Saturday, 13 August 2011

Who's in the House ?

Apart from the fact that I don't watch House (because I don't have a TV); have only once been to Edinburgh (for what, I can't remember) and have only the faintest clue what studying Theology might entail (to my shame - I'll go look it up), I am very struck by Helen Murphy AKA Library Wanderer's recent post "It's not lupus. It's libraries (also known as #cpd23 Thing 10: Routes into librarianship)"

(I haven't included any more pictures of Hugh Laurie here - read her post if you need a fix !)

In it, she shares a thought "experiment" (I hope it turns out to be the spectacular sort that blows up the chemistry lab) about the merits of heterogeneity amongst librarians' backgrounds.

Bringing in variety deliberately upon entrance to the profession - possibly a heresy when 'professions' are so often defined by what they have rigidly defined as the 'right' or accredited knowledge set to get you through the hallowed portal - would enrich it, without any need to presume that it would also dilute the commitment or ability of the professional once in it.

What it does do, however, is to raise a fundamental question about "the profession". As the wider Knowledge and Information Management profession is developing, there is still an element of indecision around what constitutes a KIM professional. And where the role of the Library professional sits within that.

I've already said ( Bear Grylls: a backpack) that I find some of these debates unhelpful: focussing often on a competitive outcome ("we are the 'real' information professionals") rather than a collaborative one (we all have something to offer to create a richer profession that reflects the diversity of managing information in the 21st century).

I'm not yet 100% convinced that the answer lies in changing routes into specifically librarianship, but I do believe that there is a clear case for a wider knowledge and information management (KIM) profession to allow many backgrounds to sit equally alongside each other. The specific professional skills needed in any context depend entirely on that context - and paradigms are shifting rapidly as the management of information becomes defined less and less by any specialist single skillset (and less and less defined by what professionals think is right, in favour of user-centred, crowdsourced, purpose-driven practices and ethics).

This is all, of course, part-and-parcel of the excellent debate kicked off by Mark Field on the Defragmentation of the Information Professions.

"The integrity of men (sic) is to be measured by their conduct, not by their professions"

Now, where did I put that Cycling Proficiency Certificate........