference interview.

dotTools 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."

dotBrokers 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.

dotBrokers 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 brokers.

"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."

dotThere 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.

dotToday'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 shops."

At a Glance

Find the information your clients need

  • Information brokers use lots of tools, including the Internet
  • Brokers often work together
  • Many have advanced degrees in library or information science