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    Location: Aberystwyth, Wales, United Kingdom

    I am the owner and managing director of Information Automation Limited (IAL), a company that specialises in research, consultancy and training for the information profession. We are particularly interested in all forms of electronic information resources (e-journals, e-books, etc) and I teach a course in electronic publishing at the Department of Information Studies in Aberystwyth. Drilling down still further(!), my interests centre on the quality and evaluation of electronic information, and in the thinking that underpins activities in library and information science.
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    Sunday, April 16, 2006

    CILIP: Climate change and evolution

    I have just caught up with a long discussion which took place on FreePint during February and March this year (note to self - watch FreePint more carefully!). It had to do with CILIP - the UK Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, which used to be The Library Association in the olden days before information professionals appeared! It had, specifically to do with how CILIP represents the professional communities, what CILIP does for its members, and - more specifically with what CILIP is recognised by its members as doing for its members. The arguments were summed up by Bert Washington, in response to a post by Bob McKee who then responded, rebutting what he had said.
    Put simply Bert thinks that CILIP does not listen to members, and that employers outside the core library and information sector have never heard of CILIP; Bob says that the "whole sector" includes colleagues working in commercial information units, that it is not true that there is no engagement with the commercial information world, and that CILIP is an open door and - by implication a listening body. He also thinks that what he hears in these email discussions is a lot of noise from a small number of people - in other words that it is not truly representative.
    I do not want to restart the the debate, which has clearly run its course once. However, I would like to add a few thoughts. Why? Because my view is that both 'sides' have some truths on their side; some of what they say IS valid. And, consequently, both parties should learn from the debate. In the article that I mentioned in my last post I mentioned Michael Jon Jensen and his keynote presentation at the Illinois Association of College and Research Libraries. He used evolution as a metaphor ... which meant that I learned something about evolution - something which is particularly relevant to the CILIP debate. Michael said that evolution is "what happens when environmental pressures change ... in an ecosystem with no pressures little changes." And a little later that, "evolutionary pressures are driven by the carrying capacity of the system."
    We all - both sides of the FreePint debate, I think - agree that CILIP has to evolve; where parties differ is in their perception of the evolutionary process. Intelligent design is said to be about conscious choices or selective inclusion, and - as such - is the antithesis of evolutionary progress. I suspect that some may see CILIP as in an evolutionary backwater - my thought, here, is that CILIP is simply not evolving fast enough, and that this is due to quite a large extent on the lack of pressure on the ecosystem.
    Those of you who are frustrated at CILIP's stasis should not leave the organism but should work to keep the system's evolution on track. Those of you who do not join because your view of CILIP is that it is in an evolutionary backwater, failing to grow and evolve to meet the needs of today's workers, should understand that quite small changes in a primary characteristic of an ecosystem (e.g. population density) can begin great evolutionary changes; what is needed is less stability in the ecosystem. Bob is right in so far as he accepts that CILIP is a member organisation; however, what it is not (at the moment) is member-led.
    At this point I have to declare an interest: I am a National Councillor of CILIP, and I believe that it has - if it evolves - much to offer library and information professionals in a very wide range of industries. I am working to direct the evolution from the inside, and as a result there is a Task Force to review governance about to start work. One of its tasks is to ensure that the members' representatives - the Councillors - govern the strategic direction in which the ecosystem evolves: members influence Councillors - Councillors influence administration - CILIP survives.

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