Category Archives: Library and Information Profession

IPRA judges and nominations

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We’re delighted to announce that our call for judges to assist with the Informed Peer Recognition Award (IPRA) was very successful, and we’ve now got a full complement of excellent people involved. A post introducing the judges will be appearing soon, but while the judges are getting to know each other and the judging process, we’d like you to start to consider who you would like to nominate for the IPRA. Nominations can be submitted between the 17th of October and the 25th of November.

The Informed Peer Recognition Award is intended to recognise the contributions of a library and information professional working in the UK who has gone beyond the requirements of their job to make a positive difference. Nominations can fall under one of the following three categories;

  • For those who have demonstrated a commitment to, or substantial involvement in activities which will contribute to the development of services and/or resources that will provide a benefit to the public.
  • For those who have worked to deliver improvements to a service (be it private, public, or voluntary) for the benefit of users and provide them with a better experience when interacting with the service.
  • For those who have worked across the profession to improve an aspect of it for the benefit of others.

Nominations should consist of a 500 word summary, and be supported by two nominators. The more information that you can give the judges that helps to show how your nominee has made a contribution in one of the above categories, the better they’ll be able to judge the nominations submitted.

You will need to provide the email address and if possible, the phone number of your nominee. This will enable us to inform them of their nomination, and if needed, contact them for clarification on any points raised in the nomination.

Completed nominations can be submitted via the online form which will be available on the Informed website from the 17th of October, 2016.

The text of all nominations will be published on the Informed website, to allow nominees to see why their peers believed that their activities deserved recognition. Therefore, please bear in mind that any information submitted in a nomination will be made public.

#informedPRA

The Informed Peer Recognition Award

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The Informed team are excited to be announcing the launch of a new award, the Informed Peer Recognition Award. We thought it would be a useful addition to the range of awards currently available for information professionals in the UK.

Background to the development of the award

Elly O’Brien, Mobeena Khan and Jennie Findlay spent a significant amount of time drafting a nomination for a professional colleague for an award back in autumn 2014. The process of writing the nomination was particularly time consuming and demanding, taking the three of us many hours of our time. Once the nomination was submitted, there was no further contact from the organisers. We had no information or progress updates on the process of the award judging, or timescales for the outcome, and there was no communication with nominators about the final outcome of the process. To see whether our nominee had been recognised we had to guess the possible announcement date, and monitor the website daily for a month. Our nominee received no contact from the organisers at any point, and in the end, we decided to send them a copy of the nomination material we’d drafted, as the purpose of us nominating them was to demonstrate to them how valued their work was. In the end the only way we could do this was to give them that information directly. Overall, taking part in that awards process as a nominator was incredibly frustrating.

The Informed team response

We began to think more deeply about the difficulties of the nomination process we’d been through, and how it had been both a frustrating and impersonal experience. We wondered if there was a way that the Informed group of volunteers could create and run an award which would try and avoid these frustrations, and ensure that all those nominated would be able to see what work or activity they were being recognised for.

Elly, Mobeena and Jennie discussed and began to develop the initial idea about creating an award. We decided at an early stage that it could not be run by any of the various professional bodies, because we wanted it to be inclusive, and usually these groups are only able to offer awards to their own members. Due to other professional commitments, Elly had to step back from active involvement, and Laura Ennis took her place. Together we’ve endeavoured to create an award structure that we hope will work in a way that keeps nominators and nominees informed, and is flexible enough to allow for the efforts of a range of information sector workers who may be excluded from nomination for other awards to be recognised .

Objectives

For easy reference, this is what we hope to achieve with this awards process:

  • Create an award that all UK information workers of all levels are eligible for.
  • Be as informative as possible for nominators submitting nominations – be open about the awards schedule, how quick a response the team will be able to give when contacted, and give nominators an idea of the timescales for each stage of the process.
  • Contact nominees to notify them that they have been nominated for an award, and tell them when the result is expected to be announced.
  • Ensure that judges are aware of the process and timescales involved when they volunteer to take part, to allow them to determine if the schedule will work with their personal commitments.
  • Publish the full content of all nominations on the Informed website, to enable the public recognition of nominees work that the nominators intend.

 

The problem with LIS education

Library and Information Studies (LIS) is a paradox: a vocational academic subject. People who study it plan to work as practitioners, but those who teach it need to be academics.

Studying librarianship as an academic discipline provides aspirant professionals with a reflective overview of the topic and a good understanding of principles that can be applied across varied situations. It should give graduates the ability to apply critical and analytical thinking to their daily work and make considered decisions as they increasingly take on responsibility. Highly practical skills tend to date quickly and are far better taught on the job than in an academic environment, so it is important that LIS courses provide a reflective and intellectual overview of issues in the profession. Moreover, academic research is a vital contributor to the health of the profession, telling us what is not immediately apparent about our information sources, workplaces and users and what we might expect from them in the future.

And yet it is also immensely important that LIS academics have a sound, practical understanding of the information workplace. How can someone teach the next generation of practitioners, when they have not themselves worked in a practitioner role for five years or more? How can they provide students with the preparation they need for their careers if it is not a career they themselves have undertaken?

This post is not intended to criticise LIS academics. I am a practitioner who worked for her PhD part-time while working full-time and who also teaches as a sessional lecturer on an accredited LIS course. I have nothing but respect for those many full-time academics that combine academic teaching and research with deep involvement in the working community, who find the time to speak at conferences and write articles and books which will have little or no impact on their record as an academic. My criticism is for a system which does not support the development in both directions.

I recently made an unsuccessful application for a full-time lecturer position. I met all the essential criteria, but not all that were desirable. Of course there might be many reasons for my not being shortlisted, not least the impressive pool of early career LIS academics whom I have met in my travels. The criteria I did not meet were around things like applying for grant funding and involvement with wider faculty activities, which is very difficult experience to acquire as a full-time practitioner. I can attest that academic achievement while working full time is extremely difficult. While I have been prepared to put time into writing and submitting articles for peer-review, I have not – as a full-time researcher might have – co-written articles with senior academics for high-impact journals. This is not to suggest that, as an academic, carrying out difficult research whilst in the middle of one’s PhD in order to be third-listed in the article credits is an easy option. But it is an almost essential step to academic achievement for an early careers researcher.

I do not blame selection committees for the decisions they make. LIS Department Heads rightly want to be recognised for their academic prestige in the Faculties of Arts, Social Sciences, Technology or Management in which they reside. The Deans of these Faculties need to demonstrate a high level of achievement at the Research Excellence Framework (REF) in research outputs and impacts. Of course they will assess candidates who demonstrate best how they will meet the not inconsiderable challenges facing UK Universities. And practitioner experience does not do this. Anecdotally, I have heard of department heads who have argued for the selection of practitioners with excellent professional records, and who had published in the information trade press, but have been unsuccessful because the candidates had not published sufficiently in high-impact academic journals.

Increasingly stringent demands are made on academics, not just to teach well and carry out research, but to raise funds, recruit students and undertake administrative work. Some have spoken out against what they see as a change in culture and, in particular, an attack on the humanities and social sciences (for example, Marina Warner in the LRB). This affects Library and Information Studies departments and there is evidence that information schools and courses are suffering under these changes. But I think they face further problems. There is no part of the measurement and reward system that compensates harried LIS academics for time and effort spent engaging with the profession. Combining an academic and a practitioner career is not just difficult, but is often perceived negatively by both employers and universities. And making the kind of mid-career move from practice to academia which characterised many of the great Information Studies teachers and researchers of the last fifty years is far, far harder than it once was.

The people who lose out in this situation are, I believe, the students. LIS students are unusual in that their career choice almost guarantees that they will never be high earners and yet they must get into considerable debt in order to acquire their qualification. It is a tribute to their commitment that so many of them are still prepared to undertake post-graduate study under the circumstances. Understandably, many complain about the quality of teaching and support and LIS academics themselves have demonstrated their concern that students are properly equipped for the workplace. My feeling is that if we ask students to acquire £9000 of debt to obtain a LIS MA or MSc, we should guarantee that they will be taught by those with a good understanding of the contemporary workplace. Although academics need to have excellent academic brains and to continue the valuable research the profession needs, a vocational degree requires up-to-date knowledge of the workplace. At present, students only receive this because of the unstinting commitment of certain academics to straddle the worlds of the academic and the practitioner. I don’t know how sustainable this is in the changing world of UK Universities. And that can only be bad for the standards of LIS courses and the students who take them.

Katharine Schopflin

What could an EU review mean for librarians?

Could librarians soon no longer be recognised by the EU as ‘professionals’? (Image c/o Open Democracy on Flickr.)

On the 15th of November, the Council of the European Union issued a press release on the Adoption of the Professional Qualifications Directive, where it is proposed that a “European Professional” card could be created, that will facilitate the recognition of the card holder as a professional in the new host country when they move between EU member states. The review also proposes reducing the number of regulated professions downwards from the current level of 800.

If you check the database which hosts the information on regulated professions in the EU, you won’t find “librarian” as a term for the profession in the UK. Somehow, there’s been an error, and instead of “librarian” being the regulated profession here, “Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals – CILIP” is the term the database uses to define an information professional in the UK. There are 10 entries for the profession of “librarian” when I search for the generic term “librarian”, and having checked with speakers of some of the other languages, the other terms are definitely are national names for librarians, or librarian specialists. I’ve looked for some way to contact the database managers to have this error corrected, but the front page has this disclaimer:

Each country is responsible for updating information on its regulated professions, competent authorities and statistics. The Commission can not be held responsible for any missing or outdated information.

I’m not sure which part of “the country” is responsible for giving corrected information to the database administrators! Within the Competent Authorities information for the librarian/CILIP entry, there are no “contact persons” for this profession, but the link for contact points leads to a list of national contact points.The national contact point information for the UK seems to be some group called ECCTIS Ltd, so when I get a chance I’ll get in touch with them, and see if they can get the entry amended.

In the meantime, this brings to mind a few questions, which I think are worth exploring in more detail. This is all new to me, so I’d be happy to get input from those involved in these activities.

  • Does the current Directive/database information mean that the EU regard CILIP as the only professional body (or in the terms of the Directive, “competent authority”) for regulating librarians in the UK?
  • As stated in the press release, ”a regulated profession means that access to the profession is subject to a person holding a specific qualification, such as a university diploma, and that activities are reserved to holders of such qualifications.” Does CILIP hold the regulator role due to their involvement in accrediting UK university courses for information professionals?
  • If so, are other bodies that represent librarians eligible to become recognised as a competent authority to regulate librarians in the UK, by also accrediting UK university courses, or by some other method?
  • Is there a risk that this review will remove “librarian” from the category of professionals which are recognised as a profession within the EU?
  • If “librarian” was no longer recognised as a regulated profession, and librarians could not apply for the proposed European Professional Card, what impact would this have in a wider context for librarians, both in the UK and across the EU? Would it make emigration harder if librarians were no longer viewed as skilled professionals?
  • Does CILIP’s current revamp of their Professional Registration process work to demonstrate that participants in that scheme have the level of professionalism required to remain defined as a regulated profession?
  • What can current information professional bodies and individuals do to ensure that “librarian” remains recognised as a profession?

Hopefully there are some people out there that know more than me about how professional bodies are regulated in the EU, who can share their knowledge and answer some of those questions.

By Jennie Findlay

Have you got something to say on a current information issue? Concerned about something affecting the profession? Why not submit an article? See our guidelines for further details or contact us at contact@theinformed.org.uk if you want to find out more about writing for Informed.