Academic journal article
By Middleton, Michael
Australian Academic & Research Libraries , Vol. 37, No. 2
Information management is a term that has been appropriated by various groups of information professionals since the 1970s and applied to a wide range of functions. It therefore suffers a variety of definitions that differ in emphasis according to the disciplinary background of the definers. Emphasis may be on systems for conveying information (of concern to those working in corporate management, information systems and content management) or on the documents that carry information (as in recordkeeping, librarianship, document management).
The various occupations that pursue their distinct visions of information management have differentiated themselves through attention to different types of documents and different approaches to information organisation. However, the prevalence of digital media, the increasingly inclusive utilisation of metadata across document types, and acceptance of information as a corporate resource, mean that a concerted view of information management is becoming more likely. Wilson is among the more prominent writers who have paid attention to the definition of information management. His thorough observations (1) are not repeated here, except to note that they encompass all types of information resources from within or outside organisations. The shaping of disciplinary understanding would be assisted by case studies of information management application. There are examples of these in the literature, (2) but they are not documented with reference to a disciplinary framework.
The following account uses an information management perspective to investigate Australian scientific and technological information (STI) services. The work is in two parts. The first part (this paper) is an examination of the history and development of the STI services, with some remarks about their continuation and necessity. The second part is a consideration of the extent to which a consolidated view of information management may be applied to provision of STI services. (3)
STI services were chosen for the study for a number of reasons. They were expected to represent many of the purposes to which information management principles could be put into practice. They each provide an example of a service that is produced by one institution principally for the benefit of many others; they were developed at the time when consciousness of information management principles was nascent; they form a relatively distinct set of cases for examination; and they appear to be a valuable resource whose continuation cannot be taken for granted, and which may benefit from exposure to further scrutiny.
Many types of services or systems that involve information management could be examined. They range from systems for inventory control or personnel management, to services that are more concerned with documents in the conventional sense such as recordkeeping or cataloguing services. The discrete group of services chosen has been maintained continuously over an extended period of twenty to thirty years. Similar services in the social sciences and humanities exist. Although many of the observations in this work may also be applied to such services, they are outside the purview of this work.
STI services themselves are sometimes differentiated into bibliographic (reporting the literature using metadata) and non-bibliographic (maintaining the type of factual information that when online is increasingly used for e-research through time series and other data compilations). Bibliographic services tend to be fewer in number but are more widely used. For example Russell and Hartwell, in a directory of agricultural information sources then available in Australia, identified 21 bibliographic databases, many of them produced outside Australia, and 62 non-bibliographic databases, all produced in Australia. (4) This work is confined to bibliographic services, and comprises case studies of six such services. …