Thursday, 17 February 2011

"Fragmentation or Collaboration?" - A Personal View

Today sees the publication in CILIP Update with Gazette of my report on the 'Fragmentation death of the information profession' LinkedIn thread and subsequent meeting which took place on 14th December 2010.

I believe that increasing the collaboration and communication between the various associations, societies and groups representing the many parts of the information profession is a vital goal.

In my view it is indeed a great shame that previous efforts towards some of the groups working together have 'fizzled out' (as one of the previous organisers of such efforts put it to me).

One can only wonder 'what if...' 
  • what if the groups had been collaborating effectively over the past 10-15 years;
  • what if they had been prominent in the media as a coherent voice clearly demonstrating the value of trained information professionals finding, filtering and translating the information overload the everyone was talking about;
  • what if they had been talking to employers about the dilution and devaluing of business information if the banks et al went ahead with their outsourcing/offshoring moves;
Perhaps librarians wouldn't have to be fighting quite so hard against the view that 'we have the internet, why do we need libraries any more' if there had been more effective advocacy and promotion and education all along.  It is hard to suddenly try and prove the point when there is a crisis, when there hasn't been a consistent and effective campaign of promotion or explanation of the value of professionals helping people find the information they need. 

This is why I volunteered to help Mark Field, the knowledge manager working at the Department for Education who began the discussion thread, organise the face-to-face meetings and any other work which may come out of this effort. 

It would be too easy to say 'it's too late, what's the point'.  This is not even from a point of view of self interest - whether for one's own job as an information professional, or for my job as a recruiter of information professionals - it is from the perspective of society as a whole.  If we want to live in a democracy, then citizens need and have a right to freely available access to all kinds of information.

I sincerely hope that the many and varied bodies that represent and provide services to all the different flavours of information professional take this opportunity to work together effectively - and don't let it fizzle out this time.

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