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I’m about to head off for a meeting with Research by Design, to discuss my thoughts in ‘The Conversation‘ stage of the CILIP ‘Defining our professional future‘ programme.

Like Joeyanne, I thought it would be useful to blog some of my ideas about the 3 questions. These are basically the notes I’ve made for the interview, prettied-up a bit for public consumption. Don’t expect deathless prose!

What will the knowledge and information sector look like in 2020?

To a large extent this depends on what technology will look like in 2020, and none of us can predict that – if we could, we’d be making a fortune somewhere else! It also depends on the political situation, and as, we’ve seen over the past week, that can be extremely volatile and unpredictable.

I think adaptability, flexibility, and the willingness to learn will become increasingly important. I know one of the goals of this programme is to help CILIP prepare for the future, but we do have to be willing to accept that we can’t know – we need to be prepared for unexpected changes.

And there’s no doubt that there will be changes. It may be a stereotype, that librarians guard books, and guard them closely, because once the books are gone, so is their power, but it – unfortunately – has some basis in truth.

Well, now, if ever, the books are going. they’re out there, on the internet, with no need for registers or white cotton gloves. No order slips, and queues for the catalogues, no respectful hushed silence. And we need to change to adapt to this.

What we do may change, why we do it won’t. I strongly hope that many of the changes that come about between now and 2020 are as a result of information professionals proactively pushing for positive change, and not merely reacting to circumstances.

I think one major change will be more sectoral convergence – we’ve already seen a merger of the Society of Archivists, the NCA and the ACALG, to produce the Archives and Records Association (UK and Ireland). While this is more of an in-sector merger, and I don’t predict that CILIP will merge with anyone in the near future, I think it’s indicative of a trend, and we’ll see a lot of roles that overlap. CILIP already offers Society of Archivists members discounts on courses (the same discount as CILIP members).

Linked to this, I think we’ll also see an increase in solo professionals – possibly doing the work of a librarian, an archivist, a record manager, a knowledge manager, an information officer – probably not all at once, but yes, I think there’ll be a rise in these hybrid roles. The professional association will need to support this – solo professionals need a different kind of support.

Where will a professional association fit into this sector?

They need to support their members through these changes. Risk management & change management training and strategies.

Knowledge management: as information professionals, we know that people are valid – and valuable! – resources. A professional association will need to manage their members’ knowledge and expertise, make sure it’s being made the best use of. This will involve encouraging member participation – ultimately, I feel, the association’s real value lies in its members.

As training budgets continue to shrink, I think the professional associations will need to find innovative ways to provide free/cheap training. A lot of this will come from members/activists. I heard a talk on the SHARE project recently, and think it’s a great model for moving forward. Museums in the East of England are sharing training and expertise by setting up a ‘skills bank’, into which each museum deposits as much professional time as it can afford – say 3 hours of conservator time. This is then used to provide free training and development activities, as well as practical help. I think there’s a lot of potential for a similar scheme in the library sector.

How will you engage with this professional association?

Virtually/remotely – travel will become much less feasible. This means they have to be at cutting edge of remote communications technology.

In many ways, the role of the association would be to facilitate my networking – put me in touch with other members who can help me. So I’d expect it to be very much a 2-way interaction – not just me wanting to see what the association can do for me, but the association engaging with me, and finding out what I can do for the profession. And then encouraging me to do so!

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