Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Initial impressions of the 2nd Fragmentation Meeting

Yesterday afternoon around a dozen people sat round a table to continue the discussions begun in December about how the various information societies and groups can work together more effectively.

We initially each had a 2 minute slot to make comments either arising from the record of the first meeting or to give the views of the various bodies represented on what the issues are or how they can be addressed. Several interesting ideas were brought up, including:

* Within government the profession is seen as a disparate grouping of organisations that don’t work in a coherent fashion
* ‘the profession’ is expanding into new areas, from social media to data protection, and these areas are often not staffed by people from a ‘traditional’ information background
* There is a perceived need to define the interface between technology and information – the plumbing and the water, perhaps!
* There is increasingly blurring between information and IT roles and skills
* Organisations have a pressing need to manage their information overload but are either ignorant of, or have misunderstandings about, the contribution information professionals could bring
* The world is changing increasingly fast – and information professionals are not changing as quickly so a disconnect is in danger of growing
* Information professionals may by nature be ‘control freaks’ – but in today’s world is flexible guidance needed more than controls or rules?

We moved on as a whole group to discuss ‘what are information practitioners’?

This produced a lively discussion. We started by thinking of job roles that could / should be included and which were outside the scope of the profession – especially in terms of information producers (writers, designers, publishers) compared to information organisers or managers. Do researchers fall within scope? How about information architects?

We moved onto consider skills – is there one core skill set that all information professionals have? Perhaps an ability to organise information, whether that is called cataloguing, classification, taxonomy, metadata, file plans or any other label.

Mark (Field) made a commitment to organise a third meeting, for as many of the participants of the first two meetings who wished to remain engaged with the process, at which we need to move from a discussion of the issues to the creation of some concrete outcomes. Suggested outputs included a précis of the initial LinkedIn discussion, an Information Manifesto and an Information Charter, and a mechanism whereby all the groups involved can draw on the collected expertise of the members to draft joint statements, for example to the media, government or employment groups.

We are also still hoping to host an open invitation meeting, advertised as widely as possible, for any interested individuals to voice their ideas – we are just in need of a venue capable of holding such a gathering – volunteers anyone?

Another review of this meeting has been posted by NetIKX on their blog

- Nicola Franklin


  1. From one who was also there — one of the obvious trends of the last few decades is that computer technologies have emerged as the means by which information products and media are designed and shaped, published and delivered, and through which means of organisation and access are constructed. Therefore while it's tempting to relegate IT systems to the level of ‘digital plumbing’, the relationship between information and its new technical environment is more subtle and intellectually substantial, involving such ‘soft’ technologies as character sets, encodings, metadata formats, file format standards, formal ontologies, and a blizzard of acronymns such as XML, RDF, SKOS and what have you.

    As for what might constitute the ‘core skill’, I’m looking for a term that is broadly similar to ‘organising information’ as chosen by Nicola, but a lttle broader, implying the ability to step back, form an intelligent overview of information and its relation to producers and users, and design systems appropriately. A term that would be broad enough to encompass librarianship roles, but also the info-organising skills of writers and editors, diagram designers, and people who specify information presentation/retrieval systems too.

    Conrad Taylor

  2. Conrad - Many thanks for commenting. Yes I think you're right, and this also ties into a comment by another participant that information people are those who have an understanding or overview of what information is and it's importance to an individual/organisation, and of the common aim of all information practitioners to enable information to be found and used - getting the right information to the right person at the right time.

  3. I think that many of us have come to similar conclusions to Conrad. And perhaps this is the complexity that lies at the heart of the identity problem, and it may be that there is a very simple statement or message that, if properly framed, could re-interpret our diversity as some form of continuity of professionalism or shape the network of skill, audience and value offering. Like a lot (or maybe just a few!) of information people I have read Ranganathan because he was a major thinker in my field, but I have also read Shannon, Booch and Lakoff, because I can see their relevance to my field. We will all have formed our own intellectual matrices in order to inform the way we work, and deliver value. And, in the overlap in those matrices, there must be a core or extending helix of practice that binds us in some way. I am certain that there is.

    When I was an adviser for CILIP, I remember being told, very indignantly, by a health librarian, at a health libraries conference that 'I am a librarian, NOT an information manager'. A few questions quickly proved to our small audience that she was indeed an information manager, but those two words continued to constitute almost an insult for her, that this management of information would corrode the integrity of the profession of which she was (rightly) proud. It was one of the most depressing moments in my time at CILIP, signifying in five minutes, the hill we had to climb in terms of labels, skills, professionalism, perception, and necessary weight of argument: the hill of survival, wrapped around by the difficult path of relevance.

  4. If that is the answer than perhaps the question is "What is Knowledge Management"?

  5. Just to let you know, I blogged about your article in Information Outlook and pointed to this blog post and others in Collaborative Librarianship News,