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The information professional of the future: polymath or dinosaur? Dr Judith Broady-Preston Senior Lecturer and Chair, Management Research Group Department.

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Presentation on theme: "The information professional of the future: polymath or dinosaur? Dr Judith Broady-Preston Senior Lecturer and Chair, Management Research Group Department."— Presentation transcript:

1 The information professional of the future: polymath or dinosaur? Dr Judith Broady-Preston Senior Lecturer and Chair, Management Research Group Department of Information Studies, Aberystwyth University, UK Email: jbp@aber.ac.ukjbp@aber.ac.uk Presentation to the inaugural CAVAL People in the Information Profession Conference, Melbourne, Australia, 15 and 16 October 2009

2 Introduction “in a web 2.0 world, the "closed shop" model of professionalism is dead in the water. The fundamental transition of the "information society" is a transition from traditional forms of authority to a much greater focus on community: on collaboration and personalisation with traditional barriers broken down. For a web 2.0 model of society, we need a web 2.0 model of professionalism – not just in our use of technology but in our culture and ways of behaving.” (Bob McKee, July 2009) Paper presents work of Aberystwyth Management Research Group on related themes

3 Outline Brief background: changing professional landscape Boundaries and barriers Definitions and scope Concepts of professionalism - attributes and identity Threats to Information Profession (IP): terminal decline? Managerialism Professional deskilling, knowledge and identity Discipline versus profession? Employer engagement and CPD Where are we now?

4 Changing professional landscape “Blurring (or demolishing?) boundaries” Generic – UK Government Panel on Fair Access to the Professions – July 2009 report Information Profession – Impact web2.0, 3.0, 4.0 on sector boundaries Levels of practice – glass ceiling shatters? Governmental drivers Employability: Relationship HEIs and employers Transferability (e.g. Bologna) Recognition work-based learning – development of competency frameworks and occupational standards Emphasis on skills –’can do’

5 Definitions and scope Is key question – what is a profession? [Cf Feather (2009)] Oxford English Dictionary defines a profession as: an occupation in which a professed knowledge of some subject, field, or science is applied; a vocation or career, especially one that involves prolonged training and a formal qualification. Also…as mass noun: occupations of this kind. (2009) Of greater interest/significance is NOT exploration determinants/attributes per se, BUT an investigation of role of professions and individual professionals in context of: Societal change “Radical transformation” [cf. Ackroyd, 1996 and Hotho, 2008)

6 Definitions and scope: key question NOT exploration determinants or attributes, BUT How do professions position themselves and respond in context of: Changing nature professions Relationships at macro and micro level Relationships professionals and society, including issues social identity and self-esteem

7 Attributes and Identity Attributes professions vs occupations – old hat? Payne = 5 attributes; Feather = 4 attributes Concept of “social meaning” a collective professional culture and integrity, developed and maintained through formal and informal groups; such formal groups including professional associations, and educational and research centres. Contemporary views: NOT “traits” ( how should a professional behave?) OR “functions” (what should a professional do?)

8 Professional identity and work: contemporary views Professions now construct and use range techniques and practices to gain, legitimise and maintain control over professional work to obtain dominance over other groups and privileged economic/ social status BUT Professions under scrutiny - UK 2009 Panel on Fair Access to the Professions concluded that: “for all the progress that has taken place in recent years by government tackling poverty and disadvantage and all the efforts that have been made by the professions to expand the pool of talent from which they recruit …many professions are still unrepresentative of the modern society they serve…Most alarmingly of all there is strong evidence, given to the Panel, that the UK’s professions have become more, not less, socially exclusive over time”

9 Professional identity: role of professional associations? Market dominance Reinforce demarcation lines – ‘spheres of influence’ Formalise education/knowledge base – e.g CILIP’s BPK Accredit education/training providers – collective and individual impact Need for: wider perspectives – danger of narrow focus on power/knowledge “dialectic” or dialogue between individual and collective profession (association) Bigger players? “Because our preoccupations are small and introverted, we are sending a signal to CILIP to care very narrowly about the internally focussed business of qualifications frameworks and little else. And we are sending a message to society at large that we do not really have a vision of ourselves as bigger players on the wider social stage.” (Joint, 2007)

10 Threats to Information Profession (IP): terminal decline? Managerialism and intervention – cf Health sector Professional deskilling and professional knowledge Centrality maintenance unique corpus of knowledge in professional identity Defensive strategies – boundaries and expansion Professional skills/knowledge vs competency frameworks Generic vs specific Behaviours vs technical skill sets Key question – if we no longer possess unique skills/knowledge (cf Feather) is IP still a ‘profession’?

11 Discipline vs Profession? Role and relationship academe and practice – harmony or tension? Professional associations specify knowledge BUT do not deliver education recognise education providers – accreditation and conferring of professional status – NB differing models Audunson – 3 differing approaches IP education: Discipline/Profession/Vocation Need for pluralist approach? Co-exist in “a fruitful tension”? No agreed global/pan-European/Pacific rim curriculum Is IP a “unique” profession? Cf Payne’s IM study

12 Employer engagement Existence/impact extreme views: Some futurists and radical thinkers, consider that the concepts of ‘qualifications’ and ‘professions’ may become obsolete. Instead, people will continually build their own personal portfolios of learning and development and access other learning in an open way on the internet. Each person will have a learning plan and ‘qualifications’ will become incidental markers along the way for those who need them. (Edwards, 2005) Need for pro-active employer engagement IP = self-regulatory profession ergo recognition of VALUE of professional qualifications - employer’s choice! CILIP 2009 TFG Fundamental to continued existence?

13 Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Professional qualifications need to be: Relevant and timely – i.e. contemporary Ergo need for individual CPD Balancing a library’s needs with individuals’ needs = complicated process Needs as perceived by individuals vary from those perceived by their managers overall lack of understanding across the profession about who should be responsible for what aspects of CPD, what should be offered, and who should be taking the initiative. CILIP view (CPD Framework, 2004): Effective partnership = essential if “overlapping aims improved performance and individual career enhancement are to be met.” Mandatorycompulsory CPD? Cf CILIP July 2008

14 Where are we now? “Challenging times” – future not straightforward or assured Will the 21 st Information professional be a polymath – i.e. multi-skilled, flexible, adaptable and continually learning? dinosaur – clinging to outmoded prescriptive working practices, inflexible, hidebound, obsolete/irrelevant skills set? Mandatory CPD offers the profession opportunities to Demonstrate equivalency with other professions Market ourselves positively as highly trained and motivated professionals Ensure recognition of the value of professional qualifications + training in a volatile environment

15 Current Aberystwyth Projects: professional knowledge and identity Broady-Preston: CPD, employer engagement and employability “blurring” the boundaries – mapping the contemporary IP Determining professional skills/identity in a volatile environment: the hybrid information professional (jointly with BL) Toft – librarians perceptions of themselves and their role Ramsey – contemporary roles and responsibilities of paraprofessionals Williams – cross-case comparison of the IP in the legal environment Masereka Pius – change and conflict: impact on role and behaviours of academic librarians

16 Finally… Hopefully a starting point for further discussion/debate Thank-you for listening – happy to answer questions either now or in the future Contact – jbp@aber.ac.ukjbp@aber.ac.uk


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