Defragmentation of the information professions meeting

Yesterday I attended the latest meeting in a series of meetings looking at the "defragmentation" of the information professions. This was the first open meeting discussing this subject but the third meeting organised by Mark Field, Conrad Taylor and Nicola Franklin. The previous meetings, which are well reported by Nicola on her blog and on the SLA Europe blog, were "closed" meetings in that attendance was by invitation only and was limited to representatives from organisations that represent information professionals.

This meeting was publicised as an opportunity to discuss this issue in more detail, as such it was an "oversubscribed" event which included repsentatives from BCS, BIALL,IDA, ISKO UK, IRMS, KIDMM, LIKE, NetIKX, SLA Europe, UKeIG and of course CILIP. What I should say before I get into what was discussed at the meeting is that if you're not aware of what the discussion is about you should read Mark Field's orginal post about the defragmentation issue. I've had to do this several times!

Shortly before the event began all attendees were emailed with a list of six questions, which we were asked to think about (I've produced these below). Once everyone had arrived and sat at our pre-defined tables (no rebelling which I thought was very interesting) the meeting officially kicked off. Conrad Taylor opened the meeting by welcoming everyone and outlining some of the issues he thought the information professions have, issues like our image, the promotion of what we do and the publicity we produce. Mark Field then talked about how we got here, including the background by his original post and what had happened since. Nicola Franklin then provided a summary of the previous meetings. Conrad then invited "activists" from some of the organisations/associations present to tell the attendees a little about their organisation and why they were here.

The tables were then asked to discuss the questions they'd been provided in advance of the meeting:

  1. What are "the information professions"
  2. How do our various organisations relate to or cater for people who work professionally with information
  3. How is technology change affecting information work and thereby the information professions?
  4. What is the value of the information professions to society?
  5. How would we like the information professions to be supported and represented; are our organisations set up well to do this?
  6. What are the ways in which organisations might collaborate around these issues?
My table didn't manage to discuss all the questions unfortunately but we were all agreed that we didn't feel CILIP was adequately representing us and that it needed a bigger/better voice. We also discussed to some degree the impact of technology and how despite some concerns around how technology is being used, changes in technology are actually good for the profession as not only are they making our live easier but there also improving the experiences our users have. We also discussed how associations and organisations should be using collaborative technologies to improve how they work with their members. There was also some discussion around the benefits associated with being a CILIP member and that for one individual CILIP membership wasn't worth the cost especially as they had no plans to undertake chartership.

Action points from the meeting

After each of the tables had fed back what they had discussed and it had been admirably summarised by Mark and Conrad the attendees were then asked to look at what actions or what documents we could produce as a result of the meeting. I thought it was quite interesting at this point that several groups asked what was the question we we're trying to answer? Mark explained that one of the biggest things we were trying to do was find some way to show our value to those people who might not be aware of the Information Professions, or who have a very short-sighted/blinkered view of what we do. Mark also suggested the groups concentrated on identifying ways in which we could focus our efforts and enage more with our users. A short dicussion by the groups followed which looked at what could be produced from the meeting/going forward.

My table got quite excited about the idea of competencies and how these could be used as did several other tables. The suggestion that associations/organisations should be working more closely together was also discussed. This is something that seems really obvious to me and you would think would happen already but doesn't appear to. The idea of a joint conference which involved not only librarians, but developers, taxonomists, information architects was also suggested both in the meeting and on Twitter.

I'm certain that all the suggested actions from the meeting will be published to the Information Professions wiki in due course. If you want to steal a march you can review four tweets from Nicola Franklin which include the action points:
  1. Create a respository of stories
  2. Create core competency statements
  3. Get groups to work more closely together
  4. Joint statements to the media (this ties in with action 3 in my mind)
Overall a really interesting meeting and good to catchup with some individuals I hadn't seen in a while. What Mark, Conrad and Nicola are doing is very admirable but I still struggle with the idea behind it so some degree but perhaps more importantly what the group hopes to achieve and what impact it will have. I guess only time will tell.