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.