Managing International Professional Co-operation in the Field of Information Services

Elisabeth SIMON, Hon FLA 1)
German Library Institute / Foreign Relations Office Berlin

1) Deutsches Bibliotheksinstituts, Kurt-Schumacher-Damm 12-16, D-13 405 Berlin, Fax:+49-30-410 34 480; E-mail: simon@dbi-berlin.de The paper was delivered at the Karuizawa Inose Lodge on Monday August 30th, 1999.

Is International Co-Operation in the Information Profession Realised Today ?
Information in the International Field
Managing Information by Professional Co-operation
Managing International Co-operation
Managing International Professional Co-operation Needs Networking

Is International Co-Operation in the Information Profession Realised Today ?

In the newsletter Nr. 19 of NACSIS March 1999 Dr. Hiroshi INOSE states that "with the deepening range of intellectual activity fragmentation is unavoidable but the unlimited proliferation of its concomitant, stark ignorance, poses a threat to civilisation ..." And he continues, "it is expected that the disintegration of states will evolve further as their subgroups lay claim to exclusive ethnic, cultural, religious and geographic identities, to the point where you may see the resurgence of ancient tribal societies, albeit in new garbs..."2)

How do apply these observations to the expressions as e.g. the "global village" (implying that each participant of this village knows each other) or the information society with the aim of providing access to all information resources world wide? It pretends the participation of knowledge to everybody by the possibilities which technology is offering today via databases on CD ROMS and above all by the World Wide Web. This had caused a revolution because it does not only provide opportunities in accessing all kinds of information but also to the sources of literature and texts in foreign languages 3) to learning resources for e.g. acquiring languages skills 4) but also to books and literature being published on demand 5).

Electronic journals offered to countries as Moldavia or Ukraine on the base of a consortia and providing the possibilities to all libraries to participate in this pool presently to a prize which seems to be ridiculous are providing the access to the academic and scientific results of research updated and available even to the most remote countries 6). Yet Dr. INOSE quotes also Friedrich Nietzsche in "Also sprach Zarathustra" "the subject of study of which I am master and knower is the brain of the leech... It is for this that I have cast aside everything else. It is because of this that I have become disinterested in all other things. This a dark unconsciousness lies next to my knowledge."

It seems a widening gap is arising in our so-called knowledge society. On the one hand globalisation is regarded as a key to peace and prosperity which will come with the yet slow but successful process of collaboration. But in spite of wide reaching technological possibilities fragmentation, isolation lack of ideas and a growing problem of contents and conceptions are arising in the academic world of education and research. This is accompanied by the outbreak of violence and archaic reactions in the human as well political terms between people as the war in the Balkan, especially Kossovo has taught us.

Today every enterprise, association or institution in the commercial as well cultural or educational environment aims at international co-operation. Those which do not dare it because of lacking foresight or because of slow adaptation to the market will lose more and more in the market place which is more than ever characterised by international competition. The nearly unbelievable process of merging of enterprises which can be witnessed today is less destined by economical reasons than by marketing motives or even a war of powers. It is important above all to become visible in the international market and has to be persecuted by all means

International institutions - also libraries - produce Websites and sometimes bilingual information flyer. It is curious to observe that in small countries as Slovenia and Denmark libraries and information units offer bilingual information in the Web too whereas e.g. German libraries in nearly all cases offer their Website only in their home language.

Conferences even on the local and regional base invite foreign key note speakers and they are organising international or even national conferences in foreign countries which very often are not known too well because the decision makers do not know well those places or did lack the time and possibility to collect and select relevant information. Foreign and international experiences are used in speeches for comparisons which is often lacking honesty Without an idea of the concept and international environment which one is using the comparisons are in most cases not correct or at least no at all to the point.

International co-operation in the professional environment will be expressed as a prerequisite for professional success, but are members in this field really convinced about it? Are they consequently pursuing the acquisition of foreign experiences and about all do they realise what that means?

2) INOSE, Hiroshi: Information Infrastructure in an Era of Fragmentation. NACSIS Newsletter, Nr. 19, March l999, pp. 1-2.
3) Stroetmann, Veli: Literature in foreign languages in the Internet. In : Proceedings of the international seminar: Literature and Language, libraries offering foreign literature and language proficiency. Berlin, l999 being published.
4) Gas, Zbigniew: International experiences demand language knowledge-acquisition of foreign language material in the university of Birmingham in: Proceedings of the international seminar Literature and Language, Berlin, l999.
5) Guaraldi, Mario: Problems of publishing and problems of preservation in : Proceedings of the international seminar Literature and Language, Berlin, l999.
6) See: Springer Link- a project of the Springer publisher offering electronic journals for a consortia when the purchase of one paper copy is guaranteed.


Information in the International Field

Contemporary workers and professionals in the field of information services forget that international co-operation was always a part of this service and was determining its impact and success.

Unfortunately we are still seeing the world through our nationalistic or regional eyes and forget that development was always promoted by commerce. The unbelievable culture peak of the Bronze age 1600 /600 before Christ in North Europe could be certified by a footstool found in an Egyptian grave at least pointing out the possibility of an already existing European market. The success story of this lagoon city of refugees Venice which became one of the most richest city of the world because in spite of numerous wars and cruelty of this time shows also a persistent consequent politics of establishing relations to partners in the whole region and as far as China.
The information "market" was in its best examples always an international one. "La escuela de los traductores" the school of interpreters in the 11th century at Toldedo comprising Arabic, Greek, Latin scholars opened the access to the mutual influences at the antique cultures in Rome and Greek and opened the access to Arabic scriptures. It created the base for a wide ranging interlibrary loan between monasteries where books were borrowed and copied creating the precious and valuable stocks of so many big university, academic, national and even municipal libraries today. Reformation and its rapid expansion in the European countries would not have been possible without the Gutenberg print. This lead to international liaison and connections being unknown in such a wide scale before but also to a terrible war 1618-48 in Central Europe between these religious camps tied to politics closely in those days. Finally, it lead to heavy destruction in Central European countries which can be witnessed even today.

Access to international information resources was pursued during these centuries due to political, cultural, religious and commercial reasons. It was realised in a growing market of newspapers, brochures and books which in former times were precious items valuated by a family and kept in a household from generation to generation which had once paid heavily for it. They were of enlightenment sources of information, however, which were becoming available more internationally. And a circle of enlightened and educated citizens shared it quite often on a much broader scale as we are aware of today. With the rise of print mass media were providing access for information for a population with growing writing and reading skills. The rise of the national states at the beginning of the seventeenth till the nineteenth century, the last being Germany having become a "nation" in 1870, international access to information widened but also became a field of political power and influence. On the one side the states became more interested in a more educated citizenry on the other hand the power of the state grew and the wish to regulate the citizens. The French king created the national library in Paris, in the year 1537 7) not to collect and preserve the national heritage of the country but in order to keep an survey of the "dangerous" intellectual activities of his people in books and especially journals.

Four hundred years later the Estonians part of the previous international Sowjetunion were prevented access to the international data bases provided by Viniti. They were only granted access to the databases in paper in the field of medicine denying this people the necessary rapid access to medical information 8). We can only guess the reasons, which might be political as well as national ones.

We have to take into consideration as well nationalistic as well other reasons, envy, jealousy and the lacking cohesion in society and also in the academic community when we want to ensure the international professional co-operation in the field of information services. International access to information does not create international professional cooperation.

Therefore we have to conclude co-operation. International access to information is not automatically followed by international co-operation. Co-operation can be limited by languages, use of techniques and scope of culture. All these influence the information literacy, especially the most important tools for evaluation the world wide available information. Access, use and co-operation in the field of information can differ widely.

7) Simon, Elisabeth: Einfuehrung in das franzaezische Bibliothekswesen, M.u.a. Saur, 1986, p. 44.
8) Simon, Elisabeth: Bibliotheken und bibliothekarische Institutionen in Estland, in: Bibliotheksdienst 26, l992, H. 9 p. 1355-1362.


Managing Information by Professional Co-operation

International information access and use have to be managed. Information literacy narrowly defined as providing the necessary technical and bibliographical skills for accessing and handling information does not include the necessary knowledge for judgement and evaluation of information sources. Information internationally available can be only accessed, packaged and evaluated by a network of international professional co-operation on different bases and to a different extent- in a network of nods and levels of all kinds.

Professional co-operation has always been a feature in the information field but it was mostly restricted to cataloguing, classification, document delivery or reviewing literature. The information professionals today access resources world wide and co-operation in cataloguing classification schemes and bibliographical control, though in many fields with the exception of Germany which is pursuing its own way.

IFLA- the international Federation of Library Associations and Institutions,
FID- the international Federation of Information professionals,
IATUL the international Association of Technical Libraries,
IASL the international Association of School Libraries and many more as e.g.
International Association for Law Libraries and also
bilateral Associations as SCONUL and also groups inside the national associations as
International Round Table in the ALA (American Library Association) or
International Group in the Library Association of the U.K. -

All these associations and institutions try to liase information professionals in a broader or more special field and enhance co-operation and collaboration. Standards as ISO 2000 and guidelines as those of IFLA and UNESCO shall guarantee a similar development of information services in the international scene and shall create similar possibilities for professionals to carry out their duty so that everybody has the same opportunities in getting and accessing the right information.

These associations, or let us call it attempts, have been successful to a certain extent, and responded to the international scope of the profession by creating a joint platform for the exchange of experience. The profession particularly in its small and one man entities or in quite remote places and countries is relying on such liaisons. The development of libraries and information services in countries which have been closed up severely during the socialistic regime because of political reasons as Rumania and Albania is proving this necessity.

However the professional environment has changed dramatically during the last years and will continue to do so. Language skills of the younger generations as well their experience during their time of education and training have grown during the last decade. The discussion of Life Long Learning 9) concentrates on two fields, the acquiring of technical skills for the information literacy as well the necessary language skills for the global information world. Therefore expectations and demands for the future concerning the working place include international experiences. This refers also to the demand e.g. of the Library Association of Croatia which demands from each member language skills as well in German as well in English and practised it during the last annual conference offering a program which contained events in these both languages without translation 10).

The participation in the international exchange of experiences was limited to a section of professionals, e.g. at the international events. This will change because international experiences will become part of the professional experiences of daily work. The growing internationalisation and globalisation of business and commerce will force the working power to think internationally for an international market in every respect. This will push the development of information services in this direction. Information units will reflect the local and regional community on the one hand but on the other hand will be forced to act in the international field as well by providing access but also by value added service in consulting and delivering answers and packed information to all questions in the growing international environment.

9) Life long learning and the role of libraries were the topic of an international seminar of the Foreign Relations office at the German Library Institute 1996, the proceedings are out of print. The topic has been pursued since then, also within the study tour of two English experts, because The German Library Institute wanted to launch a project in the framework of information 2000. of the Federal Ministry of Technology and Research (Bonn) but was not successful.
10) The biannual conference of the Croatian Library Association Oct. 7th, l998 offered several events in the program which were held in English or German, e.g. a R.T. of Library Management led by a visitor of Switzerland, USA and Federal Republic of Germany. All spoke English also during the lively discussion with the audience.


Managing International Co-operation

In order to fulfil this task international co-operation has to be defined and managed differently as it was done during the last year. This transformation process which burdens the active international co-operation in the moment has to activate quite some efforts. Dr INOSE points out in the same article mentioned above that "in the growing fragmentation at the same time is a move to problem solving by exchanging opinions on matters of shared interest based on mutual understanding. It is unfortunate however that the potentials of these communities of interest tend to be ignored." Unfortunately this also refers to the present situation of managing international co-operation.

The international associations briefly mentioned above promoted the exchange of experiences of people which shared common goals by working out standards and guidelines in order to adopt and develop these on an international scale. By promoting collaboration in these work, projects were manageable. The problem of a framework and procedure has to be dealt with.

Although the Internet is causing fragmentation on the one side, it offers a wide range of collaboration on the other hand on a base of problem solving from case to case. Discussion lists and circulation of readers requests as well to the departments of one home institutions are such an excellent machinery for an international approach. People e.g. respond more rapidly and precisely to those discussion lists and the contributions than to information linked to the homepages. Tandem e.g. is such an machinery approaching the acquisition of languages skills on a broad base either from face to face or via the Internet 11). Call centres and telework show also new possibilities of a flexible international machinery 12). Problem solving, consultancy and advice are becoming more and more an important issue in the market as value added products offering a comprehensive service to the clientele 13). The comprehensive information resource will be replaced or has to be added by relevant and customer driven products. The more problem orientated and costumer centred a service should be the more it will become an integrated part of the packaged product which will also refer to libraries or information centres and needs co-operation and collaboration beyond fixed institutional limits and has to be managed accordingly although the discussion about the appropriate framework has not even started.

11) Brammerts, Helmut: The project Tandem, in proceedings of the international seminar Literature and Language... Berlin l999. to be published.
12) The information literate library in the information society. Proceedings of an international conference at Berlin, December 6-10. l998, published by the German Library Institute and the Academy of Science, Prague, l999. XII, 180 p.
13) Wolfgang Reime: Call-Centre, chances and risks, a departmental head
s experience in an information technology unit. In: The information literate library in the information society, Proceeding of an international conference at Berlin, p. 121-125.


Managing International Professional Co-operation Needs Networking

If international co-operation will develop alongside problem solving and according to subject orientated collaboration we need new management forms which will enable the profession to build up networks. Besides providing an exchange of experience in written format either by newspaper articles, brochures books or the Internet we need an ongoing process of a developing machinery for life long learning by seminars, training, conferences and internships.

Seminars shall not be shaped according to country, or kind of library but orientated around problems, creating networks between different levels of experiences. For example if the Foreign Relations Office of the German Library Institute at Berlin organises an international seminar, journalists as well colleagues and officials of the profession are asking which countries are participating. You could call this the noble wild person effect which was described by Rousseau. As a matter for fact during this time this question should be deferred to the much more interesting questions, what the international participant discuss about different problems and items.

Internships should be an integrated part of the ordinary curriculum of the professionals ensuring the ongoing process for being confronted with new experiences and developments. Only recently the government of Northrhine Westfalia has decided that no library director can apply for such a job without international experiences. This modern decision shows that the administration had recognised the importance of international relations and experiences and is creating a framework for integrating those into the professional education.

If a professional is stuck for quite some years to the working place change to which so many professionals have been confronted is becoming painful and troublesome- these experiences will be avoided by all efforts. The aim of all efforts of a life long learning concept shall be a positive attitude for change not because it is just change but since it belongs to the professional environment and will do so for a long time.

Conferences will stay important as well among the internationals associations and institutions but will lose importance compared with the machinery mentioned above. The conferences as the annual ones of IFLA will stay important meeting places for standards and guidelines and will market the profession in the international political arena. It is dangerous however that political discussions and political power of participating countries may overshadow the true international impact.

The need of today is not the library without walls but the library as a place for learning, information and communication within the professional environment, creating professionals without a wall in their heads, networking and reaching out for the clientele as well other professionals. Technical progress will hopefully release information professionals more and more from organisational as well technical tasks and provide networks for a life long learning process. If professionals tend to remain isolated from communication and discussions with others they will miss the cultural, academic as well social scope for a true international co-operation. This future transformation will abolish a lot of the old structures of co-operation. International relations between the same type of libraries as academic public or special libraries will remain but become less important.

International relations will be more clientele and content orientated than concentrating on technical agreements of classification and bibliographic control. Packing and evaluating information as well education for information literacy will be of high priority and determine the success of the profession. Because it will be less important to deliver comprehensive information sources than selecting those which are relevant for the clientele co-operation in all formats and possibilities as an ongoing process is needed. The knowledge of the topic, of the resources and the backing network with whom and which to collaborate will become more and more important. Therefore the definition and exercise of international co-operation will finally determine the success of the information profession.



I would like to express my sincere thanks and admiration to Dr. Hiroshi INOSE for offering me this invaluable opportunity to discuss common challenge in the profession of library and information services for the 21st Century.