When I interviewed Deborah Shorely, the president of CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, U.K.) today, I didn’t need to ask very many questions.
Deb, who is Librarian at the University of Sussex in Brighton, began by telling me that her theme as CILIP president this year is, "access to information and working partnerships."
"My line," she explained, "is that I don’t terribly care who sells who, what, how. I just want people to get the right information to do the right things at the right time. I’m not, in a sense, interested in the mechanisms or the processes. But I’m very interested in making sure that the information is uncompromisingly good."
I asked what she thought the barriers to access were, and at this point we discovered we had a topic of interest in common.
Without prompting, she started to relate her experience in representing CILIP on the IFLA delegation to the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) last month. Since I had covered the WSIS story for ITI, my ears perked up. [The next paragraph is linked to Information Today’s Summit coverage.]
She noted that WSIS fit her presidential theme, that everyone get the right information at the right time in the right way, but, she said, "I come back from Tunis rather troubled by the whole experience."
As a member of the IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations) delegation, Shorley was in Tunis to represent CILIP’s thoughts about what IFLA’s position should be. The ultimate IFLA position turned on the theme that libraries represent existing mechanisms for advancing the global information society, without requiring a totally new infrastructure.
"The quality and quantity and availability of the information is what matters," she said. "The connectivity will happen one way or the other. But, it would be quite nice if it wasn’t dominated by Murdoch, and dare I say?, the U.S.A."
She described the involvement of the U.S. Government [via ICANN and in regard to control over root servers] as "very, very problematic." Outside the U.S., she said, "people are a little bit twitchy about it."
She noted that, "Without WSIS a lot of other things can’t happen, but it isn’t going to do a whole lot in itself . . .
"I think there are also serious financial barriers," Deb continued. "We in the U.K., complain terribly about the cost of [print] subscriptions and online subscriptions, because they are eating into our declining budgets dreadfully . . . But then when you go to what we now call the South—-the developing world—-and you realize what they’re trying to wrestle with, I think it’s rather obscene for us to complain . . . I think the whole publishing model is a barrier to open access to information."
She called Open Access publishing a "very interesting" development.
"It’s got some way to go, and it’s a long game," she observed. "But if you and I were talking even five years hence, I think the whole publishing model will have changed. I have to believe that, because, otherwise, there will be real barriers to knowledge, which will compromise everything. If you don’t have the information to do the research, you can’t do it."
Watch for my complete intereview with Deb Shorley in an upcoming issue of Information Today.