About

Hi

My name is Susan Myburgh and I am currently at the University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia.  I was born in Cape Town, and I have been fortunate enough to have lived and worked in, and travelled to, many parts of the world.  I first entered Library and Information Science in 1980, and since then have worked in nearly all areas of this broad discipline/profession, and have been an academic for a long time as well.  Most recently, I have been working with friend and colleague, Prof Dr Anna Maria Tammaro, at the University of Parma, Italy, and her international collegial group, in the area of Digital Libraries.  Anna Maria is the regional director of the Erasmus Mundus Master’s in Digital Library Learning, and I have had the great pleasure of meeting and working with two of the groups of students that have engaged with this programme.

My particular concerns about the information professions are twofold.  Firstly, I have become convinced that whether you are a records manager, archivist, librarian or museologist, there are few outside of your professional cluster – and certainly just about nobody outside the information field – who have any idea at all of what you do and why it is valuable and important.  In fact, I would be so bold as to say that the work we do is arguably the most important at the moment, now that we have been provided with wonderful new technologies to use to assist us in achieving our social obligations.  Secondly, and of course related to the first point and often forgotten, is the vital role we play in maintaining civil society.  This includes not only democracy, civility and decency, but also transparency of governments and accountability of corporations: these are issues that we can (and in my view, should) support.  We also support major social institutions of commerce, education, politics, art, creativity and innovation and a host of others without which society would crumble.  Am I overstating this?  I hope not.

My point of departure for this blog is likewise twofold.  One of the major weaknesses of our territory is that we have been unable to articulate, clearly and succinctly, what the ‘information’ is with which we deal.  The term ‘information’ has now been flogged to death in the English language, and is used loosely and inaccurately, as well as a synonym for ‘technology’.  These are, I think, two quite different concepts, which I hope will become clear as the conversation on this blog develops.  The other major weakness, as I see it, is that all of those who deal with information in the way in which I understand the term (roughly more synonymous with ‘ideas’ – more discussion on this on the blog) have for too long worked separately and independently from one another, even though we share so much – whether we realise it or not.  Even retaining the distinctions between these specialised groups – which is essential, really – perhaps we could do better if we regard ourselves as subsystems of a metasystem, or metadiscipline, of information work (label still to be thought up – any suggestions?).  If we were to join together in such a way, and present a clear and unified front to the public AND to the powers that be, hopefully such events as Cameron’s closing libraries in the UK would not be possible.

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8 Responses to About

  1. glasgowbear says:

    Dear Sue,

    I just stumbled upon this blog, as well as read an article you wrote in 2005, entitled “Records Management and Archives: Finding Common Ground” in The Information Management Journal. As a new archives and information professional, I found your article and the issues you brought up to be extremely helpful, not only in thinking about specific issues, but as a framework for how to view the dual roles that many people are inhabiting in the field. It is also something that I find myself grappling with. I am currently working as an Archivist in a corporate environment, but early on I suspected that the role required a combination of records management and archives, as well as more traditional library roles. We are working with active documents that nevertheless need to be organized and searchable and retrieved, and a lot of the documents are paper-based. One difficulty I face is that the records will be in constant flux, and can be changed or added to, so creating a system of organization is difficult. I definitely see the need to think about records as part of a life cycle, from creation to “death,” or archiving. I am also researching into solutions for email archiving, and how to properly organize but be able to access and search the information in emails.

    I am new to the profession, but have been keeping up-to-date and staying as involved as possible these last few years, and will be starting my MLIS degree with a focus on Archives in the spring at Drexel University. I am very excited about this field, and all the challenges it poses, especially with the constant shift in how we use and disseminate information, and I wanted to let you know that your work has been very influential and insightful. I would appreciate greatly any advice or comments and additonal resources you may have on the issue. I’d be especially interested to know your current thoughts on the subject, and read your Ph.D thesis.

    Thank you in advance for your time, and have a wonderful New Year!

    Best,

    Cindy

    • Sue Myburgh says:

      Thank you for your most interesting posting. I am so glad that you have found my work interesting and helpful. Good luck with your studies – Drexel is an excellent school and I am sure you will derive a great deal of benefit from studying there – and perhaps some more focussed answers to the conundrums that you mentioned in your email.
      I would be happy to send you a copy of my PhD, but I would need an email address. You could post it here, or inbox me on Facebook (where I also run a little group with the same name – Digital Collaboration). Oh – and my name is Sue Myburgh.

  2. Jong says:

    Dear Susan

    I am leaving a message here because I couldn’t find any personal contact of the owner of this blog. I am Jong and work for PANDORA Web Archiving Section in National Library of Australia. Would you be able to provide your email address so that we can send you an official request for permission to archive your website.

    Thank you.
    Jong

  3. Danijel says:

    Dear Sue,

    I totally agree with the problems you have identified in our community(s) and I will try also to bring into discussion the role of education for information specialists as one of the crucial factors and frames through which we can deal with the terms mentioned above.
    And I apologize if my conversation style might seem sometimes inappropriate: it will be just due to the fact that I will speak from the heart, very open and honest, cynical and critical – in order to bring more constructive dialectics 🙂
    Speaking about that – the sentence ”there are few outside of your professional cluster … who have any idea at all of what you do and why it is valuable and important” caught my attention. What about those within our professional clusters? Are we aware of the things we do and the importance of it? I can’t escape from the premise: Is it then really important what we do if there are no people, groups, organisations etc. from outside who perceive our work as important? Or is it just the lack of communication between information specialists-related clusters and non-information specialists-related clusters’ members?
    I promise I will comment on these issues more where I find appropriate on the blog!

    Cheers,
    Danijel

  4. Dennis Moser says:

    Just found this…say hello! to Anna Maria for me!

  5. Hi. I’ve just discovered your blog (today) and am loving what I’m reading! Thanks for these valuable and well-argued pieces. Not had time to delve in deeper yet, but hope to do so, and make a “proper” comment soon – i.e. not just saying “great stuff” but contributing to the debate.
    Best.
    Chloe

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