My bucket list – for the information professionals

Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox from Batman Begins.

Image via Wikipedia

I suppose I had better make it quite clear what I mean by ‘information professionals’, and also that I do not think they are necessarily looking at their impending demise, in the same way that Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson were challenged in the film of the same name.  After having been in this field for some time, of course I have seen changes, but some things have, sadly remained the same since I entered it in 1980: the public ignorance about what we do; the pathetically misogynist caricature that is made of us; the quick and easy belief that we can be supplanted at the drop of an internet connection; failure to understand what lives would be like without access to the materials – and rather more specifically, the ideas – that we make possible as our task.  By ‘information professional‘, I mean those of us who assist in communicating ideas (and feelings, of course) from one human mind to another, regardless of time and distance, in particular by noting how ideas are recorded, and caring for those records to ensure that they can be physically and intellectually accessed as required.

Of course this is vague, general, aspirational, ill-defined and broad: but so, then, is human nature and the ideas and insights that our imaginations and intellects can conceive.  No shame in that.  And of course there is an ongoing shift (possibly evolution) in the ways in which ideas may be represented and recorded, in language and using various physical artefacts.  As humans, we have used sound, sculpture, light exposures on photosensitive materials, mud, blood, plant juices, movements, sounds, colours, stones, egg yolks – just about anything that you can think of, some more permanent than others, in order to do this.  No surprises there.  I don’t remember artists of old debating the pros and cons of lithographs versus oil paintings.

But all of this is utterly redundant and irrelevant if the aspirations in my bucket list are not realised.

1.  We deal with ideas, not books, or, indeed, documents of any kind.  Documents are convenient and secondary, mere facilitators of our goals.  We must be engaged with ideas, understanding, and what we and everybody else think and have thought of reality.

2.  We have a social responsibility to ensure that ideas flow in society as and when they are needed.  We should make our systems as transparent as possible.  Working together will help (a ‘world brain‘ of information professionals).

3.  I don’t want people attracted to the information professions simply because they enjoy reading.  Or even, perhaps, if they imagine themselves as literary.  Literature is only one, very small part, of the ideas with which we must work and with which we must be familiar.

4.  United, we should be able to fashion a compelling argument for people like David Cameron, who should not only fund libraries (and other cultural institutions) generously, but also pour money into schools so that everybody has a good level of functional AND critical literacy.  Education is a basic human right.  Everybody must understand the cultural symbols of their milieu and make sense of them.  Never mind all the distractions about different kinds of literacy: the ability to  ‘read’ any medium, with critical ability, is what the world wants.  AND creativity.  Anything else is going to be really dangerous in the long run.

5.  I want the world to be curious.  This means that even though meeting the basic necessities of life (food, shelter, clothing, health) can be very demanding, people will realise that are are more ways in which this can be accomplished if they can learn about what solutions others have come to.  There are many ways to live our lives, and just one of them may make you happy.  (Which, in my view, is the purpose of life).

6.  I want cultural memory institutions to be capable of making life better, and to be recognised for doing so.  And we must work out how this is to be achieved.

Well, this is my Sunday flight of fancy.  I would be really, really, happy if these were to be achieved by a communal effort.

Have a good week, everybody.


Just a quick one to start the week

Thank you to all of you who are following the early days of this blog.  We are hoping it will go from strength to strength.  As I learn more about the possibilities offered by WordPress, I will include them here.  What I am examining at the moment is ways in which you – as the community – can participate in a clearer way, other than by adding comments to post I may make.  In other words, I would like to have the possibility that you can initiate your own posts or pages.

Until I get that sorted, I would like to ask you to submit topics/questions/issues/whatever’s on your mind concerning ways in which all of us can work together in more collaborative ways.  Such topics might include those which must be addressed in order to facilitate working together collaboratively, or they may be topics that illustrate and describe projects that we need to (or it would be desirable for us to) work on together.  Then we can think about the different contributions that different sectors can make to such projects.

Larry Medina, a good but until now still virtual friend who lives in California and has extensive experience in managing organisational information, has suggested the idea of developing a protocol that explains and describes processes and procedures that information professionals – especially now in the digital world – should be involved in when others in an organisation (be they senior management, government, councils or whoever) decides to buy technologies, or initiate information strategies.  This protocol is not easy to describe: ‘Strategic asset management’ is one suggestion.  The gist of this notion is that information professionals (of all kinds) should be involved from the very beginning of such projects, so that all the issues relevant to us can be considered in advance and accommodated, rather than being left simply to try and play catch-up, which happens all too often, sadly.  Or is your experience different?

So I’m doing my own ‘crowd sourcing’ here – getting the opinions of a very special group of people.  Please write a couple of sentences, or a couple of words, that can get us thinking, speculating, imagining, describing.

Have a wonderful week, all.