8 Professional development

Sandra Ward


If there is one area where the IIS has left a permanent legacy, it is in the development of academic courses for students wishing to develop a career in information management. The core reason for the establishment of the Institute in 1958 was to promote and maintain high standards in scientific and technical information work and to establish qualifications for those engaged in the profession.

The initial step was taken by Jason Farradane when he put forward a proposal for a one-year full-time course to the Aslib Education Committee in 1952. Subsequently a joint committee of Aslib and the Library Association tried to come to an agreement on a syllabus, but these ideas were eventually rejected by the 1957 Aslib Annual Conference.

In November 1958, with the Institute only a few months old, Jason Farradane and A.B. Agard Evans presented a paper at the International Conference on Scientific Information held in Washington DC on ‘Training the Scientific Information Officer.’[1]

The authors noted in their paper that they were presenting a syllabus for a post-graduate course of training for a student who is already a subject specialist. The syllabus is not a product of spontaneous genius but owes much to the deliberations of the Aslib Education Committee, which, however, was not officially responsible for it. The course covered 166 hours of lectures plus practice. Since the equipment of a competent information officer required experience of research, laboratory, or practical work, it was recommended that the course should not be full-time or concurrent with academic studies, but rather be available for part-time or evening studies, possibly culminating in a ‘vacation seminar’ of a month. They also noted that emphasis was laid on the issue of human communications in the efficient application of research; presentation of information at all levels of industry; abstracting, translating, editing; compilation of surveys and reproduction techniques. The syllabus included indexing, classification, and work organisation, but approached from a different angle than that of the librarian.

This paper was followed by Dorothy Palmer and Douglas Foskett from the Library Association with ‘Training for Scientific Information Work in Great Britain.’

The authors concluded with the statement that their experience had convinced them that the profession of librarian and information officer was one, using the same kinds of materials and techniques, even if not always in the same way. They also argued that contrary to what was sometimes maintained, there was no characteristic peculiar to scientific literature that necessitated a distinct profession in that field. The services given to scientists by librarians, information officers, literature chemists, etc., were no less needed in other fields of knowledge, and would develop in a similar manner. Yet it was likely that the profession would never be great in numbers, and while they recognised many variations in both the pattern of organisation and the particular subjects studied in libraries, they did not feel that complete fragmentation in professional education was possible or desirable.

It was too little and too late.

Almost as soon as the IIS was established, informal discussions between the Institute and Aslib (rather than the Library Association) took place. Then in 1960 a more formal meeting took place. The outcome was a framework for a post-graduate course of training for a student who was already a subject specialist. It was agreed that Aslib and the IIS should jointly approach a small number of educational establishments to see if they might be interested in developing a course around the syllabus.

The start of the City University courses

The Northampton College of Advanced Technology was immediately enthusiastic. (The College gained its name from its location in Northampton Square, London). Dr James Tait, the Principal, passed on the idea to A.C. Leyton, Head of the Department of Liberal Studies and it was agreed that a course would be started in January 1961. The reason for the attachment to the Liberal Studies department was that although information science is in principle applicable to all sciences and technologies it was agreed that the Liberal Studies department was a good ‘neutral’ affiliation and also reflected the management elements of the course.

The two-year course initially entitled ‘Collecting and Communicating Scientific Knowledge’ began in 1962 and was held on two evenings a week. Each class was two hours long and was usually a lecture followed by a discussion period. In 1964 the cost was £30 for the whole course or £5 a term.

This initiative was presented by G. Malcolm Dyson and Jason Farradane at the Division of Chemical Literature, American Chemical Society National Meeting in Chicago in September 1961. At that time, the syllabus for the second year of the course had not been finalised.

The immediate success of the course led to a request to start a parallel first-year course in October 1961. The number of students was originally limited to 15, and then gradually increased to 20.

Two important developments took place in 1963. The first of these was the launch of a full-time one academic year course that would lead to the award of a Diploma of the College. This course was based on 800 hours of working time, including 90 hours of instruction in a second language, which was usually German as a substantial amount of scientific and technical information was being published in the language. A first degree or an equivalent qualification was required for entry to the course. The second was that the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (1916-1965) approved the Diploma course for its Advanced Course Studentships, and also provided research funding. OSTI – The Government’s Office of Science and Technology and part of the Department of Education and Science (1992-2007) funded some student grants for information and computerisation courses.

These two developments culminated in the course leading to a Master of Science when Northampton College of Advanced Technology gained a charter in 1966 and became the City University. The Diploma continued to be awarded to the part-time course. The main differences between the full-time and part-time courses was that the Master’s course included more coursework and students had to deliver a thesis on a research project. In the 1969-70 academic year, the evening course was discontinued and was replaced by a two-year day release course.

The incentive for members of the Institute to gain either the Diploma or the Master of Science award was that it exempted them from the four years of experience needed to gain Membership of the Institute.

The Institute recognised that for a number of reasons members might not be able to take advantage of the Master’s and Diploma courses, or the three-year undergraduate courses that were being offered by the library schools at Newcastle and Leeds Universities. The Northern Branch of the Institute, which throughout the life of the IIS was recognised as a powerhouse of innovation, worked with the St. John’s College of Further Education in Manchester to create a twelve-week evening course along the lines of existing City and Guilds courses for Library Assistants. In 1972 this course and a more advanced course, were amalgamated into a single one-year part-time course that led to the award of St. Johns College Intermediate Certificate in Information Science. The course content had been developed by the Institute and by the mid-1970s academic and commercial institutions were looking to the Institute for guidance on course design.

Formalising the IIS Criteria

The Education Committee took on the task of developing the Criteria and published them in 1977. The main headings were:

  1. Knowledge and its communication
  2. Sources of information
  3. Organisation of information
  4. Retrieval of information
  5. Dissemination of information
  6. Management of information
  7. Data processing
  8. Research methods
  9. Mathematics
  10. Linguistics
  11. Foreign languages
  12. Advanced information theory and practice

In order to be accepted by the Institute for an exemption from the work experience requirement for Membership, it was expected that a student would have a good knowledge of the topics in Sections 1–6 and an appropriate level of knowledge of Sections 7-12 depending not only on their education and work environment but also on the availability of lecturers who were familiar with the topics. In 1977 Council approved new guidelines for Education Committee to follow in arranging the IIS Certificate examinations.

The next step was taken in 1978 when the Institute, keen to both broaden its membership and to work together with the Library Association, decided to accept those post-graduate courses in librarianship which had core and elective courses aligned to the Criteria. Students completing these courses could count them as equivalent to 18 months’ work experience. The Library and Information course at North London Polytechnic was the first to be so accredited. At the same time the existing post-graduate course exemption was reduced from four years to three years.

Course expansion

1968 saw a one-year MSc course in Information Studies at Sheffield covering the generation and use of information, information resources, and communication of information. Sheffield rapidly established a worldwide reputation for research in information science. In 1974 an MA degree in Information Science (Social Sciences) was launched. Both courses were approved by the IIS with graduates granted the maximum exemption (three years) from experience in information work required to become IIS members.

By the early 1970s University College London was offering an MSc in Information Science to graduates in Natural Sciences and Mathematics. Undergraduate courses at Leeds and Newcastle followed. Loughborough began its MSc in Information Studies in 1975. Funding of post graduate Advanced Course Studentships by the Department of Education and Science, previously restricted to City and Sheffield, was then extended to other institutions.

By 1991, IIS was approving courses at 17 institutions granting exemptions of one, two and three years of working experience for IIS membership. 

The role of the Education Committee

The Education Committee was recognised as the ‘senior’ Committee of the Institute. Membership was carefully managed to ensure that members had the skills, experience and commitment to be able to work with academic staff on developing and then validating courses. Courses were re-assessed on a four-year cycle. To undertake this work Education Committee worked as two individual teams to ensure that there was as little delay as possible in approving a new or revised course. This involved members in a significant amount of travel and time, and much of the success of the process was due to outstanding Chairmen of the Committee over the years. In 1975 the Education Committee began to foster the Institute’s recognition that short courses were needed to provide professional development opportunities for those who could not afford long periods away from their places of work.

The redevelopment of the Criteria

Early in 1981 the Institute decided to update the Criteria, and perhaps make them more flexible given the increasingly rapid development of information technology. A sub-committee, set up under the chairmanship of Charles Oppenheim, immediately ran into the problem of some members wishing to see an emphasis on the technology aspects and others regarding the core principles as more important. Members of the Institute were invited to a workshop in October 1981 to discuss the proposed changes but at this meeting, and in subsequent reviews by the Institute Council, only a few minor amendments were made.

The sections of the 1982 Criteria (See Appendix 2 for details) were:

  1. Nature of information and its uses
  2. Sources of information
  3. Theory and practice of information storage and retrieval
  4. Systems for information storage and retrieval
  5. Analysis of information
  6. Dissemination of information
  7. Management
  8. Technology and its applications
  9. Ancillary skills

Sections 1 and 2 were largely unchanged from the 1977 Criteria. Sections 3 and 4 added new material. Section 5 (the analysis of information) was completely new. Section 6 was broadly in line with Section 5 of the 1977 Criteria. Section 7 was updated, and Section 8 was a fundamental revision of the Data Processing section. Another major change was that students were not expected to have a complete grasp of every section – technical and service developments (CD-ROM was just emerging!) were too rapid for the Criteria to be dogmatic.

Continuous Professional Development

By the mid-1980s the movement towards life-long continuous professional development was gaining significant momentum. The major revision in 1982 was followed by a further one in 1987 when the Working Party on validation of information science courses recommended revision of the 1982 Criteria to include aspects of information management and IT. All branches and members were invited to comment, and an open meeting held to ensure any changes reflected a consensus of views. The 1982 Criteria are detailed in Appendix 1.

In 1992 volunteers were sought to help with further revision of the IIS Criteria. These were needed to reflect changes in higher education and the broadening spectrum of the information profession. Then in 1996 revised Criteria for Information Science were published as a draft in Inform for comment by members following Council’s approval.

After minor changes the Criteria were published in full in Inform 188, with detailed topics under five essential contributions to the understanding of the interactions involved in the generation, transmission and receipt of information:

  1. Information generation, communication and utilisation
  2. Information management and organisational context
  3. Information systems and information and communication technologies
  4. Information environment and policy
  5. Information service management and transferable skills.

In 1987 a working party on Professional Development and the Institute was set up. There was no formal remit and sadly the level of involvement by the IIS membership in the discussions of the Working Party was very low despite valiant attempts by members of the Working Party to gain wider engagement. A report was submitted to Council in April 1989. Although there is a summary account of the report and the 21 recommendations, there seems to be no copy of the quite substantial report in existence. The report did act as a catalyst to the development of a wide range of short courses across the country which made a significant contribution to both professional development and to the financial resources of the Institute.

The IIS continued course accreditation until planning for the IIS/LA merger began. In 1999 discussions on joint accreditation began with the IIS/LA Unification Planning Group (UPG) and its green paper: Our Professional Future: revised and published proposals for a new organisation for the library and information profession.

In 2000 the joint Accreditation Instrument was approved and the IIS Professional Standards Committee joined with LA in a Joint Accreditation Committee (JAA), the meetings of which were chaired alternately by Peter Enser (IIS) and David House (LA). The JAA started work immediately and also started discussions with BCS (British Computer Society) on accreditation matters. 

Short courses – continuing professional development

From its establishment, the Institute held six or so meetings each year in London on many topics. The importance of sharing the information presented at these was the stimulus to launch the Information Scientist. The Institute also saw the potential in the developing Branch structure as a locus for providing specialised local training courses for members and devolved much of the responsibility for organising meetings and short courses to them.

The Branch structure was particularly valuable as meetings were accessible to their community and the Branch committees had the freedom to develop courses that were relevant to local needs. The courses could be half-day, evening, full day or even two-day events. There was never a shortage of Institute members willing to talk at these events, and to persuade their organisations to make rooms available. No Institute member would dream of charging a speaker fee for a course and there was no need to find the funds to hire a training room.

Especially in the 1970s and 1980s it was quite typical for 4-6 training courses being available each month around the country, with the Scottish Branch and the Northern Branch being in the vanguard of course development.

As an illustration of the range of training opportunities the following were listed in the February 1979 issue of Inform:

  • Oxford Group Careers Forum
  • IIS/Aslib Joint Meeting with a talk on the Infoline database service
  • London evening meeting on the BLR&DD Travelling Workshop project
  • Scottish Branch Business Information Conference
  • Northern Branch course on Business and Commercial Information
  • Oxford Group evening meeting
  • IIS Conference on Effective Information Management
  • Midlands Branch AGM with a talk on Competitive Intelligence work
  • Patents SIG meeting on the impact of the new Patents Act

There was inevitably overlap between the training events offered by Branches and they often ‘borrowed’ course topics and speakers from one another. Service vendors supported these events as a way of marketing their services and also as opportunities to gain feedback on service provision.

The Branches also realised that these training courses were a particularly good way of attracting new members and there was never any sense that these courses were for Institute members only. The courses also helped new and established members develop their professional networks.

Special Interest Groups used meetings to ensure their members were up to date with new topics and ran longer meetings and even conferences. Both Branches and SIGs carried on with their events until the very end of the IIS as an independent body.

The Institute itself established an annual series of seminars in 1990 which lasted until 1997. Their content mixed management techniques and technical developments: ‘Optical storage – practical implications’, ‘Electronic copying’, ‘Strategic planning’, ‘Hypertext’, ‘Disaster planning’ and many others.  In 1993 the Institute launched a series of evening meetings in London. Their popularity was the timing – these could be fitted in after work – and the topics.  ‘Time management’ was a sell-out and repeated.  ‘Financial management’, ‘Practical quality management’, ‘CD-ROM networks’, ‘Telecommunications’ are just a few of the subjects tackled.

In 1994 the Institute began a half day (morning, afternoon, or evening) meetings programme: cheaper to attend with less time away from the desk. Topics covered included: ‘Marketing, PR and selling – what are the connections’, ‘Time management – the omnibus edition’, ‘Understanding the media’, ‘Mail and electronic conferencing – a practical approach’, ‘Performance measures in information work’, ‘Media monitoring services’.

In 1997 the evening meetings were rebranded as Professional Events, still mixing management and technical topics. These events continued until 2000.

In 1995 IIS ran a summer school on ‘Communications and Information’, a series of meetings over several weeks which was repeated in 1996.  And in 2000 IIS launched two new event series: ‘Careers talking’ and ‘Information survival skills’.

Another feature of what were often referred to as ‘short courses’ was the openness of the Institute to working with other organisations, notably Aslib, LA branches and specialist groups, and the British Computer Society.

The contribution and commitment to continuing professional development by the Institute is a legacy to be proud of.  It kept its members up and down the country at the forefront of their field.

Further reading on the early development of IS courses

Farradane, J. (1968). Standards in education in information science, (Paper presented at the 42nd Aslib Annual Conference, Canterbury) Aslib Proceedings.

Saunders, W.L. (1968). The ‘Sheffield Report’, (Paper presented at the 42nd Aslib Annual Conference, Canterbury) Aslib Proceedings.

Schurr, Herbert (1968). University of Sheffield MSc. course in Information Studies, (Paper presented at the 42nd Aslib Annual Conference, Canterbury) Aslib Proceedings.

Simpson, I.S. (1979). Education for information science – Part 1 The UK. Journal of Information Science, 1979, 49-57.



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