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Katie Fraser's blog and website

I'm an academic librarian, working in the UK Higher Educational sector, supporting academics and students. Prior to this, I was a researcher, working with social and learning technologies.

My interests include the application of emerging and traditional technologies, research support in libraries, learning spaces, evidence-based practice and the professional development of library and information workers.

You can find out more about more about me from the links to the left. Note that the views expressed on this website/blog are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other individual or organisation.

Defining Our Professional Future: Thoughts on CILIP’s KI Conversation

May 12th, 2010

As previously revealed on this blog, I’m currently acting as a project board member on CILIP’s Conversation with the Knowledge and Information Community. The process is underway and you can read more about it, and how to get involved, at Conversation through social media and regional focus groups is currently underway.

Although I’m sitting on the project board, I’m a CILIP member myself, and one who’s not 100% sold on every service it offers. I therefore wanted to take a moment out to be part of the Conversation too, remove my ‘Project Board Member’ hat and have a bit of a chat about the three questions the Conversation is currently mulling over:

  • What will the knowledge and information sector look like in 2020?
  • Where will a professional association fit into this sector?
  • How will you engage with this professional association?

The Knowledge and Information Sector in 2020

Technology is one that will come up again and again (and not just in the information sector). I’ll cover it briefly. I’m not going to guess which technologies will be relevant to information professionals in 2020. Technologies change all the time: if you think that learning to use Twitter now is going to help you in 2020 you’re sadly mistaken. However, I am certain that the information professionals in 2020 will need to be early adopters of technology, experimenters, and no longer those behind the curve in hearing about and adopting new forms of tech. Or else we’ll have gone the way of the dinosaur. End.

An issue that’s more personal to the sector is its fragmentation. I believe in 2020 the sector will be just as fragmented as it is now. It’s inevitable that information management will take place in a range of different institutions: that there will be public and private organisations (and individuals) with different needs. And its also inevitable that whether I work in a university, or a law firm, or a public library, or the health sector, or a school, or for Count Waldstein, I’ll have more shared experiences with those in similiar posts. However, I hope that in 2020 information professionals will have grown better and looking beyond these everyday sectoral¬† concerns to wider shared issues (information literacy, information management, information systems design).

The role of a professional organisation in the Information Sector

The role of a professional organisation is surely about bridging the gap between those sectors. About developing a shared identity for information professionals. And to do this it needs to definine its boundaries. Who is an information professional, and who isn’t? What kind of work does an information professional do? It’s comparatively easy to tell if you’re a librarian or not, which I think is why CILIP ends up full of librarians talking about librarianship.

You may have noticed that the subtitle above doesn’t say ‘the Knowledge and Information sector’ Why not? In have an MSc in Occupational Psychology, and studied knowledge management. I’ve therefore got some expertise behind this claim: knowledge and information management are the opposite of each other. Information management is all about arranging information in structures so it’s easy to find, and making it easy to convert data to knowledge. Knowledge management is all about capturing disorganised ‘soft’ human knowledge and desperately trying to convert it to data. While these two processes are related, and professionals in both sectors can learn a lot from each other, I don’t think an organisation like CILIP can simply lay claim to the Knowledge sector without a merger with a specialised Knowledge Management group. We can’t claim to be experts in everything, and our identity is strongest when we admit what we are not.

Lastly, once it’s established what an information professional is, the professional association must be clear about what a good information professional is (those undertaking continuing professional development, for example), and build its membership from these good information professionals. What’s the point in joining a professional organisation when there’s equally competent equally active professionals outside it, and those who merely passed a course inside it? It must actively improve the quality of professionals within its boundaries, for example by masterminding the cross-sector initiatives referred to above. And if it can’t offer this, why call it a professional organisation? Why not have training courses and networking sessions funded by one-off payments? Why have membership at all?

How I’ll engage with this professional association

This time I think I’ve really answered this question before I got to it. How I engage with a professional association depends on what I get back from engaging. I’d love to be able to be a member of a society where being a member is a guaranteed of quality to employers, where collectively we are improving the information sector. However, if that isn’t going to happen, I’ll just have to demonstrate my professionalism through my activities, and do my best to keep an eye on what happens in other across different sectors. I can do it on my own: I’ll join committees, and attend courses, and read the literature of a professional association if it can help me do it better.

So, your move first, professional association. How do you plan to engage with me? What do you think might make me a better information professional? If your answer is convincing enough, I’m on board.

2 Responses to “Defining Our Professional Future: Thoughts on CILIP’s KI Conversation”

  1. alanfricker says:

    Hi Katie,

    Interesting thoughts. I am about due to put my own down.

    I am not sure I agree with your definition of KM – perhaps that is one of the other challenges with encompassing that area? People tend to understand what a librarian is in the same way but there is less agreement around what constitutes KM (though this may be a healthy thing).

    I like the recommendations around helping provide a guarantee of quality and improving the broader profession. I think it might be fair to give the prof association a bit more of a lead of how it might make you a better professional though. Something I plan to try and do in my post!



    PS IE6 hates your blog

  2. Katie says:

    Thanks Alan. That was certainly how we covered KM in my Occupational Psychology course. And you’re right, perhaps this diversity in the field is both one of its issues, and the reason why I don’t get CILIP wanting to claim it, when some aspects of this may be perfectly valid! However, I think it’s something that a professional association which wants to claim KM is going to have to think carefully about.

    I also think that the whole ‘I want CILIP to do more for me, but I don’t know what’ is fairly typical, and not personal to me. It’s easy to say why I’m dissatisfied, but not necessarily easy to imagine what would make me satisfied. You’ve triggered me to think about a couple of ways that I think CILIP could make me a better professional though:

    i) In feeding me information in the way I like to consume it. I’d respond much better to information in RSS or Twitter format than in magazine format, and it would improve the speed with which they deliver information to me. I think CILIP is uniquely placed to inform me on cross-sector UK-specific information developments, such as government policy.

    ii) In helping me gain expertise in NEW technologies. At the moment I feel I know more than CILIP about new tech: not only social media, but basic technologies like new versions of Windows! CILIP needs to use its weight as a professional body to gain advanced access to software, providing online and face-to-face training, and helping place me as an institutional expert on the use of information technology. In libraries we’re just now discussing mobile technologies and augmented reality, for example, but they’ve been talking about them for years in computer science! CILIP needs to be ahead of the curve, not behind it.

    Hope that’s a bit more concrete.

    PS. I’ll try and have a look at the IE6 issue soon. I’ve only just moved over to WordPress (I’ve kept my theme the same so it might not show!) so I’m ironing out a couple of issues. The background doesn’t work in Safari, either.

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