Professional bodies in the information age

Ian Clark paints a picture of an ideal professional body for the library and information world.

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In an age where communication is rapid and effective, a professional body for information professionals should put transparency and democracy at its core. There is no reason why a body for information professionals cannot be open and transparent in all its dealings, indeed for it not to be such would call into question its value as a body for information professionals.  It should ensure all meetings are recorded and publicly accessible, publications should be open access by default and all decision making processes should be transparent and engage with the membership. In an age of rapid communication, organisations should be member led rather than led from the centre. The internet provides an important opportunity for such professional organisations to open themselves up and allow the membership to lead on the direction it is to take. The information profession should be bold and radical in seeking out ways to embrace the new landscape and incorporate it into its structures.

But it is equally important for a body representing information professionals to stand up for its core ethical beliefs.  This means that in a world where information dissemination is becoming an increasingly important issue in terms of both economic well-being and as a symbol of the state of democratic processes, it is even more vital that a professional body for information professionals should reflect these realities. Such an organisation should stand shoulder-to-shoulder with those facilitating access to information, speaking in their defence and reinforcing (and enhancing) a culture of openness, transparency and access to information for all.

The emerging information landscape provides an exciting opportunity for a change within professional structures, that can and should be grasped with both hands, but it also needs defending from those who believe such a landscape of openness and transparency are unwelcome and dangerous. If the information profession is to stand tall, it must both incorporate the values of transparency, openness and democracy into its organisational structure, and seek to defend and enhance these values in creating a society whose democratic foundations are strengthened by the free flow of information.

Ian Clark is co-founder of Voices for the Library and currently a Library Systems Officer at Canterbury Christ Church University, prior to that, he gained extensive experience in the commercial sector. Ian has been invited to present at a number of events on communicating beyond the library sector and writes on a range of information issues at  

Image courtesy of Glenn Loos-Austin via Flickr.

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