Today, 24 June, was the first full day of the EADI General Conference in Geneva. A great day to catch up with the Information Management Working Group.
In the afternoon, the Working Group held a joint meeting with Euforic in which colleagues presented 12 different information services. These information services included the DFID-funded Research for Development, News for development from CTA, as well as KIT portals, the LEISA website, ICCO’s ComPart flowers and many more.
While sitting listening, in my mind I compared the present day initiatives with those that were reported at my first EADI General Conference in Oslo in – I think – 1988. What were my conclusions about the changes that had taken place in our field over the last 20 years?
Frsitly, I felt that most of the modern information initiatives were much closer to their respective users than they had been in the past. Most of them have clear picture of the professional groups they are targetting, often crossing geographical and professional boundaries to do so. Next, there seems to be a specific subject focus with different intiatives inhabiting particular knowledge niches, often trying to meet specific needs or fill specific gaps. And thirdly, there seems to be much more of a knowledge sharing culture than 20 years ago. This knowledge sharing culture is partly facilitated by new technology – specifically the Web 2.0 tools like social bookmarking and RSS – but there is also much more of a knowledge sharing attitude. This attitude has been fostered – certainly in this forum and also in others – by the work of Peter Ballantyne and Chris Addison so it was nice to see them both activlely participating in this session today.
This is all very postive and I think considerable progress has been made over the 20 years in question. The presentations were very interesting but they were almost as interesitng for what they didn’t include as for what they did. Very few, for example, touched on the primary motivations for their services, or the boarder information environment in which they are operating, or even links to specific communities. These perspectives are often present but were not emphasized which may be because of the 8 minutes of time allowed per presentation or even because we take these fundamental things so much for granted.
On the whole, it was a great first meeting, and I was again impressed by my colleagues professionalism and dedication. We had fun in the evening too at a dinner organised by the Graduate Institute. I’m looking forward even more to tomorrow….
One anecdote, over dinner I was talking to Cheryl Brown. Marketing Coordinator at IDS, and she was telling how she had been to a very dynamic meeting of the Tanzanian library association in 2006. So I said to her: ‘Oh you must have met Kingo Mchombu then?’ She had not met him – although had heard his presentation – and so it will be interesting to hear her reaction to Kingo’s video later on in the week.