Since the Stone Age or even before, the ability to share knowledge and information has been fundamental to the development of the human race. Just think of how expertise in making flints, then metal tools, pottery, paper and glass revolutionized our life-style as it spread round the globe! And think how the opportunities for exploiting information are now even greater. CILIP has an enviable UK-wide remit to serve our profession across the whole range of information management specialisms. So why, in the information age, is its membership contracting?
For months, activists Martin White and Sandra Ward have been pointing to the needs of business and society, and urging CILIP to grasp the opportunities. Last week their efforts culminated in an Information Management Summit: Towards transforming organisations and our profession. Anne Mauger, CILIP’s Chief Executive, showed clear support for their initiative.
A parade of first-class speakers presented nine different perspectives, starting with a sparkling keynote address from Clive Holtham, Professor of Information Management at City University. (See slides from most speakers, on the Summit site.) Unsurprisingly, the invited audience of about 40 senior information professionals responded enthusiastically. Kate Arnold, President-elect of the Special Libraries Association, invited all to download a report on The evolving value of information management and the five essential attributes of the modern information professional, commissioned by the Financial Times in conjunction with the SLA. Among other heady stuff the report stresses the importance of “decision-ready information” and invites “an urgent response from information professionals that clearly demonstrates their value to organizations”.
Speaking for CILIP, Annie Mauger promised commitment to supporting its practitioner members in this field. CILIP could not claim to cover every aspect of IM, she felt, nor to be IM’s only voice in the professional society space. But there would certainly be support for the IM Project Board which the organizers are bent on establishing. As follow-up, an open meeting will be held at Ridgmount St on 2nd December. The Board wants to support CILIP members and their organizations in improving IM practice; one component will be to develop and share tools and position papers that IM practitioners can use to influence progress in the workplace. We're all invited to contribute to the Project and make use of the outcomes.
And how does all this bear on Knowledge Organization (KO)?
KO and IM practitioners face many of the same challenges. KO lies at the heart of information management, providing the theoretical underpinning for many IM techniques. As Liane Kordan pointed out in her talk about self-development from librarian to information management consultant, “Some things remain the same…. there’s just more information in different formats and various places. But we still need to classify, with a good understanding of customer needs”.
KO, a field that was founded on the study of classification, is a key thread in the weave of information management. In the picture below, which illustrates how the Institute of Information Scientists and the Library Association merged to form CILIP and carry forward the still evolving IM agenda, KO is the most basic thread originally shared by the IIS and the LA.
Members of CILIP and of ISKO (International Society for Knowledge Organization) both find their skills and contribution are little known and undervalued – even though KO techniques have applications all around us. If society and the economy are to benefit, we all need to maintain our own self-development and get our voices more confidently heard at top management level. ISKO UK will continue its programme of events to help members share their experiences and learn from others. Its collaboration will continue with UKeiG, IRSG, CILIP, SLA and other bodies interested in information management. News from the IM Project Board will be welcome grist for the mill.
Stella Dextre Clarke
Chair, ISKO UK