AREN'T WE AT THE TABLE?
to ALIA2002 e-list forum 17 May 2002 and subsequently printed in the Australian
Library Journal August 2002
could be the last day to float something, so I'd like give emphasis
to one agenda item and put two more questions on the big electronic white
board before the time runs out and in anticipation of answers in due course.
McLean, in his consolidation, Information Futures Professional Issues,
suggests that the main focus of the conference will be "identifying
strategic options for consideration by ALIA in the development of a national
is widely accepted in the information management and technology textbooks
and government guidelines that technology is an enabler, a means to an end.
Just like libraries. Yet the words of a 1996 JISC report, Guidelines for
Developing an Information Strategy, continue to find expression in information
IS/IT strategies suffer from...the following shortcomings: they tend
to be technology driven, in the understandable rush to exploit new
developments and end with wish-lists for new technology...[and] they have a
tendency to seek ways of using technology to improve current processes rather
than to make a fundamental reassessment of the way teaching, learning and
(less so) research is undertaken."
need to dwell on the burst dotcom bubble.
the same time, information technology and technologists are often misrepresented
in corridor talk and library literature as machines and techies rather than as
information handling problem solvers comprising a mixture of information
inventors, strategists, designers, analysts and technicians. Sometimes we even
claim that they have taken over our turf - turf we never really owned.
informative summary of government approaches to information strategy in
the UK, US, Canada and New Zealand was presented at Peak Bodies Forum at the
National Library in February. There was some conjecture on whether information
strategies really worked. Indeed, the above JISC report
suggests that information strategy 'is more a state of mind'.
No specific actions were decided in relation to the library sector's
involvement in the development of such a strategy.
strategy in Australia has been shaped in recent years by DCITA
and NOIE plans like Networking the Nation and Backing Australia's Ability. We
can probably even go as far back as the pre-Web CD ROM-oriented Creative
Nation. The latest iteration, Framework for the Future, will be completed by
the end of 2002.
PR material suggests that we may be given the opportunity to repeat the
JISC concerns in 2003. The terms
of reference send warning signals that
the project is an inward-looking exercise about the ICT sector - more about
boosting capability and seizing opportunities than addressing macro
information management issues. Information industry definition seems to be a
root problem. But maybe the language of the terms of reference belies the
interests, capacity for broadness of thought and capabilities of those on the
Steering Committee has representatives from Australian companies and global
corporations, Australian research bodies like the CSIRO and DSTO, associations
like the Australian Information Industry Association and the university
sector, but no-one from the library and kindred industry sectors.
we be at the big table?
McLean, in the October 2001 issue of Incite, referring I think to another
planning forum, said: "The fact remains that very few librarians are
involved in this current round of initiatives and this should be a cause for
some disquiet within our ranks."
a question calls for us to turn the Perry Como song around and accentuate
the negatives rather than the undeniable positives. Are we too radical? Too
disinterested? Uninterested? Seen as a bit player? Our language is too vague?
Is it because we are wall flowers or something like that? Perhaps our niche is
the tactics table rather than the strategy table? Dot, dot, dot.
of the Framework for the Future Steering Committee members, Dr Terry Cutler,
in his conference talk, Making Australia a Knowledge Economy, will be
"identifying the issues and the information requirements that need to be
addressed to ensure that Australia becomes a more innovative and effective
society, and what part library and information professionals can play."
So maybe the answers will emerge from this talk.
they don't, worth asking in the Q&A session?