Saturday, 28 December 2013

99% Smiles, 1% Sweat, 100% Cotton

At our last two conferences, we have supplied delegate bags made from pure, eco-friendly cotton. These were manufactured by a social enterprise called Vandanamu, whose factory is located near Pondicherry on the coast of southern India. The bags are of very high quality and good value for money. They can be printed with a logo - or logos - of your choice and are available in a range of sizes.

Vandanamu was set up in response to the devastating Boxing Day tsunami which hit the whole region in 2004, with a view to providing a livelihood for some of those hit hardest by the disaster. Last year, the enterprise started a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for solar panels, which would have cut their electricity costs significantly and would have made their business far less vulnerable to rising energy costs. Unfortunately, they raised insufficient donations to qualify for the funding.

Nevertheless, Vandanamu continue to consolidate their enterprise by working towards gaining Fair Trade and environmental certifications, allowing them eventually to be featured in Ethical suppliers' databases world-wide.

For more information on a venture well worth supporting, view their video on YouTube.

Friday, 6 December 2013

In Remembrance of Peter Griffiths

Peter Griffiths. Photo source: CILIP
It is with real sadness that we note the passing, on 13 November, of Peter Griffiths. Peter had a long career in LIS, starting at Harrow Public Library and progressing through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, then the Department of Health. But many of us who knew him probably came across him during his long tenure at the Home Office, where his latest position was Head of Information within the Office of the Chief Information Officer.

Peter was an enthusiastic and unrelenting advocate for the power of information management, not only within the confines of the library, but in industry and commerce too. It was in his capacity as evangelist that he presented at an early ISKO UK event on 5 March 2008: Confronting the Future - Organizing and Managing Knowledge in the Web 2.0 Age.

Peter was Vice-President of CILIP when he presented to ISKO UK in 2008. The following year, he became CILIP President. Further details may be viewed on the CILIP web site.

Peter will be sorely missed by those who knew him.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

K, KM, KO: in Search of Definitions

After 25 years of service on standards committees I suffer from a personal dread of definitions. As chairman of some ISO and BSI working groups, I’ve generally had the job of cajoling all parties into consensus. And the definitions clause has generally proven the most divisive, packed with minutiae to excite the sensibilities of the experts. It usually locks the committee up for weeks of argument. (Sometimes for years – if tough decisions get conveniently postponed while the rest of the work proceeds.)

But the question of definitions seemed not so easy to evade at the NetIKX 21st birthday celebrations last week. Billed as “Knowledge organization past present and future”, the meeting had two speakers, one talking about “The 7 Ages of IKM in Organizations”, and the other describing knowledge management (KM) issues in an important public sector organization. The title of the second presentation was “The Organisation of Organisational Knowledge”. Despite much use of the K word and the O word, neither of the talks was about what I would describe as Knowledge Organization (KO). Would a productive debate be stimulated by querying the use of “KO” in the meeting title, I wondered, or would the fruitless grinding of axes tear us to pieces?
Thankfully my dilemma was resolved as the meeting began with a clear acknowledgement from the chair that KM, rather than KO, would be the main focus. Both speakers provided entertaining and stimulating presentations. The first, David Skyrme, even supplied his own preferred definition of KM, along the lines of “the explicit and systematic management of vital knowledge and its associated procedures of creation, gathering, organizing, diffusion, use and exploitation in pursuit of organizational objectives”.

But the question of definitions was not completely banished. Plainly NetIKX has listened to umpteen variations on the definitions of “knowledge” and “knowledge management” during its 21 years. In the syndicate sessions after the tea break our table was explicitly charged with discussing definitions. One participant proffered a statement concocted for a recent client, deliberately customized to show the relevance of KM to the client’s own business context. The statement emphasized the functional benefits of KM, rather than attempting an academic definition.
My own reaction to the challenge was to applaud the public sector ploy of side-stepping the issue by bringing “Information Management” and “Knowledge Management” under one umbrella labelled “IKM”. While there’s a legitimate place for pursuing a specialism such as records management, web design, knowledge engineering, etc., there is also a lot to be said for blurring the boundaries so that we work together effectively to achieve common objectives. The study of a specialist subject can help each of us become really proficient in a chosen area, but today’s workplace often requires teamwork, with inputs from diverse backgrounds. Furthermore, the content of each specialism is constantly evolving, especially as we need to master emerging technologies. I therefore favour professional definitions that are inclusive rather than divisive, and are hospitable to change.

A definition of “Knowledge Organization” too should be inclusive, in my view. As an applied subject rather than a fundamental science, KO should be open to new developments and approaches. But I was relieved when I left the NetIKX meeting without being challenged to put a definition on the table! In 2008 the ISKO (International Society for Knowledge Organization) journal Knowledge Organization devoted the whole of a special issue (see vol 35, no 2-3) to exploration of a definition of this subject field. Despite much debate and discussion, in 2013 the journal still describes its scope in half a page of text rather than a tight definition. The ISKO website, however, provides a link to a useful Wikipedia article, which outlines half a dozen different approaches to KO and lets the reader choose. Is this the best line to take?  Or should we come off the fence and provide a one-liner?  Should we first set up an event for members to come and debate their favourite definitions?  Why not add your own views immediately by commenting on this blog?
Stella Dextre Clarke

Chair, ISKO UK

Thursday, 7 November 2013

CILIP’s Information Management Summit and the KO connection

Since the Stone Age or even before, the ability to share knowledge and information has been fundamental to the development of the human race. Just think of how expertise in making flints, then metal tools, pottery, paper and glass revolutionized our life-style as it spread round the globe! And think how the opportunities for exploiting information are now even greater. CILIP has an enviable UK-wide remit to serve our profession across the whole range of information management specialisms. So why, in the information age, is its membership contracting?

For months, activists Martin White and Sandra Ward have been pointing to the needs of business and society, and urging CILIP to grasp the opportunities. Last week their efforts culminated in an Information Management Summit: Towards transforming organisations and our profession. Anne Mauger, CILIP’s Chief Executive, showed clear support for their initiative.

The proceedings

A parade of first-class speakers presented nine different perspectives, starting with a sparkling keynote address from Clive Holtham, Professor of Information Management at City University. (See slides from most speakers, on the Summit site.)  Unsurprisingly, the invited audience of about 40 senior information professionals responded enthusiastically. Kate Arnold, President-elect of the Special Libraries Association, invited all to download a report on The evolving value of information management and the five essential attributes of the modern information professional, commissioned by the Financial Times in conjunction with the SLA. Among other heady stuff the report stresses the importance of “decision-ready information” and invites “an urgent response from information professionals that clearly demonstrates their value to organizations”.
Speaking for CILIP, Annie Mauger promised commitment to supporting its practitioner members in this field. CILIP could not claim to cover every aspect of IM, she felt, nor to be IM’s only voice in the professional society space. But there would certainly be support for the IM Project Board which the organizers are bent on establishing. As follow-up, an open meeting will be held at Ridgmount St on 2nd December. The Board wants to support CILIP members and their organizations in improving IM practice; one component will be to develop and share tools and position papers that IM practitioners can use to influence progress in the workplace. We're all invited to contribute to the Project and make use of the outcomes.

And how does all this bear on Knowledge Organization (KO)?

KO and IM practitioners face many of the same challenges. KO lies at the heart of information management, providing the theoretical underpinning for many IM techniques. As Liane Kordan pointed out in her talk about self-development from librarian to information management consultant, “Some things remain the same…. there’s just more information in different formats and various places. But we still need to classify, with a good understanding of customer needs”.

KO, a field that was founded on the study of classification, is a key thread in the weave of information management. In the picture below, which illustrates how the Institute of Information Scientists and the Library Association merged to form CILIP and carry forward the still evolving IM agenda, KO is the most basic thread originally shared by the IIS and the LA.

Members of CILIP and of ISKO (International Society for Knowledge Organization) both find their skills and contribution are little known and undervalued – even though KO techniques have applications all around us. If society and the economy are to benefit, we all need to maintain our own self-development and get our voices more confidently heard at top management level. ISKO UK will continue its programme of events to help members share their experiences and learn from others. Its collaboration will continue with UKeiG, IRSG, CILIP, SLA and other bodies interested in information management. News from the IM Project Board will be welcome grist for the mill.
Stella Dextre Clarke

Chair, ISKO UK

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Feedback from UDC Seminar "Classification & Visualization:Interfaces to Knowledge"

Posted on behalf of Judi Vernau

I had no idea that Paul Otlet, co-inventor of UDC, was also instrumental in bringing the 5x3 index card to the world. Or that he was an early thinker about levels of granularity within the content of a book, and how you should be able to arrange and re-arrange those contents as required (what would he have made of the term 'information architecture'?). Boyd Rayward's keynote address to the International UDC Seminar on Classification and Visualisation was full of fascinating facts about Otlet and his vision for a World City which would contain a total centralization of all international power and knowledge in one place, in the interests of progress and peace. It's extraordinary to think of Otlet and his colleague Henri La Fontaine putting together their universal bibliography which grew to over 15 million entries, and using it to answer queries from around the world, like a human Google.

There were plenty of other interesting discussions about ways to represent knowledge, but possibly too few actual examples. There were two obvious and very different exceptions to this: Scott Weingart spoke about very early visualisations which most often used the metaphor of a branching tree of knowledge, a tree which over time became very complicated and hard to interpret as knowledge expanded. Scott's accompanying illustrations were lovely. At the other end of the time spectrum, we had Lev Manovich's presentation, abounding with images and video, which showed how computational analysis and visualisation of large data sets can provide some fascinating insights into how an artist's style develops or how the design of magazine cover moves with the times. His video on analysis of Rothko paintings (available at ) was fascinating and beautiful to look at.

Over the two days we were treated to many more wonderful images and thoughtful presentations: see particularly for beautiful colours and<> for an interesting method of relating concepts in a visual and informative way.  The Conference was very well attended - I counted over 100 people, from upwards of 10 countries. This all comes at a time when several of our clients have been asking for more visual representations of taxonomy and other information architecture artefacts, so it was good food for thought. Just never show me another tag cloud.

Judi Vernau, Metataxis Ltd

Monday, 24 June 2013

Classification & Visualization, The Hague, 24-25 October - early bird closes 30 June

International UDC Seminar 2013 entitled "Classification & Visualization:Interfaces to Knowledge" will take place on Thursday 24 - Friday 25 October in the National Library of the Netherlands (Koninklijke Bibliotheek), The Hague.
International UDC Seminar 2013

The objective of this conference is to explore cutting edge advances and techniques in the visualization of knowledge across various fields of application and their potential impact on developments in the more main stream bibliographic and documentary classifications. 

Speakers include: W. Boyd Rayward, Lev Manovich, Kathryn La Barre, Fabrice Papy, Marcel Worring, Luca Rosati, Andrea Resmini, Richard Smiraglia, Charles van den Heuvel, Andrea Scharnhorst, Scott Weingart, etc. 

To learn more about the conference programme and to register go to the conference website.

Early bird registration closes on 30th June: 
€180 early bird fee, students €140 (to 30 June) 
€220 regular fee, students €180 

Registration fee covers lunches, refreshments, reception and the conference proceedings book. 


We look forward to seeing you in October

Thursday, 11 April 2013

UKeiG is now seeking nominations for the 2013 UKeiG Tony Kent Strix Award

The UKeiG Tony Kent Strix Award is given in recognition of an outstanding practical innovation or achievement in the field of information retrieval. This could take the form of an application or service, or an overall appreciation of past achievements from which significant advances have emanated. The Award is open to individuals or groups from anywhere in the world. The deadline for nominations is Friday 30th August 2013.
Nominations should be for achievement that meets one or more of the following criteria:
  • a major and/or sustained contribution to the theoretical or experimental understanding of the information retrieval process;
  • development of, or significant improvement in, mechanisms, a product or service for the retrieval of information, either generally or in a specialised field;
  • development of, or significant improvement in, easy access to an information service;
  • development and/or exploitation of new technologies to enhance information retrieval;
  • a sustained contribution over a period of years to the field of information retrieval; for example, by running an information service or by contributing at national or international level to organisations active in the field.
Full details may be found on the UKeiG web pages for the award.
The UKeiG Tony Kent Strix Award is sponsored by the Royal Society of Chemistry Chemical Information & Computer Applications Group and ASLIB: The Association for Information Management.