Guest post by Professor Ian Ruthven, co-editor of Information at Work: Information management in the workplace
We live in a society characterized by quick technological developments and rapid processes of change. Technological developments have automated processes that used to be done by manual labour whilst new professions and work tasks have emerged. Earlier generations were accustomed to life-long positions in the same company. Nowadays people search for work opportunities in a global market, experience more frequent career changes, must learn new skills throughout their careers and manage the increasingly fluid boundaries between work life and home life. Even our work environments have changed: as Alvin Toffler’s metaphor of the ‘paperless offices’ from 50 years ago is now being realized, we are starting to move into the state of ‘peopleless offices’ in which work is conducted in digital rather than physical spaces. Many workplaces are already now hybrid digital/physical spaces where the work activities addressed, tools utilized and information consumed are the same no matter if engaged in the office or at home.
Rapid changes to information infrastructures are also changing the nature of work forcing a reinvention of old practices and the creation of new ones. For example, bloggers and online newspapers are now as influential as traditional journalism; social media is now a key means of interacting with customers instead of direct marketing; many services such as banking, home-buying, booking travel and commerce are now primarily online activities created by experts in digital environments rather than experts in built environments; government services are increasingly online services, etc. The vast amount of Internet information means that even traditional information experts such as doctors are taking on larger roles in explaining information rather than providing information. There is hardly a discipline or area of work that is not touched by new technology.
More data, more information, more work
The relatively inexpensive information storage available now means organizations can capture massive amounts of data which can be mined to provide more robust decision-making about managing cities, predicting demographic changes, tailoring marketing campaigns or managing simple performance. How this information is stored, organized, classified, shared and secured are classic information management concerns which need new proven solutions. Many organizations are moving towards cloud services forcing hard discussions about which information to store, where it is stored, and who has access rights to this information.
This change in how we store, manage and make available information is set against a fluid background of changing legislation surrounding what organizations can and cannot do with information. Rights to access information, rights to information privacy, rights to data protection, and other assorted information laws vary locally, nationally, and internationally resulting in a complex and shifting network of laws, policies and guidelines that institutions must create systems and practices to manage. The role of information is essential in all these processes, as a resource for learning, managing change, developing and running processes and creating professional networks.
The information revolution within our workplaces calls for a new examination of information, information technology and information practices within the modern workplace. There is no single framework nor epistemological perspective that single-handedly explains the entire phenomena of workplace information, but rather the different work situations are made of aggregations where information plays in from several perspectives.
How to study the work place from an information perspective?
This richness of views on workplace information leads to different understandings of information-related activities, such as information need, information management, information sources, information sharing, information production, information storing, information retrieval, information searching/seeking, information valuing, and information use. Some of these concepts have been discussed since the beginning of workplace information studies, while others are new concepts coming from the latest trends and developments in workplace information environments. The richness of approaches and varying meanings for concepts can create deep understandings but also conceptual confusion.
One of the motivations for our new book Information at Work is that such themes and concepts are often considered separately, by distinct groupings of scholars, and appearing in venues that offer little interaction between these topics. This, in part, comes from the perspective taken by individual authors – our disciplinary backgrounds bring their own theories, models and ways of looking at the world and, hence, different ways of approaching the study of information in the workplace. These different approaches can focus on different objects of study (environments, systems, tasks, objects, practices etc.), some of which are more amenable to certain theories and ways of doing research than others. Each perspective is valuable in highlighting different aspects of what it means to study workplace information. Bringing these perspectives together in one text we hope will show the diversity in this rich area of study and promote new discussions on how we can appreciate these perspectives to create new ways of investigating and understanding different phenomena within the field of workplace information.
Our aim in this book is to present the full spectrum of workplace information research, flowing from contributions on the nature of work when viewed from an Information Science perspective, through considerations of the social and cultural environments in which we work, to issues of managing our work and the information we need to do work, to discussions of the information artefacts and properties of those artefacts that enable us to ‘work’ with information to complete our ‘work’.
As information professionals, how often do we consider whether our workplace information environments are working for us?
Ian Ruthven is a Professor of Information Seeking and Retrieval at the University of Strathclyde. He published over 100 articles in the areas of interactive information retrieval and information seeking and edited two collections: Interactive Information Seeking, Behaviour and Retrieval (with Diane Kelly) and Cultural Heritage Information Access and Management (with Gobinda Chowdhury).
Facet Publishing announce the publication of Records and Information Management, 2nd edition by Patricia C Franks.
The first edition of Records and Information Management was described by Archives and Records as, ‘a valuable up to date combined textbook and reference book which will enhance its readers’ knowledge irrespective of their place on the career ladder’. Since its publication in 2013, the records and information field has evolved considerably with the growth of the internet of things; the extreme volume and variety of data produced more quickly than ever; the increased necessity of employing technology to categorize, analyze, and make use of the data; the recognition of the value of information assets; and the emergence of new business models that leverage the power of algorithms to manipulate data.
The new second edition cements this work’s status as an up-to-date classic, with its content updated and expanded to address emerging technologies, most notably blockchain and evolving standards and practices. Franks presents complete coverage of the records and information lifecycle model, encompassing paper, electronic (databases, office suites, email), and new media records (blogs, chat messages, and software as a service). Informed by an advisory board of experts in the field and with contributions by noted authorities, the text addresses such key topics as the origins and development of records and information; the discipline of information governance and developing a strategic records management plan; creation/capture and classification; retention strategies, inactive records management, archives, and long-term preservation; access, storage, and retrieval; electronic records and electronic records management systems; the latest on rapidly evolving technologies such as web records, social media, and mobile devices; vital records, disaster preparedness and recovery, and business continuity; monitoring, auditing, and risk management; and education and training.
Patricia C Franks said,
‘The breadth of knowledge expected of the successful records professional continues to expand. It now includes the need to better understand not only the business process but also the goals of the organization from a business perspective…this book, therefore, differs from traditional records management works by placing equal emphasis on business operations out of which records arise and the ways in which the records professional can contribute to the core mission of the enterprise beyond the lifecycle management of records.’
The book’s authoritative blend of theory and practice makes it a matchless resource for everyone in the archives and records management field, including archivists, records managers, and information managers, regardless of their job title (e.g. digital archivist, knowledge management advisor, information governance specialist).
Patricia C Franks is an associate Professor in the School of Library and Information Science (SLIS) at San Jos̩ State University in California, where she serves as the Master of Archives and Records Administration (MARA) Program Coordinator and the SLIS Internship Program Coordinator. Dr. Franks supervises virtual interns and teaches courses related to information organizations and management, archival studies, and records management. Her professional activities include working with ARMA International, most recently as Consensus Group Leader for both ANSI/ARMA 1-2011 Implications of Web-Based, Collaborative Technologies in Records Management and ARMA TR 21-2012 Using Social Media in Organizations.
Stay up-to-date with all the latest books from Facet by signing up to our mailing list
Guest post by Geoffrey Yeo, author of Records, Information and Data: Exploring the role of record-keeping in an information culture
If you look at older books about record-keeping (Hilary Jenkinson’s famous 1922 Manual of Archive Administration, for example), you may notice that information is hardly mentioned at all. Even in the 1970s, when I was among a bunch of students learning about archives and records management, the tutors who instructed us rarely said anything that linked records with information.
But in today’s discussions of record-keeping we hear about information all the time. Some records professionals say that records – and archives – contain information. Some say that records are a kind of information: a kind that needs to be managed in a special way. Others say that ‘information objects’ become records when someone selects them for preservation or captures them in a record-keeping system; or that information is a record when it can be used as evidence. And growing numbers of records managers now affirm that distinctions between records and information are of little importance, that they are disappearing, or that no-one cares about them any longer.
Something very interesting is going on. Records professionals are putting forward a great variety of opinions, but they all connect records – in one way or another – to information. It becomes even more interesting when you look at some of the things that philosophers have said about information. John Searle describes information as ‘one of the most confused and ill-defined notions in contemporary intellectual life’. Fred Dretske points out that ‘if you think information is important … you must have some vague idea of what it is. … It is easy enough to find people who think they know what it is, but very hard to find two people who agree.’ If information is such a nebulous and precarious concept, why does it have such a high profile? Why have records professionals given it so much emphasis in recent years?
Of course, the records profession isn’t the only professional group that has chosen to frame its practices in terms of ‘information’. Librarians, data analysts, statisticians, knowledge managers and computer scientists all claim that their work is focused on information and its capture, control or use. As Dretske puts it, ‘a lot of people these days want their product to be (or at least be intimately related to) information. So everybody ends up talking about his or her product as information. … There is a mess in this area and, as a result, a lot of confusion’.
I’ve explored these questions in my new book Records, Information and Data (Facet Publishing, 2018). In the book, I look at when and how concepts of information (and information management) became fashionable among records professionals. I also investigate the question of how records and information are, or might be, related: a question that isn’t as easy to answer as it might seem. I argue that seeing records in terms of information doesn’t give us a full picture of how records operate. Undoubtedly, users of records may view them as informative. But at the moment of their creation, records aren’t just a matter of information; they have distinctive roles in performing social actions. Many kinds of actions – some simple, others more complex – can be performed using records, and defining records as information crucially overlooks their performative aspects. People may expect to gain information from using records, but information and records aren’t identical. Information isn’t what records contain, or what records are; it’s an intangible benefit that records can offer to their users.
Not everyone will agree with my conclusions. Some, I’m sure, will violently disagree. I’d like to know what other people think. And I’d like to know whether reading my book helps them to focus their thoughts on the place of records and record-keeping in today’s society.
About the author
Geoffrey Yeo is an Honorary Senior Research Fellow at University College London. He writes about many different aspects of archives and records management. His personal webpage is at https://www.ucl.ac.uk/information-studies/geoffrey-yeo.
J. Searle, Making the Social World (Oxford University Press, 2010), p.71
F. Dretske, ‘The Metaphysics of Information’, in Wittgenstein and the Philosophy of Information, ed. A. Pichler & H. Hrachovec (Ontos, 2008), pp.273-4.
Facet Publishing announce the release of Records, Information and Data: Exploring the role of record-keeping in an information culture by Geoffrey Yeo.
In a society that increasingly emphasizes digital information and data, questions arise about the place of longer-established concepts such as records and archives. Records, Information and Data sets out to investigate the relationships between information (or data) and records, and, to examine the place of record-making and record-keeping in today’s information culture.
Eric Ketelaar, Professor Emeritus of Archivistics at the University of Amsterdam said, “Yeo’s book argues that the prevalent discourse which equates records simply with information or data is wrong. His innovative analysis of the performativity of records results in a fascinating new conceptual and practical understanding of the roles of records and archives in social action. Professionals in handling records, information and data, as well as users of records and archives and everyone interested in ‘the archive’, will gain from this perceptive and highly readable book a new comprehension of past, present and future information cultures.”
The book starts with an exploration of the concepts of records and archives; setting today’s record-keeping and archival practices in their historical context whilst examining changing perceptions of how these concepts are understood. It asks whether and how far understandings derived from the fields of information management and data science/administration can enhance our knowledge of how records function. Finally, it argues that concepts of information and data cannot provide a fully adequate basis for reflective professional thinking about records and that record-keeping practices still have distinct and important roles to play in contemporary society.
Professor Emeritus at The University of British Columbia, Terry Eastwood praised “Yeo’s searching examination” and said that “everyone in the records field or aspiring to enter it should read this book and ponder its many cogent arguments.”
Geoffrey Yeo is an Honorary Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Information Studies at University College London, UK. His previous work for Facet includes Managing records: a handbook of principles and practice (with Elizabeth Shepherd, 2003), and Managing records in global financial markets (with Lynn Coleman, Victoria Lemieux and Rod Stone, 2011).
Stay up-to-date with all the latest books from Facet by signing up to our mailing list
A sample chapter from Information Literacy in the Workplace is available to view and download from the Facet Publishing website.
The chapter, Learning within for beyond: exploring a workplace information literacy design, written by Annemaree Lloyd, discusses:
- how the intensification of work and creation of new ways of working can present librarians with challenges in terms of creating information literacy education that provides scaffolding for students’ transitions into professional or vocational practice.
- how by addressing this need, librarians must balance students’ transitions at both ends of the process – into higher education or vocational settings, and then into the workplace. This complexity requires a recasting of pedagogical practices to accommodate changes in the nature of work. With this in mind, common themes drawn from practice-based research are used to construct a conceptualization of workplace information literacy instruction.
Information Literacy in the Workplace, edited by Marc Forster, explains how information literacy is essential to the contemporary workplace and is fundamental to competent, ethical and evidence-based practice.
Sign up to our mailing list to hear more about new and forthcoming books:
Preserving our Heritage: Perspectives from antiquity to the digital age by Michele V Cloonan is the recipient of the 2016 Society of American Archivists’ Preservation Publication Award.
The book offers a unique compilation of key texts from a range of international contributors, charting the development of preservation from its origins to modern day practice and offers an overview of longevity, reversibility, enduring value and authenticity of information preservation.
The Awards Committee said “Preserving Our Heritage is undeniably a monumental achievement and a welcome contribution to the bookshelves of preservation professionals everywhere”.
Established in 1993, the SAA Preservation Publication Award recognises and acknowledges the author or editor of an outstanding published work related to archives preservation and, through this acknowledgement, encourages outstanding achievement by others.