K & IM Refer Autumn 2017

Journal of CILIP’s Knowledge and Information Management Group 33 (2), Autumn 2017

Table of Contents

 CILIP Conference 2017

Alexandra Green, Achilles Information Ltd

 Time To Be Involved In Knowledge Management!

Dion Lindsay

Supporting Citizens With Protecting Their Privacy Online

Aude Charillon, Newcastle Libraries

 Smart Collaboration And Collaborative Technology Platforms

Helen Edwards, Editor K&IM Refer

The Global Voice Of The Profession: Personal Reflections From IFLA 2017

Ralph Adam

Taxonomy Boot Camp Preview

Katherine Allen

A Reference Librarian You Will Have Missed: A Birthday Tribute To Charles A. Toase

Diana Dixon

Report Of The SCOOP Meeting Held On Wednesday 13th September 2017

Steven Hartshorne, Secretary SCOOP

 News And Views

Diary Dates

 Taxonomy Bootcamp

17 & 18 October 2017 Olympia London


(25% discount for CILIP K&IM members)

 CILIP Knowledge and Information Management Briefings Cybersecurity for Knowledge and Information Professionals

19 October 2017 at CILIP HQ

 K & IM Reference Awards

Awards will be presented by Ayub Khan, Vice President CILIP 2017

8 November 2017 17:30 – 19:30 at CILIP HQ


 K&IM Information Law Update in association with Naomi Korn Copyright Consulting

13th November 1pm – 5.30pm, CILIP HQ, Lond

Event booking at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/kim-information-law-update-tickets-37774163540?aff=es2

K & IM Refer: the journal of the Knowledge and Information Management Group of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), is published three times a year and distributed free to members of the Group.

Editor: Helen Edwards

Editorial team: Lynsey Blandford, Ruth Hayes

Cover Design: Denise Carter

Contact: Helen Edwards 07989 565739; hogedwards@gmail.com

Copyright © The contributors and the K & IM SIG 2017

Online edition https://referisg.wordpress.com


ISSN: 0144-2384




CILIP Conference 2017

Alexandra Green, Achilles Information Ltd


Launch of the Knowledge and Information Management SIG at the CILIP Conference, Manchester July 2017

As a relatively new member of CILIP, I was very pleased to be awarded the Knowledge and Information Management Group bursary to attend the CILIP Conference in July. I was especially pleased that the conference was to be held in Manchester where I was at university. It was good to be back in the city, and catching the bus down the Oxford Road brought back many happy memories, although reconciling familiar landmarks such as the Main Building and the Whitworth Hall with the many new university buildings and facilities took a moment or two. The programme was packed full of interesting addresses, seminars and workshops, with something for everyone whatever their specialism in the information profession and whatever stage their career is at.

After the welcome to conference by Nick Poole, Chief Executive of CILIP, the first keynote speaker, Dr Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress, described her career journey from starting as a children’s librarian to overseeing the world’s largest library, with 164 million items and shelf space stretching for 832 miles. Dr Hayden emphasised that one of her main objectives at the Library of Congress was to ensure that, despite its grandeur and role as custodian of collections of national and international importance, it was a welcoming and accessible place fulfilling a key role in public service.

‘Using Data and Information’ was the title of a seminar which I was particularly looking forward to, with speakers choosing interesting analogies to highlight the importance of data and appropriate ways to manage it. Caroline Carruthers of Network Rail described data as ‘the blood of an organisation’ – we don’t realise how important it is until it stops working. She applied the principles of CBT to help companies move away from hoarding information and changing their attitude to data. Jeremy Foot in ‘Big I, little T: Thinking information before technology’ used the example of a new filing system to illustrate that information is the reason why we employ technology, and problems are not solved by innovative technology; rather, they are solved by better information management. Jez Clarke and Nick Venn of Eden Smith data consultancy gave a roundup of the changing face of the data and information management climate and the skills which are needed for professionals in the area.

After a much-needed and delicious lunch, the second keynote address was given by Luciano Floridi, Oxford Internet Institute’s Professor of Philosophy and Ethics of Information, and an eminent writer and speaker in these areas. In a fast-paced and challenging session ‘Fostering the Infosphere’, Professor Floridi spoke about the power of information in a digital age and the place of information professionals in ensuring that access to information is not controlled by an elite. He finished his lecture saying ‘Library and Information Science does not just take care of the past for the present; it also takes care of the present for the future’.

Copyright: the card game’ https://copyrightliteracy.org/resources/copyright-the-card-game/provided a change of activity. Around thirty delegates played a truncated version of a game designed by Chris Morrison and Jane Secker as a teaching resource in the important but often dry subject of copyright. We were presented with scenarios covering the four areas of copyright: copyright works, usages, licences, and exceptions. Working in groups we applied the principles of a particular area to different types of works. Points were awarded and even prizes! It was a good introduction to what is an innovative and well-designed resource that is adaptable to a wide range of diverse types of staff and students.

These days, no event is complete without cake, and the official launch of the Knowledge and Information Management Group, as the newest of CILIP’s Special Interest Groups, was no exception. Specially decorated cupcakes, accompanied by personal accounts of the importance of knowledge and information management in members’ roles and careers, rounded off the afternoon session.

The programme continued into the evening with tours of the recently redeveloped Manchester Central Library and a reception at the Museum of Science and Industry, which was a wonderful opportunity to network although the acoustics of the cavernous former Liverpool Road railway station, where the museum has its home, sometimes made conversation difficult!

The second day of the conference was equally interesting and stimulating. Moving closer to home, the keynote address was given by Neil MacInnes, Strategic Lead – Libraries, Galleries and Culture at Manchester City Council. He spoke about the ambitious project to transform Manchester Central Library as well as the ambitious renewal programme for libraries throughout the city. He emphasised how the library service could be a force for good in encouraging social mobility, equality and diversity, and that small local libraries were an equally important partner in this as the flagship Central Library.

The Managing Information seminar gave a range of speakers the opportunity to speak about some recent work and forthcoming developments in this area, in the private sector, the NHS and standards and governance. Ceri Hughes, Director, Head of Knowledge Centre of Excellence spoke about the importance of inspiring and delivering a learning culture in organisations. It was announced that KPMG and CILIP will be collaborating on a revised and updated edition of Information as an Asset: The Boardroom Agenda, which was originally written in 1995 by a committee under the chairmanship of Dr Robert Hawley. The report recommended that senior executives treat information as an asset in the same way as other physical or monetary assets. In echoes of the Using Data and Information seminar the previous day, we were reminded that information science and information technology are different disciplines; technology is not the answer to managing information. Sue Lacey Bryant, Senior Advisor, Knowledge for Healthcare, Health Education England (HEE) and Louise Goswami, Head of Library and Knowledge Services Development, HEE, Kent, Surrey and Sussex presented the Knowledge Management framework and accompanying toolkit. They showed how adopting best practice in Knowledge Management can improve outcomes and efficiency in healthcare. Although designed for the NHS in particular, the goals and associated activities in the framework could easily be adapted to other contexts. Nick Milton of Knoco Ltd then led us through the dichotomy of ‘knowledge’ and ‘management’, through a spectrum which goes from ‘tacit knowledge’ to ‘information’, with a ‘grey zone’ where knowledge and information overlap.

There were many other sessions covering a vast range of topics, some quite theoretical, some sharing examples of best practice in various fields, and some immensely practical, offering solutions to specific situations from service design to careers advice. It was a very intensive two days, but a conference which reinvigorated my interest in information and its power in modern business and everyday life.


K & IM Refer 33 (2), Autumn 2017

Time To Be Involved In Knowledge Management!

Dion Lindsay

Dion Lindsay

 There has not been a better time in the last 10 years to be involved in knowledge management than now. Across many sectors, employers are reawakening to the fact that KM is a worthwhile way of developing creativity in their organisation and maximising the value of what their staff know.

HM Government has published its Knowledge Principles for Government and the NHS is making great efforts led by Health Education England to strengthen Knowledge Management in the Library and Knowledge Services of each Trust. In the private sector, after a slow-down in interest in Knowledge Management from 2005 to 2015, there is renewed talk of managing knowledge as an asset; and with KPMG and CILIP reviving Sir Robert Hawley’s committee publication on Information as an Asset: The Boardroom Agenda (1995), a similar approach for managing knowledge as an asset cannot be far behind. It reflects the revival of interest in knowledge management that in 2018 the British Standards Institute plan to adopt, as its first UK standard on KM, ISO 30401 Human resource management — Knowledge management systems – Requirements. 

Which kind of knowledge management is your kind?

In the midst of this revival of interest, library and information professionals will be looking for sources of guidance on knowledge management. And at first glance they will not be disappointed – three substantial books on KM have appeared in the last year! Nick Milton and Patrick Lambe had The knowledge manager’s handbook published by Kogan Page in 2016, as ”a step by step guide to embedding effective knowledge management in your organisation”. A short time later, Anthony Rhem’s Knowledge management in practice was brought out by CRC, and Guy St Clair’s Knowledge services: a strategic framework for the 21st century organisation was published by De Gruyter.

Between them, the 3 books amount to just shy of 1000 pages of encyclopedic information on the what, why and how of knowledge management. As a consultant with, some would say, the luxury of reading all of them, I am extremely grateful to all four authors – they fill gaps in my understanding, and provide many new perspectives on how to conduct organisation wide KM initiatives: there are plenty of “ahah!” and “of course!” moments in each of them.

But what is the time pressured, yet interested, library and information professional to do with such a cornucopia?

The first thing to notice is that all three deal with knowledge management as an organization-wide programme, with little to help librarians or information managers identify an element of knowledge management that they can experiment with – perhaps to test whether their team has the aptitude to lead knowledge management in their organisation, or to offer their board of directors a low-cost demonstration of some of the power of KM.

If that is the practical level of knowledge management that interests you for now, you are probably better using Chris Collison and Geoff Parcell’s Learning to fly : practical lessons from some of the world’s leading learning organizations (2004), which provides a more pragmatic, smaller scale, less stringently systematic approach. When I was a knowledge manager for the Motor Neurone Disease Association and later for the General Social Care Council, I found that I could gain rapid success for recognizably KM techniques, such as communities of practice and after action reviews, by following their guidance and checklists at both of these very different organisations.. The problem of course is that the last edition is 13 years old – and a lot has happened, in artificial intelligence and data management particularly, which impacts on the relationships tyro knowledge managers can expect to find as they experiment away.

That Milton and Lambe, Rhem, and St Clair are less pragmatic than Collison and Parcell is not a criticism of course – their legitimate goal is to describe how thorough Knowledge Management or Knowledge Services programmes implemented fairly stringently across an organisation can manage existing knowledge, encourage a culture of creativity and sharing, and to some extent proof it against future uncertainties. Within this strategic context, St Clair is perhaps closest to home for librarians and information professionals. He advocates a synthesis of information management with knowledge management and strategic learning which gives LIPs an identifiable stake in the leadership of such programmes.

Milton and Lambe, and Rhem are particularly generous with case studies; if you want to prepare for discussions at work about strategic knowledge management with an eye to your library or information unit leading at least part of it, and can recognize your sector in the contents pages and indexes that are available in the LOOK INSIDE! feature on their Amazon pages, you might be better spending time with these two. Oil and gas, telecoms, law, health care, research institutions, financial services and insurance are all well represented.

Most people will find St Clair ‘s Knowledge services the most readable and thought provoking: it is part of De Gruyer’s Current Topics in Library and Information Practice. It’s not a light read, but I did find the thinking aligned with what forward-thinking librarians and information managers tend to wonder about – particularly what might be possible if creative partnerships with other services in the organisation can be made to work.

So my recommendations?

What’s coming up for Knowledge Management?

The three books I’ve listed are all about what knowledge management looks like now, and what knowledge services could be in current organisations. If the programmes for the premier KM and IM conferences this Autumn are any indication, here are four things which knowledge management will be concentrating on with renewed intensity soon:

  • Knowledge sharing for addressing the world’s problems. It’s not just that knowledge cafes provide such a potent ethos for discussing societal problems. Social media and mobile technologies make it so much easier to share significant events and ideas in real time.
    • Nicole Mathison of EY was talking at Knowledge Management Australia last month about “Surviving and thriving in a disrupted world: an exploration of the role of knowledge practices”
    • This year’s European Conference on Information Systems was headlined “Information systems for a smart, sustainable and inclusive world”
  • Knowledge management for better government. Of course it’s not just the UK government service that is hoping better use of knowledge will help public servants to be as creative as they need to be in the modern world
    • The theme for the US Digital Government Institute 930 conference in September is “Federal, State and Local Knowledge Management professionals have been working on turning information into knowledge since the 1990s…The benefits [should] result in improved communications, operations, decision-making and agency mission capabilities”
  • The role of KM in decision-making. New data and forms of analysis make it possible to analyse exactly what part knowledge plays in decision making, for better or worse
    • Does knowledge management enhance decision-making speed? ask Giampaoli and Ciambotti at the European Conference on Knowledge Management in Barcelona 7-8 September
    • Joan Baiget is leading a discussion on the intriguing topic of wisdom management at the same conference!
  • Knowledge engineering and artificial intelligence. Ontologies will be used in new and creative ways in this new area
    • The Knowledge Science, Engineering and Management Conference in Melbourne focussed this August on formal semantics and formal logic
    • Watch out for the programme of the International Joint Conference on Knowledge Discovery, Knowledge Engineering and Knowledge Management due to be held in Funchal in November (IC3K 2017)

So all told, 2017 is a great time for knowledge management! Thinking and writing is richer than it has been for a long while, and with the speed of take-up these days, the questions that are being asked at technical conferences today, may be of vital concern to your organisation first thing tomorrow!

Biographical Note

Dion Lindsay has a wealth of experience introducing knowledge management programmes into organisations. He worked as a government librarian until 2001, and then in a number of roles in the charity and regulatory sectors before becoming a consultant and trainer for Real Knowledge Management (DLC Ltd). He blogs at https://nkmtblog.wordpress.com/ and tweets @dionl


K & IM Refer 33 (2), Autumn 2017

Supporting Citizens With Protecting Their Privacy Online

Aude Charillon, Newcastle Libraries

All the technology around us – cameras, phones, our internet use, online communications, etc. – collects data about us. For example: most of us carry a smartphone around all the time. How many of us are fully aware that if the GPS is on, our phone company can pinpoint where we are with an accuracy of 5 to 8 meters? If the phone company knows, who may also have access to our location data? Are we comfortable with this situation? Would you change your behaviour and turn off your GPS when you don’t use it now you know this, or would you decide the convenience outweighs the disadvantages?

Privacy is about choice. As citizens, we need to be aware of this situation to be able to make informed decisions about whether we want to protect some of our data, and how much effort we are ready to put into protecting our privacy. Once we have the facts we also need the skills: we need to know about tips and tools available to help us protect our information.

Libraries defend people’s rights

I believe that libraries exist to defend people’s right to enrich and improve their own lives, their environment and society. We library and information professionals make this happen by facilitating access to and the sharing of information, knowledge and culture.

In many sectors, library and information professionals already devise and deliver digital skills training, ranging from a basic introduction to computers to searching online resources effectively. Knowing how to protect one’s privacy online is part of those digital literacy skills everyone should have; that’s why at Newcastle Libraries we have started looking into how we could best help our citizens.

Learning about privacy issues and tools

Our team’s awareness of privacy issues originally came from reading technology articles or from initiatives in libraries in other countries such as France or the USA. American librarians have created very useful materials that are a good place for us in the UK to start learning – I would particularly recommend the Library Freedom Project[1] and the Data Privacy Project[2].

In Scotland, the Scottish PEN has also been delivering “Libraries for privacy: digital security workshops” with support from CILIP Scotland and the Scottish Library and Information Council. I was able to attend one of those workshops, which inspired me to create a short training session for colleagues at Newcastle Libraries[3]. I initially ran two sessions for librarians and senior managers in March 2017, and will be rolling it out to as many staff as possible this autumn. The first two sessions included time for us to discuss and decide what we wanted to do in our service regarding online privacy.

Initiatives for citizens

We wanted to offer information and training about protecting one’s privacy online to local citizens. In 2016 we had already co-organised two cryptoparties[4]; we decided we should host some more. A cryptoparty is an informal gathering of individuals to discuss and learn about tips and tools for privacy and security in our digital world. We co-organised ours with local members of the Open Rights Group[5] who have the relevant technological knowledge that we might lack(!), in partnership with the same individuals; our next cryptoparty will take place in November.

We have also noticed that cryptoparties tend to attract citizens who are already aware of privacy issues. How do we reach out to those who do not (yet) have that awareness? It is something that we are still exploring. One idea we want to implement is to include privacy among the topics covered in our digital skills sessions, but we are also trying to find other ways to, in a way, talk about privacy in a skills session without first telling people that we are.

Standing up for citizens’ privacy

With Newcastle Libraries colleagues we felt that we could not be teaching citizens about tools to protect their privacy on the Internet and yet say: “By the way, this does not apply when you are using library computers or services”! We want to offer our computer users an Internet browser with enhanced privacy features – ideally, this would be Firefox with DuckDuckGo[6] as the default search engine plus add-ons such as HTTPS Everywhere[7] and Privacy Badger[8]. I would love for us to offer Tor Browser[9] or even for the library to be a Tor relay[10]; however, I thought asking first for Firefox would be a lot less controversial… We are in conversation with our IT department; they have objections but these are about the practicalities of applying updates to the Firefox browser, which they cannot manage centrally like they currently do for Internet Explorer and Google Chrome.

An easier thing we can and will do is to be more transparent to citizens about how their information is handled when they use Newcastle Libraries services. When you use a library computer, you should be aware that our IT department records which websites you visit and that this information is kept for 12 months. When you use our e-books platform, we should tell you before you login what our supplier does with your data. It may take some time but it is relatively easy for us to add this kind of information on our website and other materials.

Once we start with this work, we can review what we record – should we really be keeping your browsing history for this long? What is it used for; are we legally obliged to do so? Regarding third-party providers of library services, we should be requesting that they take steps to protect your data to our standards.

In truth, what we need is a privacy policy – the American Library Association Office for Intellectual Freedom has some fantastic information and templates[11] adapted to the US context but that still gives us some useful pointers. Privacy terms and policies is a bigger piece of work but it is one we can build one chapter at a time, in order to support citizens with protecting their privacy online.

[1]          Library Freedom Project https://libraryfreedomproject.org

[2]          Data Privacy Project https://www.dataprivacyproject.org

[3]          Available at: https://frama.link/ToonLibsPrivacyTraining

[4]          More details about our first cryptoparty can be found in my write-up for The Informed http://theinformed.org.uk/2016/06/cryptoparty

[5]          Open Rights Group advocates for digital rights on behalf of citizens https://www.openrightsgroup.org

[6]          DuckDuckGo, “the search engine that doesn’t track you” https://duckduckgo.com

[7]          “Extension that encrypts your communications with many major websites, making your browsing more secure” https://www.eff.org/https-everywhere

[8]          “Privacy Badger blocks spying ads and invisible trackers” https://www.eff.org/privacybadger

[9]          Tor Browser https://www.torproject.org/projects/torbrowser.html.en

[10]          “What is Tor?” | EFF https://www.eff.org/torchallenge/what-is-tor.html

[11]          ALA OIF Choose Privacy resources https://chooseprivacyweek.org/resources


K & IM Refer 33 (2), Autumn 2017



























[1]          Library Freedom Project https://libraryfreedomproject.org

[2]          Data Privacy Project https://www.dataprivacyproject.org

[3]          Available at: https://frama.link/ToonLibsPrivacyTraining

[4]          More details about our first cryptoparty can be found in my write-up for The Informed http://theinformed.org.uk/2016/06/cryptoparty

[5]          Open Rights Group advocates for digital rights on behalf of citizens https://www.openrightsgroup.org

[6]          DuckDuckGo, “the search engine that doesn’t track you” https://duckduckgo.com

[7]          “Extension that encrypts your communications with many major websites, making your browsing more secure” https://www.eff.org/https-everywhere

[8]          “Privacy Badger blocks spying ads and invisible trackers” https://www.eff.org/privacybadger

[9]          Tor Browser https://www.torproject.org/projects/torbrowser.html.en

[10]        “What is Tor?” | EFF https://www.eff.org/torchallenge/what-is-tor.html

[11]        ALA OIF Choose Privacy resources https://chooseprivacyweek.org/resources

Smart Collaboration And Collaborative Technology Platforms

Helen Edwards, Editor K&IM Refer

The evidence clearly shows that the complex problems knowledge intensive businesses face today require collaboration. However in reality this can be difficult to achieve, and, despite lip service to the contrary, many professionals remain in their silos, and knowledge sharing initiatives fail to deliver on their promises. In her new book Smart Collaboration: How Professionals and Their Firms Succeed By Breaking Down Silos, professor at Harvard Law School and former McKinsey consultant, Heidi Gardner analyses her research data to prove the business case for collaboration and sets out her recommendations as to how it can be achieved.

Gardner presents the challenge: “how do you transform a competitive, star-driven culture into one that fosters cross-boundary collaboration?” The first part of the book focuses on her large-scale data analysis into the operation, functioning and cooperation patterns of global professional services firms. This shows, unequivocally, the business and people benefits of collaboration. However, while professionals are still compensated by “their book of business”, the clients they personally bring in or some other personal success measure, it can seem to make sense to the individual consultant to keep their expertise to themselves. Some professionals may feel in direct competition with their colleagues, or fear that others may not have the skills to fully service their clients, or that “cross-selling” will be negatively perceived. The book addresses these concerns robustly. Far from collaboration being an added cost that clients will not pay for, it is the firms and individuals who do not address collaboration robustly who are at the greatest risk of failing to grow, or even going out of business altogether.

Of especial interest to knowledge and information professionals is Gardner’s analysis of the importance of an effective collaborative technology platform. She comments: “By building a technology platform to help connect partners with the right opportunities and knowledge, you can mitigate many of the obstacles that stand in the way of contributors’ increased involvement in cross-practice or cross-geography collaboration. One study estimated that for professional service firms, 98 percent of the benefits of these sorts of technology platforms stem from improvements in collaboration—distinctly different from the case in other industries, in which the benefits derive from (for example) consumer insights or marketing.”

 Critical to the success of a collaborative technology platform, as opposed to the traditional knowledge management system, is that it should be social: “it connects individuals directly with each other, and makes their interactions available online to others. Rather than having the content curated by a website editor or database manager, excellent CTPs allow users to add or modify content themselves. They can comment on or respond to others’ posts, rate or recommend existing content (e.g., by clicking the “like” button), download and distribute materials, and interact in real time.” There is no point in waiting to the end of a project to “codify key learnings.” Most organisations do not have the structures in place to allow this kind of formal reporting to be maintained. Instead people should be encouraged to contribute content of all kinds – short videos, links, comments – as they go along, and use the platform instead of email – which is very easily buried – to share information about their projects with others.

Gardner recommends a light hand when deploying a new platform. She quotes from the PwC rollout of their platform Spark: “we didn’t have any governance groups. We didn’t actually know how people would use the platform and realized that people might not know themselves. We wanted to experiment, as well as to listen, learn, and iterate.” Of course there are some risks in giving up control, especially in the areas of confidentiality and data security, but Gardner believes that these are far less than the risk that the platform will not be used at all. For success, it also necessary to utilize energy and enthusiasm wherever it is to be found in the company. It is often the case that it is not from the most obvious and senior quarters or from the most strategic parts of the company that the drive to really use collaborative tools first appears. Gardner quotes from two McKinsey consultants:“our experiences working with change programs suggest that success depends less on how persuasive a few selected leaders are and more on how receptive the ‘society’ is to the idea. In practice it is often unexpected members of the rank and file who feel compelled to step up and make a difference in driving change.”

Once a collaboration platform exists, will people use it? The book quotes an executive with experience of both traditional and social knowledge sharing platforms: A traditional KM system is static and anonymous. It requires people to invest their precious time populating the database just in case some unknown Other needs the information at any point. But a collaborative platform lets someone respond to a specific human being—a colleague, no less—who needs that specific input at that exact time. It’s way more motivating.” Once the system is active, experts find they have to spend less time answering the same questions over and over again. New team members can be directed to the system to get up to speed. Some of the greatest benefits come to the participants themselves. As one young partner put it, “I can say that I’m a thought leader in digital transformation, but on [the firm’s CTP] people can actually go look and say, ‘Ah, she’s been involved in that discussion, and she’s part of these groups, and look what she’s authored and bookmarked—that’s credible.’”

This book is mainly about professional service firms, where the need to collaborate is increasingly driven by the need to extend traditional service offerings to include new areas, like regulation, cybersecurity and global business. To be able to pinpoint a relevant expert quickly in response to a client is to provide an important service. However, the same principles can be applied to other areas; and Gardner devotes one chapter to medical research with a case study – covering both pitfalls and successes -of collaboration initiatives at Dana Farber. Despite the challenge of getting brilliant researchers to work together, Gardner concludes:“like so many other knowledge-intensive arenas today, successful medical research increasingly depends on contributions from specialists who are willing and able to work across their expertise divides. It depends on people who can join forces, intellectually, to make themselves more innovative and productive.”

Smart Collaboration: How Professionals and Their Firms Succeed By Breaking Down Silos

Heidi K Gardner

Harvard Business Review Press, 2016.


K & IM Refer 33 (2), Autumn 2017

The Global Voice Of The Profession: Personal Reflections From IFLA 2017

Ralph Adam

What’s the collective noun for librarians? A collection? A search? An answer? Perhaps, a silence of librarians?

I have just returned from a very big gathering of librarians: the 83rd IFLA World Library and Information Congress held in Wroclaw, Poland. It was certainly not a ‘silence’; more a ‘gaggle’, perhaps. Or even a giggle! The conference’s theme was: Libraries. Solidarity. Society: unlimited access to information, education and knowledge, ironic in the light of recent Polish government policy. Over 3,000 information professionals from 110 countries took part. More than 500 papers were presented as well as 169 posters. IFLA’s first-ever live stream brought in an additional audience of around 100,000.

What is IFLA?

IFLA (The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions), which was founded in Edinburgh in 1927 and now has its headquarters in The Hague, claims to be the leading international body representing the interests of library and information services and their users: ”the global voice of the profession”.

Not everyone has been a fan of the organisation. S. R. Ranganathan, for example, in a hard-hitting article¹, castigated IFLA for its lack of involvement beyond western Europe and north America. For him, nationals of other regions were expected by IFLA, on the one hand, to be ‘meek’ whilst, on the other, not suited to inclusion amidst the ‘inner bodies’. Ranganathan claimed such members were “treated in a courteous and condescending manner in much the way that benevolent rich men are to their poor relatives ….The comer of the eye suggests, ‘Don’t be presumptuous’ ”. If, in those days, this attitude existed amongst IFLA’s management there was no sign of it in Wroclaw: a significant proportion of delegates hailed from Africa and Asia (131 from China alone), some in executive positions.

Ranganathan went on to recommend how IFLA might become a truly effective international body. One suggestion was to do away with study trips. He considered fellowships to be often wasted on undirected ‘blitztravel’ by immature youth picked from “undeveloped countries”. Another of Ranganathan’s bugbears was the annual conference: he felt these to be not only inconvenient and a waste of resources, but he couldn’t understand what librarians might find to discuss each year. His suggestion was to hold conferences no more than once every five years. Again, things have obviously changed. This year the world’s information specialists could benefit from bursaries and there was certainly much to discuss. But where did those discussions take place and how effective were they?

The location

The venue was Wroclaw’s imposing Centennial Hall, designed by the eminent architect Max Berg, added to Unesco’s World Heritage List in 2006 and considered one of the most important 20th century architectural works. It was constructed in 1913, when Wroclaw was part of Germany and named Breslau. The aim was for an international exhibition centre to commemorate the centenary of Napoleon’s defeat at the Battle of Leipzig. The authorities felt that an expensive, over-the-top, exhibition hall would show Germany to be, once again, a world power.

On completion the Gothic-style Centennial Hall had the world’s biggest dome and was Europe’s largest ferroconcrete structure. Since then major events have ranged from speeches by Nazi leaders, including Adolf Hitler (who in 1944 insisted the city be defended at all costs), to services held by Pope John Paul II during his 1997 visit. In 2010 the Getty Foundation paid for the structure’s refurbishment. Nowadays, it is an internationally-recognised venue for, amongst other things, concerts, operas, trade-fairs and prestigious sporting events. Regular IFLA-goers said they were impressed by the Centennial: everything on one site and a venue with character, unlike recent years’ events in ‘characterless’ modern structures dispersed across the host cities.

Wroclaw is a fascinating city. It survived the Second World War virtually intact, but afterwards was largely destroyed by a long siege (and devastated again by a major flood in 1997). Between 1939 and 1946 the population fell by roughly two-thirds, many inhabitants having either been killed or evacuated.  it was left a ghost town.

The smallness of the population created major problems for urban planners. The council took advantage of the opportunity to create parks, sports areas and woods. They also opened important museums and art galleries (there are three within the grounds of the Centennial Hall – notably the spectacular Museum of Contemporary Art in the restored Four Domes Pavilion), as well as encouraging the development of independent galleries and film studios. There is a fascinating range of both public and academic libraries, including a large, recently-opened one, in the beautiful main railway station (many of these libraries were the subject of post-IFLA visits). Indeed, Wroclaw is a city of words: not only was it Unesco’s World Book Capital for 2016-17, but literature is visible everywhere. As well as the libraries there are many bookshops, with the independents working together to gain support from publishers and create fun events. There are also book exchange bins (informal libraries) throughout the city. In one restaurant (with library shelving) you can even find a random volume on every table for diners to read while they wait!

When you arrive in a strange town for an event you can feel confused and at a loose end. So it is important that the organisers of international conferences focus on helping delegates connect with the local environment by giving insights into its history, people, culture, food and customs. At IFLA much effort was put into this side of things with detailed introductions to both Wroclaw and Poland in the programme and on the web site. As well, of course, as the visits which provided contact with local librarians. In addition to the formal presentations, the conference featured an opening party and a splendid cultural evening.

The conference

Having reached Wroclaw in one piece (no thanks to the airline or the airport authorities!), how did I find the event?

IFLA produced an excellent conference handbook including the programme plus much handy information about IFLA, its staff, the venue and the city (with really useful maps, including one of the city centre complete with bus and tram routes). In addition, the delegates’ badge served as a weekly travelcard, giving everyone the chance to connect with the locality. However, with the participants’ average age being fairly high, they may not have had much use for the travelcard: anyone over a certain age travels free in Wroclaw without any formality. Brilliant for us oldies!

The high-spot of the event was the cultural evening with vast amounts of food (much, unfortunately, uneaten), Polish music and dancing, culminating in an amazing multimedia display centred on the Centennial’s famous musical fountains. This was designed by Karol Rakowski. using sophisticated software to incorporate light, sound and visualisation. Rakowski, who has previously collaborated with Brain Eno, somehow even managed, very effectively, to combine Wagner’s music with that of Michael Jackson’s!

The conference had attracted a great variety of fascinating people from around the world.  However, I spotted hardly andy of the ninety-seven British delegates! The programme included an entry for: “Session 060: Caucus-UK”.  A British Caucus?  I’m familiar with caucus races, my favourite sort of race: as the Dodo explained to Alice, every competitor wins and all get prizes. But a national caucus? The OED describes one thus: “In U.S. A private meeting of the leaders or representatives of a political party….”. Hmm. Other nations also had caucuses (cauci? The OED doesn’t help on plurals!).

Despite the wide range of information topics covered, not all were at a high level or presented in easily-understood spoken English. I should have liked better coverage of information management issues as well as more discussion of the impact of technology (RFID and NFC, for instance) and, with May 2018 approaching, something on GDPR. IFLA has plenty of subject groups and sections, but many of their fields were barely represented (info-ethics and children’s libraries, for example). Other meetings, such as the KM day², were satellite events in Wroclaw, but not in the programme. Strangely, some satellite events took place as far away as Bergen, Berlin and Vilnius.

It was very interesting to hear of IFLA’s drive towards sustainable development. On KM, one politician suggested that, in government, factual accuracy or scientific evidence is not a priority: information (and fake news?) supporting policy objectives is more important..

The management of the event had been sub-contracted to a German company which, to me, lacked the expected German efficiency. For example, they took so long to register me that I was in danger of not finding a flight (I heard similar comments from others). The logistics proved a problem, too: on one morning, I had planned to hear three presentations but missed them all: one room was locked, a second proved empty and I failed to find the third altogether. Following the signage did, however, give me an interesting view of the kitchens! Perhaps that was because I’m rubbish at both geography and information retrieval! IFLA staff advised me to ignore the handbook and download the app. But that didn’t help much either. I was told that inadequate site inspections, resulting in the venue’s management deciding to reallocate rooms, was to blame.

Finding one’s way around should have been simple: although over three-hundred ‘volunteers’ were employed (with, for the first time, many from abroad), I found them eager to help, but lacking knowledge of the event and its layout. English was the conference’s official language, but some lacked basic linguistic knowledge. I was told that Polish ‘volunteers’ had had to be paid, as their professional body was against unpaid work. As a result, and for legal reasons, they were branded as Ask Mes.

The event’s official language may have been English. But we were in Poland: I heard very little Polish spoken (and spotted hardly any Polish contributors, although 461 were registered): the largest delegation (the US was second with 390 according to IFLA). Perhaps, the conference fee was too high for many locals.

The conference was accompanied by a trade show, but with only seventy-one exhibitors of which few were Polish. The exhibition was in a circular format with one side almost invisible to visitors, few of whom discovered it. Had this area been used as a catering zone, visitors might have been attracted to it. Another problem was access to the trade show for local librarians, presumably the key market for exhibitors: non-delegates were not admitted to the exhibition without paying the equivalent of fifty euros. Several local librarians told me they could not afford that.

Lunch was a smaller problem: the nearest restaurants were a tram-ride away, but an open-air food-shack zone was available. I subsisted on non-descript kebabs and German sausages: a Polish catering area would have been nice.

Was it worth it?

Despite a few disappointments, I found my trip to Wroclaw an excellent experience. I learned much, made valuable contacts, experienced a new city and learned about IFLA. It was a bit of a giggle, too!





K & IM Refer 33 (2), Autumn 2017

Taxonomy Boot Camp Preview

Katherine Allen

The second ever Taxonomy Boot Camp London takes place this October, following an incredibly successful inaugural conference in 2016 which brought together more than 170 taxonomists from 17 countries.

For this second event, the conference will explore and debate the growing use of taxonomies to drive data, content, and information processes, with sessions geared to both first-timers and to seasoned taxonomists. It aims to provide sessions of interest to those using taxonomies in a wide variety of sectors and applications including e‐commerce, the public sector, intranets, websites, knowledge management, big data analysis, and publishing.

Madi Solomon

Why are taxonomies more relevant than ever? Taxonomy Boot Camp’s Programme Chair, Helen Lippell, puts it very succinctly: “Taxonomies are the backbone of any project that aims to use information more effectively. A good taxonomy brings the power of human understanding to cutting-edge technologies as diverse as content management, machine learning and enterprise search”.

The conference features two keynote speakers, both acknowledged commentators on the deployment and development of taxonomies. Independent consultant Madi Weland Solomon’s opening keynote is called ‘Kick the beehive: new approaches to building taxonomies for the real world’, and promises to be an entertaining and dynamic look at what businesses are doing with ontologies and taxonomies. With the rise of text mining, auto-classification, semantic technologies and graph databases, there are growing opportunities for taxonomists to make a difference.


“’Taxonomies are dead’, is a common attention-grabbing headline that bubbles up every two to three years,” says Madi Weland Solomon, setting the scene for her keynote. “With it comes a cold blast of reality from an information pundit who claims that categorisation is outdated and no longer useful in the bright new world of artificial intelligence. While building traditional taxonomies that reflect an authoritative universe may well be a misguided effort, taxonomies themselves are far from dead. In fact, AI and machine learning rely on taxonomies to inform data relationships that reveal patterns in human behaviours in product sales or transportation movements or scientific research. Data interpretation is based on the ability to identify the underlying concepts they represent, and this is where taxonomies play a big part in AI.”

Joseph Busch

Day two’s opening keynote will come from Joseph Busch, Principal Consultant at Taxonomy Strategies in the US. His keynote aims to cut through the hype around artificial intelligence to demonstrate how taxonomists and information professionals can take advantage of the opportunities these technologies bring. Joseph will argue that sometimes what is labelled as ‘AI’ is actually underpinned by high quality entity extraction and business rules which can therefore help automate content tagging.

According to Busch, taxonomies reflect an organisation’s DNA. “Natural language processing and automated classification tools and services can now identify named entities in standardised ways, making taxonomies a critical part of information and data architecture,” he comments. “If all of the information and data within an organisation can be tagged completely and consistently using taxonomies, it becomes easier to identify patterns and relationships in the information and data of which we are not otherwise aware.”

Other speakers underline the message of the importance of taxonomies. “Taxonomy is the clear voice in the white noise of freetext searching, when much of your searchable metadata is arriving from multiple sources whose own reasons for being don’t always tally with those of an Archive,” says BBC Archivist Kathryn Stickley. At Taxonomy Boot Camp London, Kathryn will be talking about creating global taxonomies in the media and publishing sectors.

According to Jeannine Beeken, CESSDA (Consortium of European Social Science Data Archives) Thesaurus Co-ordination Officer at the University of Essex UK Data Service, “Taxonomies are careful drivers who facilitate meaningful navigation through an interesting world of information, leading their passengers to all related content about a particular concept. They passed the driving test for controlled vocabularies, which are taught to describe and disambiguate sensibly, obeying the primary rule of getting to the desired destinations as quickly, precisely and completely as possible.” At the conference, Jeannine will be exploring working with large multi-faceted and multi-lingual taxonomies.

For beginners, sessions that will be of particular interest include:

  • Doing taxonomies right: advice from three experts
  • Creating global taxonomies in the media and publishing sector
  • Developing your career as a taxonomist
  • Governance and stakeholder engagement
  • Plus Taxonomy Fundamentals — a one-day pre-conference workshop covering taxonomy basics with Heather Hedden, author of The Accidental Taxonomist.

In contrast, more experienced taxonomists will want to check out sessions on:

  • Making sense of unstructured and large data sets
  • Working with large multi-faceted and multi-lingual taxonomies
  • Semantic models in action
  • Knowledge graphs and ontologies
  • Plus pre-conference workshops on ‘Scoping your taxonomy project for success’ and ‘Search manager’s boot camp’.

A special discount has been negotiated for members of CILIP K&IM, giving 25% off the full conference fee – simply enter the code KIM25 when prompted at the registration page, http://www.taxonomybootcamp.com/London/2017/Register.aspx


K & IM Refer 33 (2), Autumn 2017