4 Membership

Sandra Ward

This chapter deals with aspects of membership – numbers, categories and changes, admission i.e. achieving membership status, efforts to expand the number of members, members in the UK and overseas, membership fees and members’ salaries. We also mention the biennial salary survey.

Membership growth

Membership of IIS was open to information scientists throughout the UK. Starting with 85 members in 1958, membership had increased to 150 by 1959. In that year the first Articles set the IIS membership limit as 500. (This Article was amended in 1966 to increase the membership limit to 2000, and in 1988 when a target of 4000 was agreed by Council.)

By 1970 membership had reached 750 and continued to climb with occasional hiccups in growth. In 1979 there were 1486 members, growing to 2076 in 1985 and peaking at 2327 in 1988.

Further reports on membership are absent but it’s safe to assume that the 4000 target was never reached and that membership tailed off as the formation of CILIP became a definite goal.

Year Members
1958 85
1959 150
1970 750
1979 1486
1981 1300*
1982 1550
1983 2000*
1985 2076
1986 2090
1987 2221
1988 2327

*= approximate figures 

Membership categories

For a new information scientist in the early 1970s the barrier to joining the Institute was high. Even with science degrees, PhDs and the desk research that gaining a degree required, years of relevant work experience had to be gained – at least five initially. Achieving membership provided proof of real quality in the successful applicant.

IIS only admitted individuals as members. There was no organisational membership available, unlike Aslib where corporate membership dominated personal membership.

The first member grades were established in 1958 as Fellow, Member, Associate, and Student Member. These categories stood the test of time well, although the qualifying Criteria were periodically adjusted to accommodate the expansion in information science courses and changes to the experience needed. Post-nominals to be used by Members and Fellows were: M.I.Inf.Sci. and F.I.Inf.Sci.

Honorary Fellows came later and could use Hon.F.I.Inf.Sci. as the suffix to their name and title.

The Affiliate grade of membership was established for those newly involved with the profession via an Extraordinary Meeting in 1973[1]. This became the entry grade for many graduates starting their careers in the profession though some working experience had to be gained before admission. An Affiliate had to be a member of an association or institute or engaged in information professional graduate level work, deemed to be relevant to the Institute or having the necessary qualifications and employed in information work but lacking sufficient experience to be a member. By 1979 Affiliates were described as those who are academically qualified but gaining experience.

At the July and August 1979 Council meetings, considerable time was directed to discussing membership categories. Fellows, Members, Associates, and Students were then further classified into Corporate and non-Corporate Members. The 1979/80 AGM approved the following proposals:

  1. Fellows, Members and Associates would be known as Corporate Members and have full voting rights at AGMs, as did Honorary Fellows.
  2. Students and Associates were to be classed as non-Corporate Members and could not vote at AGMs.
  3. Members of the Institute who are not Corporate or Student members would henceforth be known as Ordinary Members. “An Ordinary Member shall be admitted to the Institute by Council if he or she is employed in information work or indicates a genuine interest and is ineligible for Corporate or Student membership”.
  4. An Ordinary Member would be entitled to vote on all matters excepting those relating to the Memorandum and Articles of Association, the professional status of members, educational policy, and membership fees.
  5. The term Associate would be used to describe Ordinary Members and included Affiliates and Student members no longer taking qualifications.
  6. The non-corporate members would include Student Members and Affiliates (who were defined as those who are academically qualified but still gaining experience).

These definitions were intended to encourage further members and were passed at the 1979/80 AGM when non-corporates were able to vote as the matter affected them. A motion asking for non-corporate members to continue to be able to vote at future AGMs was lost.

From 1979 the membership categories were: Fellows, Honorary Fellows, Associates (Corporate Members); Affiliates and Students were Non-corporate Members.  Associates would be encouraged to become members as soon as they achieved the necessary working experience with the aim that this grade would eventually disappear.   Many AGM attendees preferred the term Associate, but this could not be used to describe the non-corporate grades as long as any of the original Associates had not been upgraded to members.

Up to four Council members could be elected by the non-Corporate members.

Applying for Membership of the Institute

An application to become a member required the completion of a substantial form and references from one’s current employer. In 1979, a much simpler application form for non-corporates was created.

Admission to full membership required the applicant to be at least 25 with a degree granted by a British University or an equivalent accepted by Council or evidence of five years’ approved working experience in information work. Once the first part-time course had been established at Northampton College of Advanced Technology (later City University, which still offers courses in the field), success in the examination led to an IIS certificate. Admission to membership from 1961 required this certificate plus three years of practical experience with at least one of these gained since obtaining the qualification, or five years of experience without the certificate. As information science courses expanded, IIS accredited those courses and institutions meeting its Criteria and accepted their qualifications as evidence of relevant experience. Regular lists of IIS approved courses were published.

Other information scientists not yet qualified for full membership could apply to become Associates. Associates were information scientists with degrees or A level GCEs in two subjects including one science, plus approved experience of information work for not less than six years. No new Associates were admitted after 1978 but existing Associates could still upgrade to full membership until 1984 and Associates would be encouraged to become members as soon as they achieved the necessary working experience.

Student members were those attending a bona fide course leading to a degree or attending a course recognised by Council as being equivalent to a degree, or a graduate of a British university attending a bona fide course at an Institute of Higher or Further Education. A person could only remain a student member for up to six years following the age of 28. A discussion at the 1978 AGM failed to resolve concerns about the potential impact of the changes on Student Members.

In 1978 Council approved Education Committee’s proposal that courses which compare favourably with IIS Criteria should be deemed equivalent to one and a half years of experience in applying for IIS membership.

By 1984 a letter to Inform from Charles Oppenheim and Martin White expressed strong concerns at the Criteria to be met by Affiliates applying for full membership. Firstly six years as an Affiliate was too long before an application could be considered. Secondly the assessment of their job which an Affiliate must take before progressing to membership was formidable; the form was complex with no assistance available from the IIS office, and the process was too lengthy. Why not an interview? Or a workplace visit?  Thirdly, six years mitigates against those who move away from information work. The letter argued that IIS should be engaging with Affiliates more, encouraging them to stay in the profession and persuading them to become active members.

Membership application forms were revised and simplified later that year.

In 1991 a new and simplified form was developed for senior applicants for IIS corporate membership. By that year the Institute had approved courses at 17 institutions whose qualifications conferred reductions of one to three years in the five years’ experience required for corporate membership.

The Information Science Criteria as discussed in Chapter 8 and presented in Appendices 2 and 3 formed the basis for the Institute’s accreditation of courses in information science and the number of years that counted to working experience for its graduates when applying for Institute membership.

In 1977 Council clarified that teachers of two or more aspects of information science could apply to become members but only those who could demonstrate additional relevant experience would qualify.

In 1979 following Membership Committee’s exploration of widening IIS membership to those involved in the recording, computing or compiling of statistical data, Council decided that corporate membership could only be awarded if the job entailed the interpretation of statistical data and the applicant possessed the other qualifications needed for admission.

In 1985 an AGM agreed that student members no longer need to be following an information science course, but a course related to information management e.g. an IT course. This widened the numbers of institutions and courses that could be accredited considerably. This is covered in more detail in Chapter 8.

In 1995 Mike Lynch, the new IIS President, pointed out that IIS members are an ever-decreasing percentage of the expanding information profession. Professional Standards and Development Committee advised IIS to recognise the expansion in information professionals with computing or business backgrounds, courses in other disciplines with an information science component, and the changing portfolio of skills needed in the information age. A working party was set up to develop new Criteria for information science. In 1996 Revised Criteria for Information Science were published in Inform for comment by members (Inform 181) and then finalised (Inform 188). The Criteria could be applied using an easy, practical instrument; this was used extensively in academia.

In 1989 Policy and Standards Committee decided not to make any recommendations on the age requirement for membership as the whole issue of professional qualifications would need to be examined in the context of European harmonisation in 1992.

Overseas members

From the time it was formed, international information scientists sought out the Institute and by 1965 there were some hundred members in various countries including the USA where many leaders of the profession were members. Indian members suggested the formation of an Indian Branch in the 1960s but this was prevented by exchange restrictions. Overseas membership sustained itself for many years without much effort from the UK. Some overseas members took the Institute’s Certificate Examination. A proposal for the Certificate’s re-launch was considered by Management Committee in 1977 and referred back to Education Committee for more work. Council later approved the proposal.

In 1984 Council also considered whether IIS should aim for a greater international role and UK-based members could be identified to support the assessment and accreditation of overseas courses.

This cause was championed by Peter Havard-Williams[2]. To understand the needs of members overseas a survey was airmailed to overseas members in mid-1984. The questions explored demographics and likelihood of travel to the UK. Some 50% of overseas members travelled to the UK every one to two years. The survey also sought ratings for current IIS services.

The status conferred by IIS membership commanded a high value, publications were considered middling to high value. Airmail dispatch of Inform and JIS was considered to be low value. When it came to requests for improvements, a newsletter for non-UK members was high on the list. It was suggested that an Inform column on overseas affairs would encourage more active involvement and that an up to date, country by country membership list and the appointment of volunteer co-ordinators would be of benefit. Information management was a priority topic. Progress on the survey recommendations is unclear.

In 1986, stimulated by Peter Harvard-Williams, a limited-life Working Party on services to overseas members was launched and a further survey was undertaken. This reported to Council in 1987 and benefited from overseas members based in the UK as well as those in other countries. International membership had reached 200 of which 50% were ex-pats. Council approved only the Working Party’s recommendations that could be implemented with no costs and little effort. This included improving contact and liaison; promoting accreditation of overseas information science courses; and trying to extend the use of UNESCO coupons for payment of subscriptions.

Membership subscriptions                                                           

Membership rates increased with inflation and IIS plans and targets. The Institute aimed to cover its expenditure from membership fees, application fees and income from conferences, meetings and publications, donations and investment income. However, some years income barely covered the cost of servicing each member. These lean years were often succeeded by subscription increases. SIGs and Branches were urged by Council to contact lapsed members and encourage them to re-join. And member retention was a factor in encouraging more SIGs and local groups for a member to connect with.

In 1977 rates for retired members (those who had reached 60 and with ten years continued membership) were reduced to 50% Member rate.

No records of subscription rates in the 1950s and 1960s exist. In 1975 the Honorary Treasurer reported a deficit of £578 to the 1975/76 AGM. In February 1976 at an EGM the Honorary Treasurer proposed subscription increases: Fellow £15; Member £10.50; Associate and Affiliate £7.50; Student £3. This is the first mention of fees we’ve located. To put these rates in perspective, that year Lyons advertised an Information Scientist position at £2600 annual salary i.e. a weekly wage of £50 before deductions.

By 1978 IIS was heading for a deficit of £2600 (equivalent value approximately £11,500 in 2021) due largely to increases in operating costs. This led the Treasurer to propose increased subscriptions and an EGM was asked to approve the first subscription rise for three years for 1979: Fellow £20; Member £15; Associate and Affiliate £12.50; Student £4.

By 1986, Council approved a deficit budget of £11,000 with sufficient reserves to cover this and the understanding that this situation was not to continue.

1991 saw a financial deficit of over £8000 reported and 1992 subscriptions increased to:

£53 for Member, Fellow and Affiliate status of more than six years; other Affiliates and Students £12. Affiliates would now receive the same benefits as members.

In 1993 a proposal to the AGM made changes to Associate subscriptions. These were graduated to rise over six years to the equivalent of the corporate membership fee. A flat rate was set for overseas associates outside Europe including email communication. Membership was starting to fall, and it was decided that subscriptions were not to be increased until a strategy was in place for the further development of member services and widening of the membership base. By 1998 the Member rate was £76.

We have not been able to find the subscription fees for 2001, when IIS began its last full year of operation. 

Salary surveys  

The Institute was determined to ensure that its members were recognised as key professionals. For this reason, it conducted biennial salary surveys to provide it with a basis from which to exert its influence to ensure members were rewarded appropriately. Extensive analyses of results were reported in Inform Supplements.

The first salary survey was conducted in 1966, then 1968, and so on. The 1998 survey[3] demonstrates the type of data collected from members. Respondents provided, for the previous financial year, annual gross salary, bonus and/or share of profits, their gender, age, membership category, number of professional and non-reporting staff, benefits such as holidays and qualifications.

Members could compare their pay against the medians for total membership classified by gender, age, the number of staff controlled, membership category and the nature of their work (full-time etc.). This enabled members to judge whether their salary was fair and provided them with evidence for salary negotiation. For the Institute, the data supported its ability to influence employers to pay fair salaries, and to develop careers leaflets.

The median salary for all members from 1984 to 1998 is given below:

1984 1986 1988 1990 1992 1994 1996 1998
£ 11,310 £12,563 £15,000 £17,442 £20,000 £21,500 £23,236 £25,900

In the cause of establishing the professionalism and increasing the status of members, a Working Party chaired by Cyril Cleverdon, Past President, on methods of improving the status of information scientists in the public and private sectors reported in 1980.  In 1981, External Liaison Committee is reported as taking forward recommendations of the President’s Committee on the status of information scientists. This suggests that raising the Institute’s profile externally was the selected route.

Membership development efforts  

Expanding the membership was the Institute’s perennial goal and both the means of demonstrating its relevance and putting its finances on a sound financial basis. This meant active recruitment, promotion of the value and benefits it provided, widening its membership base, and constant visibility in the information science sector.

Responsibility ran across the Standing Committees as illustrated in the 1979 membership drive. Membership Committee would co-ordinate efforts to reduce lapsed membership; Council were to motivate members to recruit others, develop a broader definition of information work, revise membership rates, and foster a concerted effort to recruit new members; Publicity Committee would create a new Corporate Membership certificate and develop a new leaflet for employers.

To attract members also required understanding their expectations. In 1980 Development Committee reported on a survey of Members’ expectations from IIS. The results of this included the importance of raising the profile of the profession and information science, securing the wider recognition of qualifications plus increasing measures to keep members’ knowledge up to date. Actions by Publicity Committee focused on promotion and publicity. A large promotional poster was sent to all branches and SIGs; notice boards for IIS displays were sent to every information and library school. Leaflets publicising every aspect of IIS work were developed, as was an information pack for new members called ‘An introduction to the Institute’.

Attracting students as members, and encouraging them to begin a career in the profession and achieve full membership was critical. Accrediting relevant courses was one way to gain student attention. In 1995 Membership Development Committee arranged to award at least one student place at IIS seminars, events and conferences. A fund set up at the 1993 AGM supported by the Institute, Southern Branch, TFPL, and others would provide travel bursaries.

The Institute regularly attempted to understand Member needs as a basis for promotion and recruitment initiatives.

In 1989 the IIS annual membership survey showed that members wanted IIS training courses and career services to increase. The appointment of a National Careers Co-ordinator and Careers Advisor in 1987 (undertaken by the Executive Secretary) and identification of a network of branch and regional careers officers was already a success.

In 1992 the Institute was concerned with falling membership, financial issues and increased work pressures limiting members’ volunteering capacity. It was imperative that IIS was seen to offer members value for money. This included paying attention to the needs of members unable to attend national or local meetings. The benefits of IIS membership must be clearly delineated, and membership recruitment literature improved. Branches were asked to maintain contact with members, even those with unpaid subscriptions. Inform contributed to the membership push by presenting the benefits of membership (professional contacts, qualifications, publications, representation, value for money). Martin White, as incoming President, held an open meeting before the 1992 AGM to discuss membership recruitment and retention. The Institute would need to consider whether its membership base was too narrow to allow it to develop further. The tension between membership Criteria and the imperative of expansion was visible in a rapidly expanding information environment.

In 1993 IIS continued to focus on increasing the value of membership, including looking to identify additional member services and attracting members from less traditional sectors/roles.

Membership Development Committee conducted a telephone and printed survey of selected members to identify views on the benefits of being an IIS member. Results were positive and instructive. The importance of receiving access to information (news, views, professional development topics via publications, meetings and networking) was highlighted. Every respondent acknowledged the importance of meetings for keeping up to date, while also acknowledging the challenge of attending them for those outside London. Subscriptions were seen as value for money and Inform and JIS were highly valued.

An investigation of other membership organisations indicated that the Institute’s services compared favourably, although IIS only offered the Inform Vacancies Bulletin while other membership organisations provided a full recruitment service. Some organisations provided legal services and advice through a third party, and Membership Development agreed to investigate whether this was a possibility. However, comparator organisations were charging membership fees of £100 or more. The AGM would have to consider the value of trade-offs between services and subscriptions.

Throughout 1994 much discussion focused on the falling membership base; the need to provide better services to members; and to market new and existing services more aggressively. This tied into discussion of subscription rates for the next few years. The possibility of paying subscriptions by instalments was considered. Membership Development negotiated a homeworking insurance special deal for members and set out to identify other discounted services.

The Institute also needed to know how would-be members found out about it. Analysis of 206 1993/94 membership applications showed that 65% found out about IIS from their academic course; 43% recognised it from publicity literature and displays. The applicants stated IIS offered them the acquisition of a wider professional perspective, maintenance and extension of skills; and career progression in addition to recognition by a professional body. Those surveyed said that increasing the number of training and networking events would make IIS more attractive to them.

Code of Professional Ethics  

All members joining IIS had to sign up to its Articles and if any member was found guilty of dishonourable or unprofessional conduct or conduct prejudicially affecting the Institute they could be suspended for a time or expelled. None of our records indicate that this ever happened. Many professional associations used codes of professional ethics to foster consistent standards of conduct in the job as did many library associations.

1981 saw a small Working Party under the aegis of Development Committee consider whether the IIS should create a code of ethics and get involved in Freedom of Information (FOI) and Data Privacy. At the 1994 IIS conference a workshop identified many ethical dilemmas experienced by information professionals and the feelings of being unsupported when facing such issues. The IIS office was periodically asked for such a code. The potential benefits of having a code included: providing a visible commitment to free and impartial access to information; drawing attention to common dilemmas and pitfalls; and guidance to those working in small information units.

In 1995 External Affairs formed a task force to produce a draft code of ethics for IIS, consulting with as wide a cross-section of members as possible. Volunteers were requested to help and to attend a workshop to brainstorm a preliminary statement. In the January/February Inform of 1998, the latest version of the Draft Guidelines for Professional Ethics for Information Professionals was issued for comment. Its aim was to assist information professionals to maintain high standards of professional conduct and resolve ethical dilemmas in providing an information service. It covered core values, standards of professional provision; duties to the public and clients and conflicts of interest. A number of case studies accompanied the draft guidelines.

By the beginning of 1999 the IIS Professional Ethics Working Party had launched a database of illustrative case studies, searchable by type of ethical dilemma, which could be used with the finalised guidelines. The guidelines and illustrative case studies were promoted for consultation with parallel professional bodies; Inform 211 published sample case studies. The Professional Ethics Working Party committed to extend these with contributions from members and other interested professional bodies and information professional parties and to this end guidelines and case studies were widely circulated.


  1. Mary Ann Colyer, Inform, 1994, January /February, 61, 2
  2. Founding Professor and Head of Department at Loughborough University's Department of Library and Information Studies, 1972- 1987
  3. Inform, 1998, supplement

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