Canadian Information Professionals Sound the ALARM and ARMA and SAA Reach Out

Article excerpt

"Only connect!" E. M. Forster, Howard's End (1910)

Unlike physicians and attorneys, information professionals have a shared - and often self-defeating - tendency to ignore or marginalize those specialists not in their own specific discipline. Archivists, for example, frequently deny a significant relationship between themselves and records managers. Some records managers tend to downplay the roles of the archivist. This often happens because persons enter these fields often by "falling" or getting "pushed" into them. They are likely, then, to have had little educational foundation in information work as a larger field or to have had enough experience in another related field to be able to see information work as a broader profession, one broader than the particular subdiscipline in which they happen to find themselves.

Other professional areas do not seem to have these "relationship" problems - at least at the level of the information fields. Regardless of their specializations - sometimes narrow or arcane - all physicians must have the same very detailed knowledge of major systems of the body. Regardless of their specializations, all attorneys must understand a wide range of legal theories, principles, precedents, and procedures. It is about the common body of knowledge that specialized professionals communicate. They all share concerns, too, about the directions and social significance of their professions more broadly defined. Why should it be otherwise in the information disciplines? Especially so since increasingly we can identify a growing commonality of interests among the information disciplines in areas such as information creation, information systems and technologies, information theories, ethics, management techniques, and economics (e.g., cost analysis, cost-benefit studies).

Strength lies in unity, not alienation. There is a growing convergence, rather than divergence, among groups of all sorts. The age of fang-and-claw competition among professions and organizations is now giving way to a period of time in which the prevailing paradigm is one characterized by cooperation and adaptation, a model embodying a connective, or network, construct. This momentum is being hastened by pressing economic, political, corporate, and workplace realities. The older concept of "jobs" is giving way to "work," and narrow specializations are becoming dubious. In fact, convergence strategies and cooperation may prove absolutely necessary for the eventual survival of some information disciplines - and their associations.

Among various information associations representing a diversity of practitioners, there is an embryonic interest in collaboration and cooperation in areas such as the developing and strengthening of their members' knowledge bases, enhancing the credibility of the fields in the workplace, and improving the macro-profession's image in the larger society. Decades of "going it alone," in isolation from each other have proved futile. This column provides some insight into efforts at collaboration of two alliances: the ALARM strategy in Canada and the Joint Committee of the Association of Records Managers and Administrators (ARMA International) and the Society of American Archivists (SAA). In the unlikely event that it's not clearly evident, even the most self-centered information professional should be aware of and take an interest in all efforts to strengthen the professional standing of his/her field.

ALARM!

In 1994, ALARM came onto the information-sector scene in Canada. "ALARM" stands for The Alliance for Libraries, Archives, Records Management. In brief, it exists to address the professional development needs and concerns of information practitioners, associations, and unions - rather than employers - in what ALARM calls the Information Resources Sector (IRS) of Canada. ALARM's leadership is made up of ARMA International,[1] the Canadian Council of Archives, the Canadian Library Association, and the Canadian Union of Public Employees. …