Monday, 28 November 2011

Data Protection Act - Barrier to Good Customer Service?

The Data Protection Act is designed to protect individuals’ personal data from mis-use by organisations.  There are eight Data Protection Principles, covering such issues as fair and lawful processing of data, collection of data for specified purpose(s), keeping data held accurate and up to date, and not keeping data for longer than needed under its defined purpose.

Problems can arise, however, when organisations misunderstand their duties under the act or, in some cases, wilfully ‘hide behind’ the DP Act to excuse their actions, or justify their lack of action.

There are many examples of this in the press, some of which have gone to court.  For example:

A franchise operation, where the franchisee’s contract said they had to send customer details to the franchise owner, and they said they couldn’t under the DP Act - Court of Appeal ruled this was wrong as they would have had ample time & opportunity to seek the customer’s consent to do so.   Grow With Us Ltd v Green Thumb (UK) Ltd,  2006 (1)

A Panorama programme in Februrary 2011 showed the British Legion complaining that MoD were using DP Act as ‘an excuse’ to not give departing soldiers contact details to them, so they could offer them support.  Surely it would be easy for them to get soldiers to sign a consent form allowing this? (2)

Some equality researchers from the Open University were given DP Act as an excuse for not sharing information about women engineers by Microsoft.  The software giant claimed privacy laws prevented it from saying how many Microsoft-certified engineers were women. The OU got a note from the Information Commissioner to show the defence was nonsense - the researchers were asking for statistics, not names and addresses. (3)

Because of this uncertainty on the behalf of organisations about what the DP Act does, and doesn’t, say they can’t do, the Information Commissioner has issued various guidelines and examples to clarify the situation:

“You should explain why you want to use an individual’s personal data at the outset, based on your intentions at the time you collect it. If over time you devise new ways of using that information, perhaps because of changes in technology, you will be able to use their personal data for the new purpose if it is fair to do so.”
“The Data Protection Act does not impose a blanket ban on the release of personal information. It requires a common sense approach, and should not be used as an excuse by those reluctant to take a balanced decision.” (4)

Another recent example has arisen recently rather closer to home, with CILIP.  A newly joined member of CILIP posted a link to her blog on Twitter.

@bumsonseats Carolin Schneider
What is a new CILIP member to do?

In her blog post Carolin made a point about new members experiences with Branches & Groups:

“I think for a new joiner going to a branch meeting is daunting. It would be nice to have a buddy, someone to help you take those first baby steps. This could be something you can opt in once your membership pack arrives in the post. With social media it should be easy enough to coordinate, no?”

In a comment responding to this, Jo Alcock said:

“My problem (as a branch committee member) is that I don’t know who our members are or when new members join. I appreciate that there are data protection legalities but I’m sure there must be a way to opt-in so that your branch and groups know that you have joined and can contact you to see if there’s anything you’d like to know or what you would like them to do for you.”

This generated some discussion on Twitter about why CILIP might feel that it shouldn’t share members details internally to allow branch or group committee members to contact new members.

Charles Oppenheim (retired Professor at Loughborough University and now independent copyright and DP consultant) was one of those contributing to the conversation:

@CharlesOppenh Charles Oppenheim
@joeyanne @NicolaFranklin I am aware of CILIP's approach to DP. There is absolutely no reason for it. No idea what its problem is.

Charles later expanded on his Tweet by saying:

“There is an obligation under the DPA that a data controller shall ensure that all necessary technical and administrative measures are taken to ensure unauthorised disclosure, etc.  does not occur.  So yes indeed, [their Data Controller] would be liable if something went wrong, but the law requires them to take such steps as are necessary to ensure no problem arises. Stopping people with a bona fide need from accessing the data is a quite inappropriate response to the problem.  Ensuring B & G officials are properly trained is the correct response.

Equally, the centre is obliged to keep info accurate and up to date.  Again, the onus is on CILIP to put into place procedures to ensure this is the case.”

Carolin has also sent in an expanded statement explaining the service she would hope to receive, as a newly joining member of CILIP:

“I recently re-joined CILIP as an associate member. Having shared on twitter and my blog that I am once again a CILIP member I received a warm welcome from several people on twitter, which was good and showed that these individuals care about new members and how to get them involved. So whilst waiting for my membership pack to arrive in the post, I hoped that my regional branch and my chosen interest groups would get in touch to share what they do and how I can get involved.
After blogging about these expectations I was informed by a colleague on twitter that my regional CILIP branch and special interest groups would not be able to send me a welcome letter as they are not notified when a new member joins their group. She was under the impression that it was due to data protection.

From looking at my online profile I know what my entry in the CILIP Yearbook says. I am able to edit the entry, and therefore have control over the details CILIP stores in their database. This would make it possible for me to not share my home address, for example, or opt out of sharing my phone number. Every member of CILIP is listed in the CILIP Yearbook, with their name, job title and workplace. Through this entry (and with the help of the internet and other resources) it would probably be quite easy to find more details about me, e.g. the address my workplace. Any details I don't want to be shared I could delete from my profile, so why can't my details be shared with a different part of the organisation that I signed up with?
Whatever you do these days, from shopping online to signing up to a newsletter, organisations ask you to opt in or out of sharing your details. If CILIP is worried about sharing something they shouldn't: I suggest that CILIP enables their members to opt-in to sharing personal data with their regional branches/special interest groups/third parties when they first sign up. It just takes a few tick boxes on the membership application form.”

When asked to comment on this situation and CILIP’s approach to sharing member’s data, CILIP’s Head of Customer Services, Francis Muzzu, made the following statement:

“Members’ information and the database are extremely important to us, and we are committed to reviewing how we can share data more effectively with Branches and Groups.”

Perhaps including a simple tick box on the application form along the lines of ‘tick here if you agree to your contact details being shared with the branch and group(s) you have elected to join’, as Carolin suggests, would help enable this process.  Also, if members data were being provided from the centre, then branches and groups would not need to collect their members’ details separately.  This would make keeping the data accurate and up to date easier and more effective and reduce the risks of holding two or more separate data sets.

I understand that CILIP is planning to review its policy over sharing members details internally next year, and sincerely hope that they can adjust their policy, processes and procedures, and have the IT infrastructure, to enable them to manage member’s data more effectively in the future.

As the membership body for librarians and information managers, members and prospective members expect the organisation to embody best practice in its own information management practices.  In this case, where doing so would help new members feel more welcome and possibly also attract more members to join, at a time where CILIP needs to not only reverse its declining membership numbers but also widen its membership base, demonstrating good internal information management practices should surely be a key tactic to achieving its goals.

(1) viewed November 2011
(2)   Feb 2011, viewed November 2011
(3)  viewed November 2011
(4) viewed November 2011

**Wednesday 30th November - Charles Oppenheim has since submitted an additional statement, outlining which data protection principles are involved and his opinion of CILIP's argument:

CILIP’s Head of Customer services had written to say that, if they distributed members’ data, they couldn’t guarantee that it would be treated confidentially.  Charles’ reply to this contention is “The seventh data protection principle (schedule 1 of the data protection act 1998) requires that appropriate organisational measures shall be taken against unauthorised processing of personal data and against accidental loss or destruction to personal data.  In other words, CILIP already has legal obligations to ensure everyone who handles personal data does so properly.  This principle requires CILIP to educate and train anyone handling personal data.  It is not an excuse to refuse to pass such data to people when they have a bona fide need to use it.”
CILIP’s Head of Customer services had written to say that a second consideration was that, if the Branches & Groups had member’s data they might overload them with information, which could be counterproductive.  Charles’ response to this argument is “This is again a matter of education and training.  CILIP should be training all who handle personal data in good information management practice, including avoiding information overload on members.  This is not a good reason for refusing to pass to branches and groups information they are entitled to.”
CILIP’s Head of Customer services had written to say that, if Branches & Groups had copies of the data as well as the central office, it would be harder to ensure it was kept accurate and up to date.  Charles’ reply to this is “The fourth data protection principle requires CILIP and its branches and groups to keep accurate and up to date personal information.  Francis notes that some branches and groups fail to pass on revised details to cilip centrally.  By definition, CILIP and the branch/group is then in breach of the fourth principle and could be sued/prosecuted as a result. What the data protection act requires is that cilip educates and trains. The act is no reason to refuse to pass information to branches and groups, and vice versa.”
Charles concluded by saying “In short, the legal obligation is on CILIP to ensure that its branches and groups both receive, and handle personal data appropriately.  Branches and groups cannot function properly without master lists of members. At the moment, in my view CILIP is in breach of the DPA.  Best to sort the matter out by releasing the data, and ensuring good information management practices, rather than burying its head in the sand hoping the problem will go away - because it won't!”

Friday, 11 November 2011

CILIP Councillor Election Hustings - a virtual experience

As I was unable to get into London yesterday evening, I decided to follow the CILIP 2012 hustings online.  This was possible since CILIP was helpfully livestreaming the event (which has been recorded and can be viewed here) and there was also a twitter hashtag allocated (#CILIP2012).

John Kirriemuir has already posted an excellent review of the evening, from an attendees point of view, so I will try and avoid duplicating any of the points he's already made.

So what was the experience like as a virtual participant?  The video worked really well (although from the twitter stream I believe there were one or two people who had difficulty getting it to run).  The only real problem I experienced was with the sound quality.  There were two table-microphones in view, but Sue Cook on the end of the row (and to a lesser extent Maria Cotera next to her) were virtually inaudible at times. 

The twitter stream displayed alongside the video on the CILIP page didn't seem to be updating without refreshing the screen, so rather than risk disrupting the video stram, I ran my own HootSuite stream in the background and checked it regularly as a substitute, which worked out fine.

Some of the key quotes that I picked up on, and tweeted about last night, included:

Q. How should CILIP increase membership?

Liz Mcgettigan we tell each other how wonderful we are - we should have a conference & invite people from other disciplines

Maria Cotera Start by bringing back those that have left - show them a reason to rejoin

Liz Mcgettigan Create a website or tools for people to use to sell the benefits of having librarians to employers

Mike Hosking Make CILIP seem less 'top down' and more belonging to, and owned by, members

Mike Hosking (Provide) better information career development guidance, less focused on traditional (physical?) library based careers

Sue Westcott Widen Chartership so it's more available (perceived as more available) to non-traditional LIS workers, take more care about the language used so it's more inclusive

Sue Westcott Talking publically about issues of wider public interest (Wikileaks for eg), would make more people want to join CILIP

Sue Westcott It's up to us to go out and find other communities who could be part of our profession and take a positive messasge to them

Maria Cotera The key thing is to listen, to what people's requirements are, not just partner for the sake of it, not just listen to friends but to 'enemies' too so we expand our circle

Q. Should CILIP increase its partnerships?

Sue Westcott We should think of partnerships in two ways; to partner with other information groups & to partner with commercial or other organisations to deliver services

Liz Mcgettigan CILIP needs to be selective about who they partner with

Sue Cook We need to be aware partnerships don't last forever, be flexible, and go for strategic partnerships

Mike Hosking CILIP needs to be in a partnership with organisations in the education sector

Q. How would you make members not in London feel more a part of CILIP?

Sue Westcott CILIP needs to think about having an internal dialogue about how people in the regions want to be included and catered for

Mike Hosking Branches & groups are key but we need to look at them with fresh eye, use new tech to bridge distances & get people to band together

Maria Cotera In other organisation I've been involved with, we used to hold a conference & other meetings at different locations around the country; CILIP needs to establish new models of working

Q. Where are borders of LIS profession, which skill sets are in or out?

Sue Cook There is a core set (of skills), but each job I've had has needed new things as well - so it's varied

Maria Cotera The most important skills are the softer ones like communication or advocacy

Sue Westcott Anyone who puts the right people together with the right information = an LIS professional, wherever they work

Liz Mcgettigan The basic skills (I believe she meant the core technical LIS skills) are important, plus the ability to engage, network and advocate are key

*sorry to any of the candidates if your comments are underrepresented, but as I mentioned above I had difficulty hearing some of the replies, some of the time.

Overall it was great to be able to participate remotely, and to see the candidates reactions in real time, which of course isn't possible with the ehustings. In fact, I believe there were more virtual participants (someone tweeted there were 28 viewing the live stream at one point) than physical attendees. 

Even so, that only makes a total of 38 people taking part, which seems a woefully low proportion of CILIP's 16,000 or so members.  Being somewhat controversial here, is it fair to say that, if people don't take part in the democratic process, then they have less right to complain about how things are run?  Of course some of those members had other engagements last night, or no access to an internet computer, but even so surely a couple of hundred could have shown an interest, at this critical juncture in the organisations life? 

Friday, 4 November 2011

Event - NetIKX: Where Next for the Web - Linked Data and Semantic Search

Yesterday saw me at The Energy Institute for a joint event run by NetIKX and the Information for Energy Group.  It was certainly a good workout for the brain, trying to get our head around how linked data is transforming the web from a group of linked text documents into a web of linked objects.

A full report of everything I learned during the afternoons events can be found on the NetIKX blog.

Monday, 31 October 2011

ILI2011 - Navigating the New Normal - Strategies for Success

This week saw the Internet Librarian International Conference 2011 come to London, for an excellent two day programme devoted to the "New Normal" - the new environment, with new technologies and new economic realities.  How can librarians and other information professionals adapt to this new situation?

A full review of my experiences at ILI2011 can be found here

Monday, 10 October 2011

Event - LIKE 29 (Take 2) - Connecting Information with Innovation

On Thursday I spent a very enjoyable evening back at the Crown Tavern, at the second showing of John Davies’ presentation of TFPL’s report on their second survey of the information profession.

In 2006 TFPL conducted a survey of the profession and produced a report “Who is managing information - roles in the e-landscape”.  They have recently conducted another survey to follow up on this work and John described some of their key findings.  In view of the credit crunch and ongoing economic woes, they were surprised to find that there was on balance stability in the numbers of staff in ‘knowledge and information management’ or KIM functions, having expected to see a drop.  Also interesting was that the trend to these staff being dispersed across the organisation, rather than concentrated in an ‘information centre’, has increased since the last survey.

John asked us to discuss some of the survey questions around our tables.  One of these was “what is the point of a professional qualification, and a professional body?”  Amongst the reasons suggested around my table were:

  • To widen new entrants' view of the profession
  • To give a baseline of skills
  • To give a theoretical underpinning to professional practice
  • To set standards
  • To govern ethics
  • To accredit qualifications
  • You can't be a profession without a professional body
The point was also made that almost all other professions insist upon a set number of CPD hours &/or revalidation, to retain professional status, and that CILIP should do the same for the profession to have more credibility.

During the survey respondents were asked to say which attributes they felt were important in KIM workers.  Although many permutations were received, they were able to distill these down into several key areas, including:

  • Vision
  • Perseverence
  • Pragmatism
  • Collaboration
John asked us to debate which of these were the most important. On the table I was at we felt that vision and collaboration were the most vital, but also unfortunately the most often lacking.  Someone suggested that too many people still came into the profession expecting it to be ‘back room’, and another said that it tended to attract introverted people.

Another point that was made was that many people nowadays may self-identify as ‘knowledge workers’ (eg, information asset managers, or people like immigration officers who manage large databases of information), and yet not have a ‘library qualification’ or be seen as information professionals by CILIP or any of the other groups.

During the feedback discussion, John pointed out that we were naturally talking in terms of ‘us’ and ‘the business’ - and he was sure that HR or IT or other groups did the same - but that in fact we are ‘the business’ and should be talking about ‘we’.  

Dinner arrived while the debate was still in full flow, and the animated conversations continued over the food and afterwards, with Jennifer encouraging us to get up, circulate and share ideas with new people.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Event - BIALL Solos Presentation

Last week I was delighted to speak to a group of solo law librarians who are all members of the BIALL Solos group.  Slightly unusually, the presentation was conducted by telephone conference, with the slides distributed in advance.

This method of delivery allows people who are working in a team of 1, where getting cover to leave the office to attend a seminar isn't always realistic, and also where not all the members are based in London, to get together and share experiences.

The topic was all about how to develop your career when you are working as a solo.  We focused on two approaches to this - either to develop the scope of your current role &/or lobby to be able to grow your team, or else to move on a find a new role elsewhere.

The slides from the presentation are above and this is a link to the audio recording of the talk (BIALL membership log in required).

We managed to cover a wide range of topics during the hour's session, ranging from how to develop a business case and cost/benefit analysis, through to skills analysis, writing effective CVs and preparing for a successful interview.

Monday, 3 October 2011

The Library Career Centre Launch Competition

** Winner Announced!! **

The winner of the launch competition of The Library Career Centre
is Imrana Ghumra, a Knowledge Manager from the Healthcare sector 

Imrana won a FREE CV Review Report

and said

"Wow, thank you!
I'll take a look over the weekend and then let you have an amended CV."

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Article - Conference from the other side

The BIALL newsletter was recently published and distributed to members, and included an article "Conference from the other side" (needs membership log in), giving an overview of how I prepare to give a presentation as a speaker at a conference.

In the article I talk about how I:
  • choose a theme (where can I add value, what will interest the delegates?)
  • gather information and fact-check (well in advance of the conference date)
  • devise slides and select images (after I've roughed out my key points)
  • prepare the timing and delivery of the talk itself (a week or so before the conference date)
The BIALL newsletter is a major member benefit (this issue runs to a 28 page pdf) and includes lots of useful articles and information.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Event - NetIKX Seminar on River Diagrams

Last week I attended a very interesting half day seminar at NetIKX run by Chris Collinson.  He was explaining and demonstrating his technique for knowledge sharing and performance improvement, River Diagrams.

The diagrams themselves give a lot of information about different stakeholders' level of knowledge on the topics under discussion, and therefore indicate which groups could effectively learn from each other, but there is as much benefit to be gained from participating in the process as in viewing the results.

A full description of the day, and the methodology, can be found on the NetIKX blog.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Event - CLSIG Seminar - Getting Organised

Last night saw me arriving at Charles Russel’s offices to attend the latest CLSIG seminar.  Susie Kay was speaking on the subject of Getting Organised - one of the key components of working as a professional.

Susie made the point that being organised is more than just time management.  It stretches across a number of areas:

  • Physical environment
  • Mental environment
  • Time management
  • Processes & procedures
Showing a slide of a very disorganised desk, piled high with untidy papers with a PC peeking out from amongst the confusion, Susie asked whether being disorganised matters?  What kind of impression would it make to have a desk like this?  Does it have an effect on efficiency?  If you can’t find a paper or email with some information you need on it, does that make you seem unreliable?  If a task isn’t completed on time, or information is lost, does that have risk management implications?

Susie made the point that having a less cluttered environment can also lead to a less cluttered brain.  Being surrounded by piles of paper, subliminally representing piles of things you should be doing, acts as a distraction and a stress factor.

Email (and, presumably, shared drives and other storage places for electronic documents) is really an extension of physical organisation.  If your e-storage space is as disorganised as that desk, risk, inefficiency and unreliablity will surely follow.  Susie advocated opening an email once - don’t be tempted to close it again, mark it as un-read, return to it later, perhaps repeat this process several times!  Instead, deal with the request or information enclosed, action it, then either file the email or delete it out of your inbox.

Turning to time management, Susie made the point that we can’t manage time - everyone has a maximum of 24 hours in a day.  Instead, perhaps it should be called time use.  We could all plan better how we use the time we have available.  Susie suggested that we plan, prioritise, set targets and have rewards for using time better.

Two techniques that can help with time planning are the urgency/importance grid, and using a day book and diary in combination.

An urgency/importance grid looks like this:

(when should this be done - diarise or communicate it)

(Do it now! - or make sure it is done)
(Does it have to be done at all?)

(To whom can I delegate this?)

Mentally allocating each of the items on your to-do list to this grid will allow you to prioritise all your tasks for the coming day.

Susie demonstrated a day book layout that she recommends using.  The left hand page of a double spread is divided into 9 empty boxes.  These are for notes of phone calls, new projects that come up, ideas for future actions, etc.  The right hand page of the double spread is divided into columns.  The column headings include:

  • Item name/description
  • Priority
  • Time to complete
  • Final deadline date

The final deadline dates, and reminders days or weeks in advance, also go into your diary or electronic calendar.

Finally Susie turned to processes and procedures.  She distinguished between these by saying that a process is the ‘what’ needs to be done (and by whom) whereas the procedure is the detailed description of ‘how’ to do it.  For you to be organised, processes and procedures need to be documented, so that someone else could pick up your work and continue with it when you are on holiday, leave the role or are off sick.  This documentation could be using flow charts (process diagrams) or text documents, and should avoid assumptions wherever possible (who to get information from, who to send things to, where things are kept, etc).

Susie’s final piece of advice to achieve a more organised life?  Learn to say ‘no’.  When someone interrupts your day’s work with a request, being able to say “I can’t do that right away but I’ll get back to you when I’ve finished this email/call/report/etc” is a powerful way to keep your day on track.

We then spent a very enjoyable time networking, with wine and wonderful nibbles kindly provided by Susan Dennis and Charles Russell LLP.  I was particularly impressed by the 'sausage and mash' - coctail sausages split hot-dog style with a miniature amount of mash piped down the middle - a very nifty idea!

Monday, 12 September 2011

Guest Post - Professionalism and the need for a competence framework

Susie Kay from The Professionalism Group with her viewpoint on a competency framework for the information profession.

This article is also published today on The Information Professions wiki, where you can read more about efforts to bring the various groups, associations and societies that make up the information profession together to communicate and collaborate more closely.

It is just over two years since I last put pen to paper on this subject in an article for the Opinion page in CILIP’s Update.  Natalie Ceeney, then Government Head of Profession for Knowledge & Information Management (and CEO of the National Archive), took the time in a later edition to state her public agreement with my position that the missing element in CILIP's work to define and maintain professionalism in this diverse sector is a profession-wide competence framework and, further, that it is essential that it should embrace the whole knowledge and information management profession.

In light of the current changes happening at CILIP and the ongoing perception that the sector’s professional association is failing to meet the needs of a very diverse workforce under extreme pressure and, more importantly, not answering the ongoing questions about the profession’s value to society, I believe it is time to make the argument for a comprehensive competence framework once more.  In recent times those professions who have achieved both improved professional reputation and internal stability have all worked to either implement or update their competence frameworks and CPD requirements.  There really is nothing to be gained by delaying any longer.

There has been previous discussion about perceived divisions within the community about how we demonstrate professionalism, citing lack of employer engagement, disappointment with the skill sets of graduates and ‘de-professionalisation’, followed by the professional body reporting that it had embarked on a review supposedly designed to modernise how professional education is delivered for this sector (1).

I agree that a radical overhaul is needed and further believe absolutely that our understanding of what it means to be a professional must entail a demonstrable level of competence and range of abilities. There are three crucial missing elements in the argument which the professional body has never, unfortunately, addressed.  

Firstly, as the sector contains a vast, evolving array of specialisms, exactly how big is the sector, how do the specialisms connect, who is included and why? The work to construct a competence framework would, in itself, help to bring together those who should or could be part of the community while still leaving room at the periphery for new and future additions or changes over time.

Secondly, what does professional competence look like for all those who seek to be part of this profession, at all levels.  In such uncertain times it is crucial that we are able to demonstrate and describe the underlying, unifying assumptions and detail about our levels of competence.

Thirdly, how do we ensure that both our education and training processes keep up, building in consistency and agility, while also encouraging the free thinkers and pathfinders? How do we ensure that the skill sets on offer to employers of graduates and those transferring into the profession are relevant and useful? How do we ensure that innovative and ground breaking courses are given the support and approval they need?  How do we ensure that relevant short courses are available whenever they are needed to top up skills or quickly rectify a skills shortfall within the workforce? Critically, how do we ensure CPD is taken seriously and that personal and professional development are shown to be of paramount importance for all?

In my opinion the answer lies in a detailed and constantly refreshed competence framework for the profession. The best of such frameworks have review cycles built in which ensure that they take account of the latest thinking and developments within the sector as well as refreshing connections outside. This enabling mechanism would mean that the profession would firmly embrace and provide constant connection to all of the many interrelated communities of interest which currently have such difficulties in relating to each other.

Competence frameworks have two dimensions -- breadth and depth. The breadth describes the range of those to whom the framework applies, allowing inclusivity, defining the range and diversity of ability and specialisms within the sector.  The depth defines that ability at a number of levels, from student and entry level to the highest levels of management.  The addition of job role descriptors at appropriate levels then also provides a career structure across the sector and enhances the ability to link education, training and CPD opportunities to the framework at the appropriate points, as well as publications, events and other products and services. Such a defined structure then means that qualifications can be aligned at appropriate levels, further linking the profession to other structured disciplines.

Frameworks usually detail the various competence elements in groupings which loosely equate to technical, behavioural and contextual areas, with ethical considerations as an integral part of the overall framework. As an individual progresses to higher levels of responsibility, they will be required to demonstrate enhanced interpersonal and management skills which are an obvious overlap with frameworks from the leadership and management disciplines. These overlaps will be repeated in other frameworks such as IT, project management, HR, etc, offering opportunities for alliances and a modular approach for academic courses.

Entrants to the profession looking for  accredited academic courses could be reassured that the course content was directly linked and derived from the competence framework, thus ensuring relevance and consistency.  This would help to ensure employability of graduates and reassure employers about the quality and relevance of education and training.

The existence of the framework would also remove the perceived differentiation between academic and experiential routes as the expression of levels of competence would be of paramount importance, indicating an individual’s professionalism, not just their qualifications.

If we are serious about wishing to talk about maintaining professionalism in the workforce and raising the public profile and understanding of the profession then we need to better describe who and what we are - our uniqueness.  How better to do this than to develop a competence framework which declares unequivocally what we stand for and how we manage and maintain expectations of ability at all levels?

The CILIP Body of Knowledge is no longer an adequate vehicle to enable individual professionals to make commitments to the employer community.  We must move to a structure which enables us to specify the capabilities of each and every one of the individuals who make up this extremely talented sector. The Professional Skills for Government competency framework [2] is described as ‘a structured way of thinking about jobs and careers for Civil Service staff at all grades. It sets out the skills you need to do your job well...'.   That’s a great definition and statement of intent.

Until a competence framework exists for this profession with which all can identify then we will not take our place among the leading professions as we should do.  The lack of a framework which makes the statement on behalf of each and every individual means that everyone has to rethink who and what they are every time they are asked and no one has time for that. Recent discussion lists have demonstrated clearly that we have a range of abilities but few can identify how these skills and competences link together.  Identity needs a framework for support for now and for evolution into the future.

At the end of her article two years ago, Natalie made a unique offer to the professional body, to share what they had already accomplished while creating the Professional Skills KIM framework (3).  A large proportion of what is needed for the future of the profession is already in place so the work required to create the profession’s competence framework would not begin from a standing start but with a huge first stage lift.  What remains is to establish the breadth and depth, make some intelligent guesses about where we going in the not too distant future and ensure that we include everyone in the conversation.  I believe the time is well overdue to make a start on what could be the answer to this profession’s very considerable current difficulties.

1  Defining our Professional Future report
3 Government KIM Framework:

Susie Kay is Managing Director of The Professionalism Group, an advice and consultancy service working with individuals, businesses and professional associations focusing on the benefits of professionalism

Thank you to Susie for such an interesting and thought provoking post, which touches on career development, advocacy and professionalism, all issues relevant to librarians, records, knowledge and information managers alike.