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61st IFLA General Conference - Conference Proceedings - August 20-25, 1995

Multifunctional information work - new demands for training?

IRENE WORMELL, Royal School of Librarianship


The paper calls for an integrated approach to information science education where disciplinary interaction is predicated on the forging of formal, informal and sustainable links with researchers and practitioners in other fields. The modern information profession, in order to promote its creativity and to strengthen its development, has to go beyond the traditional roles and functions and should extend the professions' horizons. Thus the LIS education and training programmes must aim to foster professionals who, one day, will create new jobs and not just fill the old ones. In the spirit of the Tokyo Resolution the FID/ET Committee aims to carry out an analysis of education and training needs for multifunctional information work. The focus of interest is here the modern LIS professional s who must think, act and work in a new integrated way, and operate more globally than in the past. The why, what and how concept of the multifunctional education and training programme is outlined, suggesting a strategic pragmatism as regards the development of the profession. The synergetic effect of cooperating activities is emphasized as well as the importance of having an interdisciplinary holistic appeal in order to find viable solutions for information problems.



The incredibly rapid changes in information handling technologies within the past two or three decades have altered, in some cases drastically, the activities of information professionals and the fun ctions of public libraries as well as the information service departments of individual organizations. Aware of these changes and the on-going alteration of the information market, FID (International Federation for Information and Documentation) tries to react rapidly to signals coming both from the user environment and from the providers of information products and services. The aim of the rene wed professional Federation is to set up an international infrastructure and provide new strategic opportunities and competitive advantages for modern information professionals. FID can and should a ct as an international gateway for expert knowledge, functioning as a launching pad for the realization of new ideas and innovative approaches which take advantage of new information technologies.

As part of the 100th Anniversary Celebration of the Federation, at the last FID General Assembly, Conference and Congress, in October 1994, a declaration called the "Tokyo Resolution" was rele ased, which aims to enhance cooperation between international information organizations and to create a strategic alliance for information oriented NGOs and associations. At present approx. 50 organi zations have signed the document indicating their willingness to collaborate to better serve the World Community.

One of the basic underlying principles and objectives of this strategic alliance is the belief that the proper use of information for decision making at all levels of society will help solve humanity's problems as the world enters an age of greater awareness of the importance of in formation. To this end, it is critical to ensure continuity in access by documenting and preserving high quality records of the actions of society, through time. The Tokyo Resolution is a first step in strengthening cooperation in the information field at both international and national levels, and establishing a forum to discuss common issues in the information and knowledge sectors.
An account of how this initiative inspired the establishment of concrete cooperations and the development of national strategic alliances is found in The Resolution of the Finnish Information and Kno wledge Sectors, signed on 9 February 1994. See also the attached Press Release with a short presentation of the common goals.

According to the spirit of the Tokyo Resolution, the FID Education and Training Committee (FID/ET) is concentrating on issues in the development of new skills and competences for modern information professionals who must think, act and work in a new integrated way, and operate more globally than in the past. The focus of interest is here the modern LIS professionals who at all times interact with other professionals in their environment.

Multifunctional Training Programme

Most of the existing traditional LIS education and training programmes are beginning to be too narrow to successfully address the new challenges of the profession and therefore are unable to supply m odern society with well-educated graduates with an ability to manage information, design information systems, services and products and analyze information needs in their environment. Thus, there is a great need for a broader scope of training, re-education and continuous learning programmes based on the idea of interdisciplinary interaction.

This means that the training has to cover not only the information services, library and records management sectors, but also areas such as information and telecommunication technology; organizationa l, social and mass communication; marketing and journalism. To be able to operate globally and to quickly provide information which is immediately usable and can assist the user in decision making, r equires good communication skills and information processing abilities to retrieve, analyse, package and deliver information in the most efficient and purposeful way.

In our programme great emphasis is put on the understanding of the fact that information and telecommunication technologies are the most important tools in modern society, however, they cannot be dev eloped on their own independently of the contents - information and its applications. Our aim is to support closer cooperation in the development of these areas and particularly in the training and e ducation which is based on the utilization of the dynamics of electronic communication and collaboration, networking and the spatial flow of information in new organizational forms.

Another priorit y area is the enhancement of the degree of information literacy as the key to successful use of information technology. It encompasses such abilities as identifying an information need; searching for , finding and evaluating needed information; using, reorganizing and manipulating needed information; and transforming information into knowledge in a life-long learning process.

Since the changing role of information professionals has been a constant theme associated with the development of information technology, within the FID/ET Committee we are closely following the disc ussion about the convergence of the information professions and the suggestions for an associated convergence of disciplines. The term "information professional" itself is an indicator of this proces s, providing an umbrella for a combination of skills formerly attributed to separate sectors of the workforce. Although the boundaries between the professions have become much less distinct nowadays, a closer examination shows that different professional socialization and the independently developed traditions of professional associations have helped to maintain sectoral differences between entr enched groups. As regards the professional training requirements of the professional associations, the differences of emphasis and application continue to be substantial, however, at a broad level, a variety of areas of knowledge are common to the professional training. Therefore, the questions about professional boundaries, frameworks for education and the contents of specific curriculum sugges tions are central issues in the committee work.

Because of access to a wide range of skills, competences and professional excellence in information work among the members of FID, the Federation offers the necessary platform to forge strategic alli ances and sustainable links with professionals from various areas and fields outside the LIS domain. Networking and cooperation have resulted in considerable achievements in the curriculum developmen ts of LIS institutions in many places, and in the launching of new and innovative education and training programmes. It is vital to link new information areas with existing models and to develop new training programmes integrating subject fields such as communication, information and information technology, corresponding to the concrete and specific needs of multifunctional information work in b oth the public and the private sectors.

The majority of the new education and training programmes developed within the framework of FID activities are targeting working adults who already have a thorough education and/or experience in some of the emerging multifunctional information working areas but who need to enhance professional competence and skills.

Experience has shown that professionals who have already expanded their activities by moving from the traditional information sectors to areas of integrated information activities, generally have suc cessful careers and play interesting roles in their environment in all parts of the world. Previously unheard of new roles seem constantly to appear in the information field. For well-educated profes sionals there exists a growing market in all sectors of the economy. It is an on-going dynamic process where cooperation plays a very important role: information professionals with different backgrou nds and from different organizations interact to build the necessary bridge that links demands for information with resources wherever they may be. Therefore contributions by different professionals and organizations, from both the academic and the practical world, are welcomed by FID in order to introduce new experiences of twinning in professional development and to broaden the concept of "inf ormation access" - not only in the area of intellectual and physical access but also as regards economic and social conditions - ensuring access to information over space and time.

It is, however, important to emphasize that knowledge and experience alone cannot meet this challenge. An open-minded and active professional is necessary, having the ability to put into operation th e idea of "inter-concept" in novel organization schemes. Our purpose is to accelerate the generation of this type of professional and to increase the viability of the field.

New demands for training: why, what and how?

One aim of the FID/ET Seminar in Omyia, Japan, October 1994, was to produce ideas and models of education and training according to the spirit of the "Tokyo Resolution". The presentations, the case s tudies as well as the following discussions in the working groups were centred around the following questions: