3 Committees

Sandra Ward

Committees were the work horses of the Institute and all credit must be given to those who were prepared to stand for election to them. In the natural order of professional institutes, the Institute’s Committees adapted and changed as the information field developed. This chapter shows the development of the Committee structures and their activities in chronological order. The Institute was lucky to recruit so many excellent members to its Committees and Working Groups despite pressures on working lives steadily increasing throughout its life.

In 1959 the first Committees were established to deal with Membership applications, the Constitution, Meetings (including Publications), and Education. Council members filled most spaces but some Committees included other members. The Development Committee was formed in the 1960s to stimulate new ideas and was deliberately populated with younger members.

By 1970 Management, Education, Development, Meetings, and Membership were the principal committees supplemented by a Publications Advisory Committee and a Research Working Party.

In 1975 the Research Working Party was upgraded to become the Research Committee and the Publications Advisory Committee was replaced by the Publications Committee. The latter was responsible to Council for all IIS publications and expected to establish sub–committees for each IIS regular publication. In 1976 a Publicity Working Group to arrange effective publicity for the work and aims of the Institute including a logo and consistent house style became operational.

By 1978 the Forward Planning Working Group (FPWG) had commissioned a full survey of membership with a 10% sample to ascertain their needs and expectations. This recommended the creation of the Finance Advisory Committee. In the same year, the Publicity Working Group’s request to be given the status of a proper committee was accepted, with its Chairman Paul Harris co-opted onto Council. Likewise the Public Policy Working Group, which had been drawing together the external activities of IIS, was renamed the External Liaison Committee. The Research Committee’s role as an advisor to other Committees, Branches and Members was endorsed as IIS was very unlikely to be able to finance research projects itself.

In 1979 Development Committee issued proposals for a revised IIS structure including a new Executive Committee to deal with current IIS business and recommend matters for Council discussion. Changes in other Committee remits were agreed. These included the reconstitution of Research Committee as a SIG; and devolution of much of the work of Meetings Committee to Branches. This led to the formation of a Southern Branch to ensure every member throughout the UK had access to a branch.

That year saw a Membership drive to increase membership and achieve a broader based Institute: Membership Committee was asked to co-ordinate efforts across the Institute to reduce lapsed subscriptions. A concerted effort to recruit new members was made.  Council urged members to recruit others and endorsed a broader definition of information work to increase the Institute’s appeal to new audiences. A stand at the LA conference showed how much work needed to be done to promote the role and responsibility of an information worker and the Institute. A revision of subscription rates was planned.

Publicity Committee produced a new and more impressive Corporate Membership certificate and a new leaflet for employers, Every company should have one!  A large, bright poster to be used at meetings where the IIS stand was impractical was also produced and distributed to all Branches and SIGs. A portable IIS poster stand was made available for loan.

By 1980 Publicity Committee had commissioned an Institute’s Presidential Medal to be worn on a royal blue neck ribbon on public occasions e.g. AGMs and the IIS Conference and when representing IIS at non-IIS events. Small replicas of the medal were designed too and were given to Past Presidents. The committee also developed t-shirts for members to purchase.

In 1980 a President’s Committee is mentioned – presumably composed of the three members of the Presidential team. This urged Executive and Council to launch a Sponsorship Campaign (Council set a target of £12,000); to appoint an Executive Officer as soon as possible with a London office and secretarial assistance; and to develop additional and net revenue earning activities – publications, mid-career training services; additional conferences and seminars, and appointment/ recruitment services. Their report indicated how these might be established on a financially sound footing. Development Committee’s 179-page report on a survey of member and potential members’ views on how IIS should improve its status, services and facilities complemented and extended the Presidential ideas. The survey results recommended IIS build up the status of information professionals by involvement in consultations with Government and relevant commissions; promote recognition of IIS’s information science qualifications; support personal contact and exchange of useful knowledge; organise meetings on significant advances in the field and on political and intergovernmental matters; plus create more publications on new developments and the state of the art in important topics.

1980 was a year that saw IIS really motoring ahead. Publications Committee was busy staffing the IIS stand at conferences and exhibitions and providing posters for other IIS Groups and Members to use. Leaflets publicising every aspect of the Institute’s work, a welcome package for new members and leaflets for employers were developed, and notice boards were sent to libraries and information departments. The Committee urged members via Inform to play their part too by ensuring colleagues knew of the advantages of IIS membership. Council set a target to raise £12,000 by early 1981 to make a leap forward in publicity, publications, events and education and to convince employers that information scientists are valuable. A Working Party chaired by Cyril Cleverdon on improving the status of information scientists and one chaired by Peter Hoey on manpower requirements in the public and private sector both reported to Council. Further work on sponsorship was taken on by a group chaired by Monty Hyams. Manpower planning advice was taken forward by a group led by Sarah Carter, Council’s Vice-Chair. Further work on the status of information scientists was taken forward by External Liaison Committee.

Improvements in the membership application form were made following recommendations made by a group chaired by Tony Cawkell.

Chairmen and representatives from all Institute Committees agreed to use the results of Development Committee’s member survey to define specific goals for inclusion in an integrated Institute plan for action.

In 1981 Council approved and published a four-year development plan to enable all Committees and Working Parties to co-ordinate their activities and to evaluate progress against defined targets. The areas in the plan were:

  • Professional standing
  • Meetings
  • Publications
  • Employment
  • Education and professional knowledge
  • Other services
  • Membership
  • Administration.

The immediate priorities were:

  • Continued involvement with Government.
  • A comprehensive meetings plan.
  • Consideration of new technology as a feature of information work.
  • More local groups.
  • A membership drive.
  • Speeding up application and grade transfer processes.
  • Employing an Executive Secretary.
  • Sponsorship campaign.

Development Committee established a small working party to look into whether IIS needed a code of ethics and should get involved in FOI and Data Privacy. An Industrial Relations Working Party was established to determine the topics about which members most needed advice.

Membership had risen by 9% up to March and the Sponsorship Group had raised £8000 by June from Blackwells, Derwent Publications, ISI and the Thomson Organisation.  Economies in the IIS operating costs were being investigated by a working party, chaired by Alison Bridgewater, the IIS Treasurer. The AGM was warned that increased management costs and other overheads such as expenditure on publicity were not matched by membership income.

In 1982 the main issue concerning Council was revising the IIS Criteria. This task was assumed by Charles Oppenheim on behalf of the Education Committee. There were also concerns about the costs of duplicating and mailing Council papers. Any reduction of copies was firmly rejected by Council members, a view confirmed in further Council meetings.

With the revision of the Criteria completed and approved, marketing and promotion plans were made. This included inserting leaflets containing the Criteria into the IIS Membership pack; preparing a press release and holding a press conference; sending all relevant educational establishments copies of the Criteria; and publishing an article in Inform to explain how the Criteria were developed.

A proposal to merge External Liaison Committee with Publicity Committee or delegate some of their activities to other committees was rejected as impractical. It was agreed that the two committees would share a Chairman in 1982/83 to improve co-ordination of their activities. It was hoped that this change would address the problem of ensuring rapid press comment. It was acknowledged that if funds ever allowed, a Press Officer would be of great value.

In 1983 Publications Committee began to consider a book publishing programme following a survey which suggested that subjects dealt with by SIGs and IIS Conference are often suitable for book commissioning. Council agreed that the publication of material arising from IIS conferences, meetings and courses should be handled preferably by the Committee.

The IIS Development Plan was updated following the submission of resumés of their future plans by each Branch, SIG and Standing Committee.

By this time the number of IIS committees had reached 20. The seven committees reporting to Council through Executive were:  Development, Education, Meetings, two Membership Committees (to handle the volume of work), Publications, and External Liaison. Then there were five Branch Committees plus three local Groups with their own committees, and then the three SIG committees. Also, from time to time special working parties/committees were set up to advise Council on specific issues. This made the combined committee membership as about 150 people equating to 10% of IIS.

In 1984 Council reported that a working party of members of Executive Committee were undertaking a major investigation into the current administration of the Institute.

By 1985 IIS was still operating with the structure confirmed in 1980. Council comprised:

  1. The President, President-Elect, and Past President.
  2. Four Vice–Presidents, nominated by Council following suggestions from members and approved by the AGM. Each was elected for two years.
  3. Twelve corporate members elected by the membership normally for a three-year term.
  4. One non-corporate member for every 200 (or part thereof) of affiliates, or students in membership, up to a maximum of four, also elected by the membership.
  5. Honorary Secretary and an Honorary Treasurer.
  6. One corporate member representing each SIG and Branch of IIS, nominated by their SIG and Branch committees.

The Executive Committee met eight to ten times each year and attended to the detail of running the Institute smoothly and in accordance with overall policy and with Council’s decisions and instructions. The Executive comprised Vice-Chairman, Honorary Secretary, Honorary Treasurer and two or three members elected by Council.  Later and once appointed, the Executive Secretary was an essential member of the Executive.

By 1985 the number of standing committees had expanded to eight from the original four (Executive Committee was a ninth): Development, Education, External Liaison, Meetings, Membership, Publications, Publicity, and Research.  Whilst these names were broadly self-explanatory, each deserves clarification[1]:

  1. Development was regarded as the ‘think tank’ of IIS. Its role was future planning for IIS considering how best to expand the role and membership of the Institute. It was responsible for evaluating suggestions for IIS activities from Council and IIS members. Its medium- to long-term plans were updated annually and the suitability of processes to prepare the plans reviewed regularly. Approval was sought from Council, and plans which were then implemented to an agreed time scale, required actions from branches, groups and other committees. Development Committee also undertook projects relating to the Institute’s future. The role of its Chairman was to try to maintain a structure and purpose to discussions given that its members were generally younger and the most visionary members of IIS. Amongst the most capable was Rex Cooke who worked for the Institute of Gas Technology in London. Another important role of Development Committee was to get younger members involved in the Institute’s committee structure, thereby encouraging them to get further involved later.
  2. The Education Committee advised Council on all matters relating to education and training in information science. Its primary role was as the official owner of the Criteria for Information Science and to work with academic institutions in the UK on development and assessment of under- and post-graduate courses to establish whether these would satisfy the requirements of IIS in order to receive IIS accreditation. Graduating from an approved course conferred exemption of one to three years of the total practical experience required for corporate membership of the IIS. The committee’s work was onerous and as the number of courses increased, it had created two teams to work in parallel on course assessment. Latterly it also took on the role of promoting and advising on careers in information science and maintaining links with expert sources of career advice. The Institute’s Honorary Careers Advisor worked under its remit, supported by regional advisors. Membership of the Committee was regarded as a significant honour, as only experienced IIS members were appointed to the Committee and, in general, members had academic experience which was relevant to advising on course development.
  3. Membership Committee assessed applications for corporate and non–corporate membership of IIS, using two panels reporting to the Committee Chairman. The process was continual, and a list of new members was presented to each Council meeting for approval. The Committee also made recommendations to Council for the election of new Fellows and Honorary Fellows.
  4. External Liaison Committee was the public face of IIS. Its members were chosen for their experience and their capability to speak for IIS on specialist topics. This Committee operated on more of a virtual basis with the objective of ensuring that the Institute was represented on as many professional bodies and committees as possible. It maintained a watching brief on external developments relevant to information science, and regularly sought members to help it in this regard. It acted as the focal point for the preparation of submissions when IIS was asked to submit evidence to external bodies; or spotted an important issue that required its comments. Whilst External Liaison Committee would not necessarily prepare the input, it ensured that this was done by the most appropriate group or individual. It played a particularly important role in the development of access to the major online database services in 1977 when the Post Office (later British Telecommunications PLC) was forced to recognise that its barriers inhibiting access was against the wider interests of UK companies and other organisations.
  5. Meetings Committee ensured that the overall schedule of IIS one-day, half-day and evening meetings provided a balanced programme for members. Whilst in 1979 the Institute had devolved much of the work of Meetings Committees to Branches, by 1985 the Committee was playing an active role in arranging meetings, especially those in the London area, and providing a centre of expertise and experience across IIS in meetings organisation. During the mid-1970s the role of Meetings Committee had been expanded to cover educational courses (linking with Education Committee) and specifically to be the central focus for, and maintaining the quality of, the national conferences. Institute policy required that the Conference venues rotated around the country. Whilst there were always members in each area that were very keen to have the visibility of being a conference organiser, few had much in the way of experience in running a conference, and above all coming up with a realistic budget. For these large meetings ad hoc committees were set up. The chairperson of the conference was always appointed as an ex-officio member of Meetings Committee to facilitate their role. Increasingly the Committee became involved in co-operating with other groups e.g. the RSC, BCS and LA.
  6. Serial and book publishing were the domain of Publications Committee. The editors of Inform and the Information Scientist/Journal of Information Science were members. The Committee prepared and implemented policy following Council’s approval. It was responsible for the quality and financial control of the Information Scientist, Inform, Sourcefinders and the IIS Monograph series. This included commissioning authors for new titles, seeing publications through their lifecycle, and managing contractual and financial aspects including advertising, e.g. the contract with Elsevier North Holland (discussed further below) to create the Journal of Information Science from the Information Scientist and latterly its transfer to Bowker-Saur and to CILIP.
  7. Publicity Committee owned the responsibility for the IIS external image in a very practical way. Directed at IIS members and the profession at large, the various routes at its disposal included IIS branding, publicity leaflets, presentations, exhibition stands, press releases and other means.
  8. The Research Committee no longer undertook research. The role was to monitor the research that had been carried out that was of value to IIS members and to provide IIS input into the scope and conduct of research projects, especially those being undertaken by the British Library Research and Development Department (BLR&DD) which welcomed the interest that the IIS showed in its research projects and the efforts it took to raise awareness. Indeed, there was usually a representative from BLR&DD on the Committee. The front page of the first issue of Inform features a research column prepared by members of the then Research Working Party[2].

By 1985 concerns were being expressed over the sustainability of this structure. Issues included:

  • IIS had struggled to manage its finances.
  • IIS lacked commitment to its Forward Plan.
  • Some committee responsibilities overlapped.
  • The effort required to sustain good communications between committees, branches and groups was considerable, often leading to oversights and duplication of effort.

This led Council to question whether it had the right committees. This was the background to the presentation of a paper, jointly produced by Development and Executive Committees, for the October 1985 Council meeting. This was presented by Elspeth Scott and proposed a thorough review and rationalisation of the standing committees.

Review of committee structure 1986

A working party was established to look at the current roles and functions of committees and communications within IIS with the goal of recommending an organisational structure to maximise the efficiency of IIS functions. It started work in January 1986, chaired by Michael Aldrich, Past President, with a former Honorary Treasurer, Alison Bridgewater, and Janet Pope, former Honorary Secretary. Elspeth Scott was the corporate member of Council, Graham Tompsett, the non-corporate member, and the team included a consultant who had previously recommended IIS appoint a full time Executive Secretary and its move to offices in London.

The Working Party was brave and bold, examining the IIS role as a professional body, and considering how such a body should ideally operate – a surgical examination designed to deliver a structure which would satisfy several conditions critical to a professional body. These were:

  • It must have professional standards and be recognised as the professional body within the profession.
  • It must attract and recruit new members through effective marketing.
  • It must provide services to members and allow opportunities for their further development.
  • It must maintain a strong, supportive public image in external affairs.
  • It must manage its financial and administrative affairs effectively and efficiently.

The results were reported to Council in June 1985. The review recommended a structure based on two key areas: Control and Operations[3]. Control would encompass the Executive, Finance and General Purposes, and Policy and Planning Committees. All these would be composed of relatively senior people. Executive would be responsible for day to day management of IIS. Finance and General Purposes would have responsibility for budgets, financial planning and efficiency of operating procedures. Policy and Planning would look at policy more than twelve months ahead and assemble working parties to develop policies and meet other objectives. Operations would include: Marketing (recruitment and general PR); External Affairs (influencing government and relationships with other decision-making bodies, interaction with related professional groups and Public Relations although not necessarily doing this themselves); Professional Standards  covered membership applications (dealt with by a Standing Committee), and Standards (entry requirements, professional development, professional conduct, awards, accolades, fellowships and training);  Marketing would be responsible for recruitment of new members and general PR; and Membership Services which was envisaged as a large and powerful body, embracing people (career counselling and liaison with students, overseas members, branches and SIGs), events (conferences, meetings, exhibitions) and publications. Committee mechanisms for action might require sub committees or single individuals with special responsibilities.

All Committees would continue to report to Council. The Working Party considered this structure would increase efficiency by delineating authority and responsibility more clearly; improve services for members; provide members with more opportunities to participate; and make IIS more effective with a stronger focus on objectives and easier measurement of performance. Council’s response to the proposals was generally positive but having concluded that more discussion was needed, the report was made open for comments via the IIS office and tabled for the autumn AGM. The three Control Committees were established, and an Implementation Working Party was set up to plan delivery of the other agreed structural changes.

Implementation of structure review

The Implementation Group began its work straight away, chaired by Sandra Ward, and with the Group’s phone numbers displayed in Inform to encourage member involvement. Its members were Martin White, Christine Smith as convener, Pauline Duckitt, Ian Simpson, and Susan Hills. Its presentation to Council in January 1987 confirmed the results of the structure review and presented a migration process to get the new organisation in place. Council opinion was roughly equally divided between for and against; a strong concern being the need for more active members to staff the new functions, eight committees in all.

Nevertheless, Council approved the following committees be established immediately to improve operations: Membership Development; Member Services; Professional Standards to include Professional Development pro tem; and External Affairs. Two groups – Marketing Co-ordination and Publishing Co-ordination were to ensure cohesion of these activities between Committees. Council’s persistent concern was the relationship between Operations and Control Committees – this was referred to Executive and the Working Party to resolve[4]. By May 1987 this had been done and the existing Executive and Operations Committees were merged and re-named Management Committee, responsible for day to day IIS management and co-ordination of the other committees.  This nine-committee structure appeared complex but it was hoped the changes would ensure clarity and effective communication across the Institute.

Rapid implementation of the new structure was essential. Caretaker Chairmen were appointed straight away, most moving from previously similar roles and were tasked to draw up their terms of reference for the June Council[5]. Attracting members to volunteer for committees was always a problem but it was hoped that the logic of the new structure would appeal. A letter was sent from the IIS Chairman to existing Committee members, thanking them and asking if they wished to continue to serve, and on which Committee. This provided a talent pool for the new structure which was used by the Caretaker Chairmen to select members.

Committee responsibilities were:

  • Membership Development: all aspects of recruitment, careers advice to new and potential members, review of resignations, member surveys.
  • Member Services: all services to paid-up members including in-house journals and newsletters, conferences and meetings, salary surveys, local groups and SIG co-ordination, overseas liaison.
  • Professional Standards and Development: membership applications and Criteria; awards, codes of ethics, fellowships, liaison with educational establishments, research, training and continuing education and mid-career advice.
  • External Affairs: liaison with other organisations in the LIS field e.g. BL, CICI, EUSIDIC, and commenting on reports and issues with information implications.
  • Marketing Co-ordination: public relations, house style, press contacts.
  • Publishing Co-ordination: all aspects of the publishing process.
  • Finance – control of all IIS financial affairs, budgeting.
  • Policy and Planning – development of IIS policy on specific issues, long term planning, linking of IIS plans to budget, progress monitoring.

The Chairs of all Committees would sit on Management Committee so that all Chairmen would be in touch with others’ views and activities. The new allocation of responsibilities did seem instinctively workable with committees very clear on their distinct remits.

By September 1987 terms of reference for the new Committees and for the Marketing Co-ordination Group had been approved except the composition of the new Publishing Co-ordination Group. This still had to be approved due to Council concern that, with a Publications Sub-Committee of Member Services taking on the role of Publishing Co-ordination temporarily, the concept of an informal group from all parts of the IIS to share publishing expertise and co-ordinate ideas and activities would disappear. The co-ordination group was not, however, meant to interfere with those who currently carried out the major and onerous publishing roles in IIS.

This revitalisation and the IIS 1987/88 Forward Plan certainly stimulated energy and action. Four working parties were soon working on: the future of IIS Publishing; Professional Development; External Relationships; and Office Resources. A working party on Validation of Courses recommended revision of IIS Criteria to include Information Management and Information Technology. This was followed by an open meeting giving members a chance to comment on proposed changes.

Membership Development produced a recruitment strategy identifying sectors for action with firm targets and a plan for their engagement.  Attracting more members and their subscriptions was essential for IIS viability. Professional Development explored the needs of IIS members, current IIS provision and gaps, sectoral differences, and the interface with career development needs. Written evidence on needs and gaps was requested from all members via Inform.

In 1987 a working party chaired by J. Eric Davies was set up to examine a whole range of issues which might affect attitudes of members to participate in professional development, and the Institute’s capability to foster such activity.  A cross-section of six members of the profession with varying lengths of experience, occupation and subject interests undertook in-depth research reporting their insights and recommendations.  The report was issued in April 1989 and progressed via the Professional Standards and Development Committee to Council.  J. Eric Davies ‘Professional development and the Institute of Information Scientists’demonstrates the huge effort put in to pieces of work for the Institute by Members. Given the Institute’s tight finances, it also demonstrated the complexities of securing action for long-term strategies[6].

In 1989, Council endorsed extended and short versions of the areas of work undertaken by information scientists. These had been prepared by Membership Development Committee to define the promotional angle to be taken by IIS.

Fine tuning from lessons learned  

As the new Committees bedded in, adjustment was inevitable. In 1993 the committee structure was revised to bring Public Relations under the wing of External Affairs with the intention to improve and co-ordinate actions which could raise the IIS profile.  Council agreed in March 1994 that Management Committee should take over all the day to day administration and running of IIS, leaving Council to debate only strategic issues e.g. financial planning, PR policy, membership development policy, external affairs policy, membership service policy and so on.

Member interaction was critical to all IIS planning. Forward and strategic plans continued to be the mechanism for moving forward. A real push was made from 1995 to ensure that the IIS reviewed all its activities in light of the current plan; and Committees, Branches and Special Interest Groups were expected to use the plan and IIS targets to develop their agendas for the year. Targets were crucial to move IIS forward coherently.

In 1995 procedural changes for Council and Committees reduced Council meetings to three per annum; this move coincided with the appointment of the second full time Executive Secretary and an increase in the scope of the role.  Management Committee would meet more frequently to improve the speed of decision making, and more use would be made of ad hoc task forces.

In 1996 recommendations were approved for the further restructuring of IIS Standing and Advisory Committees and the External Affairs Committee. The work of the IIS Standing and Advisory Committees was subsumed into Management Committee; and much of the role of the External Affairs Committee was taken over by the role of the Executive Secretary.

In 1996/97 Council recommended the disbanding of Membership Development Committee too. The IIS Annual report for that year gives the membership and presents the activities of only four standing committees: Management Committee; Professional Standards and Development Committee; Publications Committee; and Events Committee.  From 1998, all these began to work actively on early unification activities in joint working parties with the LA. An extension of Publications activity to Public Relations was approved by Council in 1998/99.

These committees continued until 2001 and maintained IIS member services to the end with great dedication, though by 2000 the activities of Professional Standards were gradually subsumed in the Joint Accreditation Committee working with the Accreditation Board of the LA.




  1. Inform, 1985, 78
  2. Inform, 1975, April, 1
  3. Report of the working party to review the Committee structure, summarised in Inform,1986, 87, 6-7
  4. Council Report, Inform, 1997, (January/February), 4
  5. New Committee structure, Inform, 1997, (July/August), 4
  6. Journal of Information Science, 1990, 16, 369-379

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