This History of the Institute of Information Scientists (IIS) has been compiled by Sandra Ward and Martin White, supported by Charles Oppenheim. Martin and Charles joined IIS in 1971 and Sandra in 1973. Each has served as IIS President. (Appendix 1 for our biographies).

Writing this History has been a labour of love, a memory challenge, a significant responsibility, and more time consuming than was envisaged at the beginning of the project. The IIS existed for 45 years during which three generations of information professionals formed its membership, and the information science and management field was transformed.

Research for the History has mixed the circumstantial and the directed. The authors dug through their personal collections and found copies of Inform (the Institute’s newsletter), some Annual Reports (1996–2001) which include reports of AGMs, Council and Committee Members and reports from Branches and SIGs. They also had a copy of the Memorandum of Association of the IIS as amended in 1980 which includes details of its registration under the Companies Act, 1959. Searches of the BNB and the British Library’s collections identified IIS and Text Retrieval Conference Proceedings. The British Library (BL) also holds copies of the Bulletin, Information Scientist and Inform. These collections were not visited during the writing of this History due to the 2020 Lockdown. The authors also benefited from sharing early drafts with Christine Baker and Chris Armstrong who ensured the accuracy of the UKOLUG chapter. No comprehensive IIS archive now exists, and the circulation of this History will, we hope, unearth other Members’ collections for which we plan to find a permanent home.

During its lifetime the IIS developed from its beginning in campaigns for educational standards and programmes to ensure the competence of those engaged in technical and scientific information work, to become an internationally recognised professional body.  This History cannot possibly be 100% comprehensive and is inevitably selective. The authors hope that the aspects of the Institute’s evolution, organisation, member engagement and external impact covered will resonate with you as the most important of the Institute’s achievements.

This History begins with the foundations for the formation of the IIS (In the beginning). This chapter provides a snapshot of the world in 1958 and describes the passion and lobbying that led to the creation of a distinct body for the small but growing band of information scientists. Frustration with the status quo i.e. the refusal of the Library Association and Aslib to meet the needs of this ‘new’ profession was a powerful stimulus for a new organisation to be established.

IIS Governance describes the IIS modus operandi, its governing structures – Council, Officers, Committees, Articles, Byelaws and Memorandum of Understanding, the Standing Committees, Working Parties and their main areas of activity. Whilst IIS core functions remained constant, committee structures and membership criteria evolved as did the need for paid staff and accommodation. This topic has been divided into three Chapters, 2-4.

Fellows and Honorary Fellows. The grade of Fellow existed from the start of IIS, while Honorary Fellows were first awarded in 1976. Both these awards were granted only after careful consideration and required evidence of significant achievement in the information field. Fellowship required members to have spent at least ten years in information work, attain distinction by virtue of work in a senior position or by virtue of original work in the information field, or otherwise rendered distinguished service to the Institute. Honorary Fellowships were granted to distinguished people working in the information field around the world. These Fellowships enhanced the Institute’s reputation internationally. Initially these were not granted to IIS members but later members who had given the IIS distinguished service were occasionally honoured.

We have done our best to name most of these Honorary Fellows and to list them in this History with short biographies.

SIGs (Groups) and Branches were the professional life blood of IIS, making major contributions to the professional and personal development of members. They ensured Council maintained awareness of member needs and concerns. Branches were stimulated by the demands of members in their region for opportunities to network, acquire and share. Special Interest Groups (SIGs) were topic focused communities aiming to enhance and develop practice. The dedication of Branch and SIG committees was a major factor in increasing IIS visibility, relevance and member expertise.

UKOLUG, the UK Online User Group is the subject of its own chapter. Whilst most SIGs survived till merger with the LA, PATMG (Patents and Trade Marks) and UKOLUG decided (after much debate) to join CILIP. The latter is the one remaining vestige of the IIS and is now known as CILIP’s UKeiG. UKOLUG started in 1978 as online databases, and the need for effective techniques to search them, took off. Its vigour in establishing regional groups, training courses, seminars, conferences and publications ensured its longevity. For several years it was closely associated with the annual International Online Information Meeting (IOLIM) conference and exhibition.

Professional development explores the role of the IIS in establishing the skills and knowledge required for information scientists; the development of Diploma and Master’s courses at City University; exporting the IIS curriculum as Criteria followed by institutions developing information science courses; and the maintenance of standards through its accreditation programme. The tasks were onerous, but IIS can claim to have transformed education in information science.

Publications were a major service to members as well as a source of external income.  The Bulletin, and its successor, Inform, ensured members were kept briefed on IIS policy and plans and stayed in touch with wider professional news. The Journal of Information Science, a peer-reviewed journal, survives today. It succeeded Information Scientist which combined case studies of information departments, reports on Institute activities and the formal report of the AGM and the election of officers.

Conferences were expected of all self-respecting Institutes. IIS was no exception holding its conference biennially. The lists of speakers demonstrate the reputation of the IIS and the talent of its conference committees. The sequence of Text Retrieval conferences began in 1984 as information scientists saw keeping up with the state of this art as pivotal to the success of information functions.

The Awards chapter demonstrates the many other ways in which IIS recognised contributions to information science with awards and lectures. The early deaths of Tony Strix and Amanda Stembridge were marked by awards in their memories and the John Campbell Trust used his legacy to fund training and travel scholarships. Other student awards were made by Southern, Northern and Scottish Branches as well as UKOLUG.

External impact examines how IIS influenced the information world in the UK and the EU through securing representation on other information bodies, co-operating with information organisations on events and specific ventures, responding formally to Government reports and to other relevant initiatives, and lobbying Parliament and other public and commercial bodies. Leadership of these activities was entrusted to the External Liaison Committee (External Affairs Committee from 1985) which called in other IIS groups to contribute. IIS greatly expanded its external visibility through these activities and became a partner of choice for other organisations.

The Appendices in this History begin with Presidents. Selecting the IIS President was undertaken carefully and the nominee’s name submitted to Council for approval amid strict secrecy. The President was a visible figure, notable for his or her pedigree in the scientific, library or wider information world. Some Presidents had a direct connection to the IIS as active members who had also established external reputations in information science. Others made significant contributions to the IIS direction behind the scenes.

Other Appendices include the IIS 1982 Criteria for Information Science used to assess academic courses; the 1989 summary of the core areas within the scope of the Institute’s interests used in marketing and promotion, and a ‘brief chronology of the development of IIS’.



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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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