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New fields for Research in the 21st Century: Proceedings of the 3rd British-Nordic Conference on Library and Information Studies. 12-14 April 1999, Borås, Sweden / Ed. by Maj Klasson, Brendan Loghridge and Staffan Lööf. Borås: The Swedish School of Library and Information Studies University College of Borås, 1999. 358 p. SEK300

An impressive volume of 358 pages in hard cover with a photo of inquisitive man on it contains proceedings of the 3rd British-Nordic Conference on Library and Information Studies held on April 12-14, 1999, in Borås, Sweden. Approximately 80 educators and researchers from British and Nordic LIS departments attended the conference. The conference focused on several important topics such as:

  • LIS research and its relation to professional education
  • Developments in LIS and research in relation to the development of the profession at large
  • Developments in IT and their application in LIS teaching and research
  • Information management
  • Information retrieval, organisation and navigation.

Considering challenges for the future research and education Lars Höglund, Professor at the University of Gothenburg and head of research at the Swedish School of Library and Information Studies, University College of Borås, in his keynote speech, focuses on the definition of the future needs of the citizens of the information-centred society where 'for individual well-being as well as global survival, our expertise in sorting out and making readily available information should be of the utmost importance [...] and for nations and companies the issues of information and knowledge are about economic survival' (p. 8). Ian Johnson, Head of the School of Information and Media, The Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, UK, outlines a new context in which LIS research might be carried out: shortage of funding, limited experience of research in academic and practitioners' communities, involvement of commercial sector, etc. The keystones of research strategies for the new millennium are articulated in active mode: vision, assurance, responsiveness, promotion, collaboration, exploitation.

The book is divided into 11 chapters: LIS discipline; Approaches for Development; Knowledge Management; The LIS Workforce; The Electronic Environment; Impact and Consequences; Assessment; Flexible and Distance Learning; Ethical Issues of Internet Use; The Reflective Practitioner; The Information Environment; New Approaches for the Millennium.

Peter Enser of the University of Brighton analyses new approaches to the professional accreditation of LIS education in the UK that is conducted by two professional bodies - The Library Association and The Institute of Information Scientists. The challenge for the professional bodies in their course of the accreditation role is caused by the convergence of the LIS profession with ICT. The two accreditation bodies work on specification of a joint accreditation instrument. Introducing National Vocational Qualifications in the UK has afforded paraprofessional staff the opportunity to acquire a nationally accredited qualification, which not only recognises their existing competence in the workplace, but also provides framework for continuing their development (p. 87-97).

Changes in LIS education in Sweden and Norway reflect the dynamic professional landscape in Scandinavia and individual profile of Nordic LIS educational establishments. Professor Mirja Iivonen of University of Oulu, Finland, presents interesting findings of her research in trust as a management strategy and basis for the knowledge management in Finnish libraries: 'today, says Mirja Iivonen, when we already have new technological equipments and networks that enable us to do things in a new way, the real challenge in many organisations is to get people to share their knowledge and to create new knowledge in an open manner' (p. 54).

Is readiness to share knowledge a personal quality or a professional skill for the modern information professional? Such a question comes naturally when reading presentations on different aspects of the information professions, information professionals and professionalism. Theoretical and practical aspects of knowledge management and its place in LIS curriculum are analysed by Brendan Loughridge, University of Sheffield. Knowledge management is certainly included into the list of core competencies that are needed in the new era alongside with skills to select, analyse and synthesise the data, IT skills, information retrieval skills, etc.

Managerial and entrepreneurial spirit is as important for the successful information professional as certain personal qualities. An information professionals today is described as 'an outgoing, self-motivated individual, who is able to learn quickly and is receptive to new ideas' (p. 71). Commitment, flexibility, inquisitiveness, reflectiveness and innovativeness - these are definitely new characteristics that change the image of "classical" librarian almost entirely.

Gunnel Hessler, Swedish School of LIS University College of Borås, describes transition from organisational inertia in academic libraries to a modern flexible organisation and changes in the library's self-image. The IMPEL project, presented by Joan Day, Catherine Edwards and Graham Walton of University of Northumbria at Newcastle, was aimed at gaining 'deeper understanding of the organisational and cultural impacts which are associated with rapid technological and educational developments in higher education' (p. 151).

Arja Mäntykangas discusses the concept of 'library' itself. A book of Romulo Enmark from 1990 is one of her starting points. Enmark stated that the difficulty in describing the overall picture of the library lies within the concepts of information and culture that belong to different semantic domains. Emergence of virtual libraries made the concept even more blurred. Arja Mäntykangas adds that 'libraries are becoming more and more transparent in the digital age' (p. 168) and that the transparency moves the concept towards a metaphorical level.

Even if a metaphor, "library" is still a physical place with real or virtual information resources that are to be managed by skilled individuals. Educational programs for LIS professionals, the scope and content of the curriculum, teaching and learning methods, styles and techniques are those ever-green questions that each educator face in his/her work. Susan Hornby, Paul Sturges, Lars Höglund, Maj Klasson, Christina Persson, Angela Zetterlund and other authors focus on different aspects of LIS education in academic setting while Rebecca Linley and Dave Muddiman describe new models of education for information of information workers in UK voluntary organisations.

James Dearnley and Stuart Hannabus discuss the ethics in use of electronic resources and academic freedom in teaching issues regarding obscenity and pornography in the Internet. These complex and subtle issues become more and more 'eclectic' in the postmodern discourse.

Even if tolerance and commitment to the freedom of thought are deep-rooted in our professional consciousness, we as educators do not always encourage our students to think independently. This is clearly seen in the students' assessment procedures when the student is not expected 'to write what s/he thinks but what the tutors wants him/her to think'. Sally Gibbs of the Leeds Metropolitan University considers 'how assessment can seriously damage your learning health'. Assessment for learning rather than learning for assessment, learning to pass rather learning to learn is serious threats within the traditional learning environment. From my own experience I can easily recognise the dichotomy shown by Sally Gibbs 'between the curriculum as presented in institution's documentation which may well stress the development of independent thought, the ability to solve problems, and to analyse and synthesise the ideas, and the hidden curriculum as perceived by students as something which is imposed by the institution in terms of prescribed syllabi and specific task'.

The final paper in the book is presented by Professor Tom Wilson of the University of Sheffield, who reviews all the papers given at the conference and looks at technology, coherence of the research field and generality of the research problem as three main factors affecting research in LIS and related fields. Wilson makes it clear that "advances in research depend not only upon the creative individual, but in that individual's having a community to which he or she can relate, and in which creative debate can take place' (p. 346).

The book is targeted at the educators and researchers in LIS. It would also be useful for practitioners and that would certainly help our global academic community to be more open to the world outside the universities' walls.

Dr. Audrone Glosiene
Head, Department of Library Science
Faculty of Communication
Vilnius University, Lithuania
31st March 2000