12 External impact

Sandra Ward and Martin White

The IIS was conscious of the importance of its external image from the start. Gaining a strong UK brand was essential for IIS to fulfill its fundamental aims to promote and maintain high standards in scientific and technical information work, to establish qualifications for those engaged in the profession and to act as a professional qualifying body for those engaged in scientific, technical and economics information work. A vibrant IIS profile was also needed in order to attract and retain members. Coining the term ‘information science’ was instinctive to its first members, scientists who ‘did’ information work. In retrospect, it was a brilliant branding move.

Gaining status as a leading information organisation was also essential if IIS was to influence nationally in matters of importance to its members and the cause of information management. IIS put little effort into overseas promotion, although it attracted overseas members and did its best to service their membership needs. With the approach of harmonisation of European regulations in 1992, this changed. The 1991-1993 Forward Plan included an objective to establish IIS among the leading associations in Europe in the field of information work and to support its members in facing the challenges, threats and opportunities offered by the Single Market.

As IIS aimed to establish a distinct external image and brand, responsibility for leadership was initially in the hands of a Public Policy Working Group. In 1978 its status was raised to become the External Liaison Committee, renamed External Affairs committee in 1985. In 1979 External Affairs was asked to consider the possibility of setting up a society to promote the interests of the information community as suggested by STIR. (STIR was a short-lived and informal lobby group of IIS members dissatisfied with the IIS status quo who argued successfully for change. See Chapter 2.) In 1993 Council’s committee structure was revised to bring PR, formerly a distinct committee, under the wing of External Affairs to improve and co-ordinate actions which might raise the IIS profile. In 1981, a task force was formed under the aegis of External Liaison to improve the reactive capacity of IIS and to campaign for the IIS point of view whenever needed. Ethics became important too and an Ethics Sub-Committee was set up in 1981 to determine whether an IIS code of ethics was needed, and whether IIS should engage with FOI and Data Protection. In March 1995 Council approved a Forward Plan which recommended disbanding the IIS Standing Committees and the External Affairs Committee. The role of External Affairs was then taken over by the IIS Director in consort with Management Committee; this was intended to enable the IIS to engage more speedily with matters of most concern to members,

Throughout these structural changes IIS recognised the value of member knowledge and experience and wanted to ensure that this was exploited fully. In 1976 IIS attempted to identify and list IIS members already actively involved in other external bodies.  Regular appeals were made via Inform for members to signal developments on which IIS should comment or make a submission and to volunteer their help as spokesperson.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, IIS pursued four principal strands of external activity:

  • IIS representation on bodies concerned with information.
  • Keeping a close watch on, and responding formally to, current and impending events and on publications such as government reports.
  • Direct lobbying of Government and other major bodies.
  • Co-operation with other information organisations on events.

Collectively, in 1981, these were the means adopted by IIS to influence areas of importance to its members, thus demonstrating relevance to current and potential members and establishing IIS’s role and status within the wider information community. They also opened up routes for IIS influence in government and public bodies within the UK, Europe and internationally.

Opportunities were many and External Affairs regularly reviewed priorities to avoid being swamped. In 1995 it identified four key areas for action; this focusing on specific targets would accelerate IIS responsiveness and relevance:

  • Freedom of Information, Data Protection and ethics (led by Sheila Corrall and Sarah Moran)
  • Intellectual property (led by Charles Oppenheim)
  • National Information Infrastructure (led by Ray Lester and Barbara Buckley)
  • Electronic networks including the information super highway (led by Ray Lester and Brendan Casey)

Each area was assigned a leader with responsibility for policy statements and forming a network of members willing to help on policy and consultations. For each area, a one page document was drawn up defining its scope, identifying key issues and any associated forthcoming events. These were published for comment via Inform and the internet. How far these specific plans progressed is unclear but IIS certainly became visible in these areas and a few dedicated individuals were audible and proactive voices.

Access to public information was an IIS flagship policy area. In 1986 IIS joined the Freedom of Information Campaign as an observer following the passing of the UK’s first Data Protection Act (1985). The Campaign succeeded in securing ‘The Access to Health Records Act’ November 1991. In 1993 the Campaign helped to draft the Right to Know Bill which incorporated the FOI Bill as well as provisions to reform the Official Secrets Act 1989 and amend the 1988 Companies Act. This passed its second reading but in 1996, Government blocked the Right to Know Bill, and the Medicine Information Bill at the report stage. The Campaign succeeded in its lobbying for the FOI Act 2000. This obliged public authorities to publish certain information about their activities and entitled members of the public to request information from them.

IIS, spearheaded by Charles Oppenheim, considered that it must address issues in accessing public information, and the need for a national information policy, directly. In 1996 it launched a consultation on information in the public domain and the policy and ethics of information using an open lecture and seminar as platforms. The organisations attending included many outside the traditional information ambit, testifying to the significance of the topic. Support for the formation of a Coalition of Public Information (CoPI) was given, inspired by an equivalent in Canada. This would aim to help government and society reach a consensus on the many legal, economic, political, social and other issues arising from the notion of publicly available information. A Steering Committee and smaller task force (to draft terms of reference and an initial plan of work) were set up, underwritten by IIS’s pump priming finance and administrative support.

Progress was rapid and in November 1996 CoPI held an inaugural meeting. Organisations and individuals were invited to join and an interim executive board was appointed. The board drew up a constitution, a business plan, a programme of activities and subscription levels to put CoPI finances on a sound footing and this was approved by its first AGM in May 1997. The IIS Director acted as CoPI’s secretary. Its mission statement was:

“…to ensure that the developing information and communications infrastructure empowers commerce, communities and individuals so that they can participate fully in social, economic and democratic activity. CoPI aims to influence information related policies and legislation.”

In March 1997 CoPI’s inaugural conference, entitled ‘Information and the Citizen – a two way street’ attracted high profile, prestigious speakers including Robert Hawley, the Data Protection Registrar, and Roger Freeman MP, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who had responsibility for overseeing the Government’s delivery of electronic services. A speaker from Canada presented a case study of their experiences. One outcome of the conference was an invitation from Roger Freeman to meet with him and his officials. CoPI was quickly established as an essential channel of communication with government and an influential and non-partisan voice. Following the meeting, at their request, with the Cabinet Office and senior executives from DTI, DEE, Treasury, the CCTA’s CEO, and the Citizens Charter Unit of the Central Office of Information, CoPI reported the discussion as ‘knocking on an open door”. Talks with senior figures from the Office of Public Services followed.  CoPI also held a second meeting with government representatives to explore areas of its potential value to government.

CoPI actively promoted the cause of improved access to public information. Its specific goals were to respond formally to three government initiatives: the House of Lords Select Committee enquiry on the Information Super Highway; to the Green Paper, ‘Government. Direct’ (a prospectus for the electronic delivery of government services to businesses and the public); and to the House of Lords report: ‘Information Society: an agenda for action in the UK’.  It also aimed to influence the work of the recently created Library and Information Commission, whose remit included setting up a National Information Policy. CoPI’s response to ‘Government. Direct’ stressed the importance of content provision, comprehensiveness, navigability, retrieval and access for the ‘have-nots’ and ‘can-nots’ as well as the ‘haves’. CoPI also expressed concern at the delay in implementing the proposed Freedom of Information Act following a change in government. The new government’s ‘Better Government’ initiative was also delayed.

By the end of 1997 CoPI’s financial and volunteer resources were running thin. Its activities were also constrained by the demands of the Companies Act which limited the extent to which CoPI could confer across a wide section of different interests. At that point, the CoPI Board agreed that CoPI “has addressed all the yawning gaps in public policy for information and Information Society issues featured in its 1997 manifesto”.  It determined to disband as a formally constituted body and operate and lobby as an informal alliance. By removing the need for formal membership, government agencies were now able to participate in discussions. Members paid tribute to IIS’s role in launching CoPI, providing pump-priming money and inspiring and supporting the enterprise.

Online database access – another IIS success

The word ‘online’ is now rarely used in terms of information research services but in the late 1960s a number of US computer services companies, notably Lockheed and System Development Corporation (SDC), set up hosted remote-access database services that enabled users to search through a range of what had up to that time been abstracts journals. These came about through a combination of the introduction of computer-based phototypesetting (which created a computer-readable file), the increased availability of low-cost telecommunications networks and advances in information retrieval.

Although both Lockheed and SDC had pilot services running in the USA from 1969 the two companies did not offer commercial services until 1972 using the Tymnet and Telenet global data services networks. Local access to these was through acoustic modems into which a telephone handset was placed.

Access to these services from the UK was made exceptionally difficult by the British Post Office (BPO) which at that time had a monopoly on the national telephone service.  On a point of principle the BPO objected to voice phone lines being used for data traffic as they had a concern that this would enable organisations to bypass its telephone exchanges. In the cause of preventing barriers to the burgeoning volume of online services and persuading the BPO to recognise the opportunity of a more liberal stance, IIS took action.

In parallel, the European Space Agency, which had close connections with Lockheed, decided to set up its own hosting service, which was launched as Dialtech in the UK at a very well attended meeting in London on 23 February 1976.

A combined Aslib/IIS/Library Association meeting was held in May 1976 to discuss issues with access, which was still costly and technically fragile. By this time almost 400 databases were available, with each of the increasing number of host services competing for the more important databases, a situation very similar to that between Apple and Google over smartphone applications thirty years later.

The access cost issue came to a head in February 1977 when the British Post Office published a new set of tariffs which were deemed totally unsatisfactory by the information community as they combined a quarterly line rental fee and a charge for the number of characters transmitted. This character charge would inhibit quite substantially the use made of these services. In addition, the BPO had a monopoly on the provision of modems that could be used to access its networks. IIS members were outraged, and IIS surveyed its members on the issue to understand the tangible impact of these fees.

A small meeting of IIS members was held in London on 14 March 1977 to consider what actions should be taken. This was chaired by Reg Nightingale (British Petroleum). From this meeting the IIS decided to take a lead in remonstrating with the BPO and a meeting took place on 30 May between the BPO and senior members of the Institute, led by Reg Nightingale (Development Committee) and Dr Alison Simkins (Smith Kline French and a member of the IIS Council). At that time, Peter Hoey (Tate & Lyle) was Chairman of Council and his support was crucial at a time when the IIS was frankly making a real nuisance of itself with the UK’s national telephone company. According to Reg Nightingale, the BPO was expecting a group of librarians and instead found itself talking to senior managers in some of the UK’s largest companies, who were also of course major customers of the BPO.

Although the lead was taken by the IIS (representing the user community) there was also good support from Aslib representing the corporate community and SCONUL representing academic libraries.

During 1977 the situation changed quite rapidly, helped by the launch of EURONET, a data transmission network funded initially by the European Commission and with the national telecommunications authorities acting as local partners. This network used the X25 packet switching technology which had largely been developed by Donald Davies and his team at the National Physical Laboratory near London. This technology rendered acoustic modems irrelevant. Additionally, the British Post Office did not want to seem obstructive to the EURONET project. As a result a new agreement was reached just in time for the first International Online Information Meeting (IOLIM) conference and exhibition (December 1977, organised by Roger Bilboul, Steve Stevens and Harry Collier). An outcome of this conference was a meeting that resulted in the establishment of UKOLUG (See Chapter 4).

By 1978 IIS could demonstrate these services being accessed through phone calls to a switching exchange in Paris and then to the Tymnet and Telenet services to the USA.  The French public telecommunications organisation (France Telecom) took a more liberal view of the situation.

There is no doubt that the early and quite robust approach taken by the IIS in 1976 and 1977 was a major factor in gaining a sensible outcome in terms of usage fees from the British Post Office and in promoting the benefits of online information retrieval services.

Representation on other bodies

Formal representation on other bodies concerned with information was a significant route for IIS influence. Council confirmed this in its 1984/85 development plan including strengthening links with the LA and Aslib. In 1987, the IIS development plan stimulated a ‘Working Party on External Relationships’ to identify professional bodies with which formal and/or informal co-operation or liaison was desirable, and appropriate ways of establishing and maintaining such relationships. The 1991 AGM voted for continued forms of co-operation with other UK and European bodies to help achieve the IIS goal of visibility and reputation within Europe. Seven specified European professional organisations approved by Council were to be contacted. By 1995, when falling membership figures were an issue, IIS also sought to seek members beyond the traditional corpus by forging links and alliances with external bodies in the UK and overseas.

Influencing the UK government

The key links were with the Department of Education and Science (DES), the House of Commons select committee on Science and Technology (DSCST), and the Department of Trade. IIS seems to have taken as many opportunities as its resources enabled to voice opinions and concerns.

The 1979/80 list of activities reinforces the Institute’s dynamism.

  • Comments were submitted to the DES on the report of the Library Advisory Council for England, stressing that all reviews of policy frameworks such as the British Library or local government must consider information systems as well as libraries.
  • Submissions (with the LA) to DSCST reviewed the information retrieval field including information producers, intermediaries and users.
  • A paper was submitted to DSCST emphasising the need for improved co-ordination and communication to assist the development of the information industry and its component elements.
  • A submission to the Wolfenden Committee on payments for photocopying from learned journals.
  • A joint policy brief with the LA on local government information services.

All of these were undertaken in a 12 month period.

Membership of other information focused organisations

IIS established links with several information focused organisations. Most important and listed in alphabetic order were:

  • CICI (the Confederation of Information and Communications Industries) which IIS joined in 1985. Its formation arose following the ITAP report ‘Making a business of information’, which suggested a federation of organisations representing the information industry. The BL, Publishers Association, IEPRC and IIS applied for membership alongside the LA, Aslib, and the IDPM. An initial piece of work considered the development needs and policies in its component sectors. By 1986 IIS considered CICI needed to do better to justify IIS membership. Its pamphlets ‘Information: a key British industry’ and ‘Barriers to the development of the information industry in the UK and the EEC’ were published. IIS membership ceased in 1991 when it was no longer seen as value for money.
  • CIQM In 1991 UKOLUG with the LA established the Centre for Information Quality Management (CIQM) to act as a central point/clearing house through which database users could report issues relating to database quality via a one- stop phone number. This monitoring service was used heavily, providing evidence to lobby database producers for improved quality. In 1994 CIQM attracted funding from Whitaker and produced its first report summarising calls received: incorrect data, duplicate records, and poor service from help desks. In 1995 CIQM reached an informal agreement with NFAIS (National Federation for Abstracting and Indexing Services) to share work on database quality. An irregular newsletter db-Qual was launched in 1996.
  • CSTI IIS membership of the Council of Science and Technology Institutes was valuable for the opportunities to increase awareness of information science, information scientists, and their value in the industries which CSTI represented. In 1980 IIS gained the chance to contribute to the Finniston Report ‘Engineering our future’ and ensured this contained a section which stressed the need for special expertise to handle the information requirements of the engineering industry.
  • EBLIDA (European Bureau of Library, Information and Documentation Associations) In 1991 IIS was represented on a working party of EU organisations to link related associations in the EU together. This led to the formation of EBLIDA (European Bureau of Library Information and Documentation Associations) in 1992. IIS was a founder member and on the Temporary Committee setting up the organisation. IIS contributed to the draft constitution and subscription levels and ensured a budget for expenses. EBLIDA’s role was to communicate with, and report actions of, the EU Commission, Parliament, and other EC bodies. IIS saw this as its preferred route to being heard more clearly by the European Parliament and Commission. IIS was represented on its Executive Committee until 2002 firstly by Sheila Webber and then by Elspeth Hyams. EBLIDA is still active, and an account of its history can be found at its website (www.eblida.org).
  • EUSIDIC (the European Association of Information Services) was a unique forum of database producers, online hosts and information scientists with an active research programme. IIS joined EUSIDIC in 1981 but discontinued its membership in 1991 on value for money grounds. By then EUSIDIC had issued several guides to good practice in the information community, e.g., updating and correcting electronic databases and guidelines for CD-ROM supply conditions and pricing.
  • Foundation for Science and Technology. In 1995 IIS became accredited to this charitable organisation which aimed to assist better public understanding of science and technology and encourage collaboration between societies. It provided services to learned and professional societies in administration and governance and support for implementing interdisciplinary activities. Through it, IIS could hold seminars, lectures, and meetings at City University and access collaborative purchasing schemes for members of learned societies. The Foundation was judged to be of considerable value to the IIS Office. The Foundation is still active (www.foundation.org.uk).
  • JCC (Joint Consultative Council and its Copyright Committee) JCC was established in 1971 as a long-term co-operation between IIS, LA, SCONUL, Aslib, and the Society of Archivists. In 1975 the group decided to discontinue meetings but continue with the nomination of representatives in case a meeting was required. The secretaries of each organisation then met every 18 months. The tripartite conference of 1980 highlighted the need for a concerted effort to brief the UK Government on the need for a national information and library policy and JCC was reconvened with the same members. JCC also acted as an umbrella organisation to encourage collaboration between its members and to strengthen its consultative processes so that JCC could better represent their member’s joint professional interests and their responses to policy developments in the UK and EEC governments. In 1990 the JCC Copyright Committee was reconstituted to address policy issues in the implementation of the 1988 Act and the impact of EEC harmonisation. Tamara Eisenschitz of City University represented IIS until 2002.
  • LINC (The Library and Information Co-operation Council was first established in 1989 with a goal to improve the sector’s effectiveness in the UK and the Republic of Ireland. IIS became a subscribing member in 1992. IIS remained a member until 2002.
  • LISC (The Library and Information Services Council) included an IIS representative and worked for several years towards co-operation and co-ordination in the sector and towards a National Strategy for LIS. IIS worked with JCC, LISC and CICI to influence the White Paper on Copyright in 1985.  LISC was wound up following the creation of the Library and Information Commission in 1995.
  • NFECI (National Forum on European Communities Information) was formed in 1995. IIS secured representation from the start and was actively involved in drafting its aims and objectives. The Forum’s main role was to make representations to the Commission on information matters.
  • The Society of Indexers approached IIS in 1979. One of the Society of Indexers’ council members was also a member of IIS, and it was suggested that a member of the Society should be invited to attend IIS Council as an observer. It was also suggested that common interests could be catered for in joint meetings e.g. the 1980 tripartite conference.

OSTI, the Office of Science and Technology, should also be mentioned here. As part of the UK’s Department of Education and Science (DES) it can be credited with stimulating interest in Information Science in the late 1960s and beyond through the funding of projects to many key figures in the industry and the Institute.


These two organisations shared an aim of increasing the impact of library and information services across the UK through fostering co-operation and influencing government. The IIS contribution to both was valued. Alan Blick, the IIS member on LISC, noted that “IIS response to consultations is constructive in approach, extremely professional and also timely”.

LINC saw the merit of library co-operation with public advice agencies and potential threats to the Government’s social policy agenda if the role of libraries was ignored. Its response to the Green Paper ‘The Learning Age; a renaissance for a new Britain’ urged progress in joined up policy making e.g. Super Janet, NHS net and the National Grid for Learning. It also mooted establishing ‘a Library and Information Commission’.

LISC pressed for Government to develop a national strategy for library and information services using its annual open meetings to explore relevant issues and influence its agenda. In 1986 a working party with IIS representation convened to consider the role of Government in co-ordination of Library and Information Services. In 1988, an IIS delegation met the Minister for the Arts, Richard Luce to present IIS views on current issues in the LIS community.

Copyright and Intellectual Property

Copyright legislation (UK and European) had the potential to severely impact information services and required close scrutiny and active lobbying.

In 1981 the UK government published a Copyright Green Paper to which IIS responded with a position paper in 1982 that included ten far-reaching recommendations. The succeeding White Paper was published in 1986 when IIS representatives met with the Minister for the Arts to discuss changes. Lobbying for changes continued, including direct discussions with the DTI until 1988 when The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act reached the Statute book. In 1992 IIS made a formal response to the Draft Directive on the legal protection of databases, concerned that databases which are compilations of non-copyright information would have only limited protection (their paper versions).  IIS also wanted clear information on the duration of copyright in a database. IIS welcomed a clause to guard against anti-competitive restrictions on database usage.

IIS ensured that members were aware of the implications of UK and EU legislation via Inform updates, text retrieval conferences, seminars and meetings. In January 1992 a seminar was held to help members deal with the complexity of the ‘1988 Copyright Act and its 1989 regulations as Statutory Instruments’, and one on ‘Electronic Copyright: Current UK Law and expected changes from new European Directives’. Branch and SIG events continued to educate members up to 2000, e.g. ‘Copyright for the uninformed or the idiot’s guide to copyright’(Northern Branch, March 2000)[1].

JCC and JCC Copyright Committee

From 1992 most copyright-related IIS action in the UK was channeled through the JCC Copyright Committee and for European matters through EBLIDA.

This committee acted on every planned change to legislation as summarised below. Where available, the IIS specific contribution is noted.

In 1991 the JCC Working Party on Copyright together with IIS lobbied BSI to modify its policies for copying and lending British and Foreign Standards. BSI agreed to reinstate its foreign standards lending service and review charges though not the high cost of purchase.

In 1992 the Committee commented on publishers’ concerns at electronic text being republished and the wastage of time caused by courts accepting only originals. It broadly accepted the EC’s draft directive on the protection of databases but thought provision of unauthorised copying of databases, protected only as a compilation, would confuse. Members of copyright licensing schemes were advised to consult a member of the Committee before approaching rights owners to negotiate.

By 1994 the JCC was monitoring responses to WIPO documents on a possible protocol to the Berne Convention. These proposed following the EC’s approach for computer programs and databases. A response to ‘Authors in the Electronic Age’ supported the rights of authors to try for maximum licensing and exploitation.

In 1996 the new licence from the Newspaper Licensing Agency was judged too costly for industry and commerce and was considered to be probably unworkable. A JCC position paper ‘Copyright in the digital environment’ was published by its constituent bodies including IIS. JCC commented on new WIPO proposals and ensured that the adverse impact of HMSO privatisation (Copyright in Crown and parliamentary material permission to copy) were loosened and simplified. (The 1999 subsequent White Paper was judged a step in the right direction but insufficiently ambitious.)

JCC wanted to ensure that reproduction rights of users balanced fairly with the economic interests of rights holders and that ‘communication with the public’ was defined clearly. JCC campaigned for users to gain access to works in electronic form and to be able to make use of the information and ideas in these works. The Copyright and Rights in Databases Regulations 1997 was passed.

In 1998, EFPICC (European Fair Practices in Copyright Campaign) was launched in the House of Lords. JCC lobbied and expressed concerns that training in new copyright procedures must be established. It started to monitor implementation of the Database Directive to ensure access and user rights were not diminished.

In 1999 JCC was invited to be represented on The Data Base Marketing Strategy Group, set up by Government to consider the implementation of the EC Directive on the legal protection of databases and proposed clarification of several definitions, e.g. ‘lawful user’; ‘when a database is covered by database right’; ‘commercial purposes’; and many others. JCC also submitted a detailed report on the Database Directive to the Group; (no database users had made submissions). The draft EU directive on ‘Copyright and the information society’ was on the verge of being published. The draft directive on electronic copyright was of concern too and JCC expressed anxiety at the EU’s focus on the economic management of a product and not the importance of its contents. A move to a system of specific and guaranteed rights for users was required and the term ‘fair practice’ needed to be defined. The JCC stressed that information science and library communities would need to make an almighty fuss if this were to change.


The IIS 1991-93 Forward Plan aimed to ‘establish the IIS among the leading associations in Europe in the field of information work and to support our members in facing the challenges, threats and opportunities offered by the Single Market’. External Affairs thus established a committee to consider the IIS relationship with EC professional organisations and other ‘1992’ issues. EBLIDA was an instrument for these, as well as the means to consider and act on EU Copyright and many information matters.

Influencing and co-operating with other organisations

The External Affairs brief included spotting opportunities where IIS needed to make its voice heard or was asked for evidence. Members were also asked to be the eyes and ears of External Affairs and keep IIS fully informed on external developments on which it should comment or make a submission.

Inform 1977 (7), 2 gives a typical example of activity:

“Our contacts with the British Library have been greatly strengthened in the last two years. There is now a BL representative on the Education Committee. IIS has been asked to present its views on the balance of BLRDD research between mechanised systems and other areas and IIS requested the Head of BLRDD (John Gray) to express in the appropriate government quarter, the views of several members concerning the need for legal access to American on-line information services”.

In 1982 Government was planning an Information Technology Year (ITY). Senior IIS members met with the Minister of Technology to press for priority to be given to content, i.e. information rather than only technology. The IIS was trying hard to put information science on the map. IIS planned to contact regional ITY offices with lists of available speakers. All SIGs and Branches were encouraged to use ITY in their meetings and conferences and IIS attempted to get speakers and an exhibition booth at a forthcoming Barbican Conference. These efforts succeeded in bringing the IIS to the attention of influential people.

In 1987 IIS made a submission to ACCORD, The Advisory Committee for the Research and Development Department of the British Library. A wide range of its members had been asked to comment on future LIS research and funding opportunities and IIS views were presented directly by the IIS Chairman and Vice-Chairman. One outcome was the agreement to disseminate news and research results via Inform.

By 1988 Council determined that contacts with Government and other professional bodies should be developed further to increase IIS influence on government plans and priorities.  IIS was already co-operating well with the BCS, Aslib, the LA and other bodies concerned with information matters. Immediate targets were the Minister of Information Technology and the Office of Arts and Libraries.

1993 saw IIS asked to provide evidence to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission (MMC) concerning the supply of historical online databases for archival business and financial information, specifically that from news databases. This was triggered by FT-Profile’s decision to remove the FT database from other hosts; the special contractual terms FT Profile imposed on information brokers; and the effect of Dialog’s acquisition of Data-Star. IIS External Affairs, CIG and UKOLUG collaborated on the response. The MMC’s much redacted report confirmed there was technically a monopoly regarding FT-Profile and Data-Star Dialog, both with over 30% of the market, but that there was enough choice in terms of other suppliers with competitive rates that the monopolies did not operate against the public interest.

British Library (BL) The Library’s services, both collections and interlending facilities, were of considerable importance to IIS members. Following the well-received IIS response to the BL’s draft strategic plan 1993-2000, its CEO requested a meeting with IIS to explore its views. IIS stressed the importance of scientific and business information; welcomed the emphasis on computerised information handling techniques; and highlighted the need for professional development and leadership in the UK library and information community. It was, however, concerned at possible conflicts between collection development and BL’s delivery of current services and access to collections.

In 1982 IIS published submissions to the Hunt Committee of Inquiry into Cable Broadcasting in the UK recommending a more long-term view be taken and the consolidation of the diverse and anachronistic spread of Government responsibilities for communications.

1994 saw four important submissions to external bodies.

The British Library published its Working Party Report on Electronic Publishing. IIS contributed significantly to its deliberations. Sheila Corrall of the External Affairs Committee was the IIS representative and other IIS members provided specialist views to the Working Party. The report recommended a national strategy for provision of infrastructure with opportunities for all types of library and information services to become involved in national and metropolitan networks. Suppliers were advised on elements for contracts with checklists of good practice for users.

External Affairs submitted the IIS response to the Follett Report on the future of academic libraries. While IIS welcomed the report’s pragmatism, it felt that forging a vision for the long-term future of the sector had not been wholly addressed, neither had the complexities of intellectual property. Rather than supporting new e-journals, IIS thought investment should be made in exploring the overall communication system linking the supply chain from author to user. On the IT front, IIS suggested exploitation of current tools, e.g., the Internet, rather than starting from scratch. And it urged the extension of discussions to the BL and the public library sector both of which play a key role in services to academia. IIS called for more attention to training and development and signaled its readiness to be involved in further discussion on the training front.

External Affairs committee submitted a four-page document commenting on the draft report from the team carrying out the Public Library service review and a study of competitive tendering in the public sector for the then Department of National Heritage (DNH). Users had to be able to access the range of information and entertainment available through networks. Public libraries should focus on core services to a very high standard then focus on the user needs in their areas. They should continue to be funded by local authorities. A manual describing good practice should be designed. Following the Minister for Arts’ Report, IIS advocated a study of library sponsorship in terms of gains and drawbacks and published a discussion paper with a range of ideas.

Library and Information Commission (LIC) IIS made an extensive response to the Consultative Document from the DNH proposing the setting up of a new Commission to advise on library and information issues (subsequently the LIC). This IIS welcomed, but thought the withdrawal of support for LINC ill-advised. It recommended that the new Commission should have powers to direct policy concerning information matters that cut across government department boundaries. The private sector should be considered as well as the public sector. Start-up funding must be provided to the Commission. It also noted that the need for electronic infrastructure to support policy had not been considered.

In 1999 the Council of Europe’s conference ‘Cultural work within the Information Society’ aimed at engaging EU governments to foster labour and employment policies that would positively support development of the creative and cultural sector. The specification of new professional profiles for workers in these new industries was part of their process.  IIS helped this task with the Criteria for Information Science and its self-assessment matrix, which was used to extend the range of the definitions. Controversially for our sector, the draft recommendations suggested that knowledge workers and only ‘to a lesser extent, information professionals’ should acquire managerial skills, professional skills, and creative capabilities. It also exhorted knowledge workers and information professionals to acquire competencies in informatics, and develop legal, communications and language skills.

Aslib (then the Association of Special Libraries and Information Bureaux) and the LA The co-operation of these bodies in gaining access to online databases has already been covered but was not the only instance. These two organisations co-operated with IIS both together and individually.

1980 saw the first multipartite conference organised by IIS, LA and Aslib at Sheffield; the second was held in 1985 in Bournemouth. By then two additional sponsoring organisations had come on board (the Council of Polytechnic Librarians and the Society of Archivists). The conference theme was ‘Information as a Social and Economic Commodity’. 1990 saw the ‘Information UK 90’ multipartite conference and exhibition in Bournemouth; its Advisory Committee comprised Aslib, IIS, and the LA and it was funded and directed by the British Library’s Research and Development Department (BLR&DD). Although preliminary planning began for a fourth multipartite in 1995, the LA, Aslib and IIS decided not to progress the plans but instead to hold one or more half or full day events on topical issues for the profession.

In 1983 Council considered the nature of co-operation between the three organisations. The feasibility of direct administrative integration was not thought appropriate ‘at this present time’. The question ‘Are librarians and information scientists moving toward a common identity or are our paths diverging’ was discussed. The IIS 1984/85 development plan confirmed that links with the LA and Aslib should be strengthened without IIS being absorbed by either body, and the current level of IIS representation on external bodies should be sustained. Co-operation in specific areas e.g. joint representations to government would continue. Then, in 1989, Wilf Saunders published his report recommending the merger of IIS, LA and Aslib, ‘Towards a unified professional organisation for library and information science and services’. Council urged IIS members to read and comment on Professor Saunders’ recommendations before the AGM, where it would be a major topic of discussion. For and against views were argued in Inform[2].

The AGM voted for Council to explore opportunities for closer relationships with the LA and Aslib, enter direct discussions with them when appropriate and report back to members within a year. An IIS working party on the Saunders Report was actioned to prepare a report on: the fundamental objectives of IIS membership, services and benefits expected; trends in the information field; an overview of the major options for merger or co-operation; an assessment of the pros and cons of the major options; and the questions which needed to be addressed. The great merger debate on the Saunders Report continued in 1990 with strong concerns that the special ethos of IIS would not survive a merger with LA and Aslib.

Discussions as a tripartite group had resulted in a mission statement, strategic objectives and an outline structure. Aslib withdrew from tripartite talks in July 1990 and the IIS AGM decided to withdraw from further merger talks with LA.

The unification story began again in 1996 when considerable debate over the future of IIS and concerns at its viability long term dominated the run up to the 38th AGM. A Resolution from Ray Lester to initiate exploratory discussions on a formal alliance with the LA was put to the AGM. Debate failed to achieve a clear result. A postal vote called for by the IIS outgoing President was then held. The result was 452 for; 199 against; and 15 abstentions. Council then approved a working party to be formed by Management Committee with other Council members to pursue implementation.

Other examples of co-operation were the many meetings, seminars and conferences undertaken in partnership, too many events to list here. Notable partners included: Aslib on training; LA on accreditation; the BCS on text retrieval, TFPL on seminars; Dialog and Butterworths for career development meetings; AIOPI (now PIPA) for seminars; HERTIS for joint meetings and workshops in conjunction with the Library Technology Fair; CIMA and Learned Information for seminars; the International Development Forum for seminars on information for developing countries.

IIS also took advantage of other organisation’s events to exhibit, e.g., The Library Technology Fairs (LibTech) and the International Online Information Meeting (IOLIM) conference and exhibition, all formed part of its external influence and branding activities.


  1. Inform, Diary, 2000, 222, p7
  2. See Inform, 1989, Issues 117, 118, 119.


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Evolution and impact: a history of the Institute of Information Scientists 1958-2002 Copyright © 2022 by Sandra Ward and Martin White is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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