The multicultural, interdisciplinary record of humanity: library and information science

Whilst the cuts to public libraries within the UK have attracted significant column inches in recent years, as a discipline, library and information science is not often in the news. Whilst stemming from the ancient, socio-political stance that preservation of, and access to, the record is ‘a good thing’, historically, this has been rather taken for granted. Library and information science is not an outstandingly popular subject in the UK, and salaries for information professionals are modest. A colleague of mine pointed out that he would love for school children to say ‘when I grow up, I want to be a librarian’, but LIS clings stubbornly to its reputation as a subject with limitations.

I am prompted to comment now, as we are living in somewhat extraordinary times. Where it seems there is a real chance that facts have become what we read on a state controlled social media. Where Orwell’s 1984 has sold out on Amazon, and yet prejudice, hatred and willful consumption of disinformation has never been greater. My Twitter dashboard is filled with anxiety and political commentary pretty much overnight, in response to the US Executive Order on immigration.

So I would like to take a moment to mention our work in Library & Information Science at City, University of London. Our London Library School, CityLIS, has grown from the first course to be offered in Information Science, in 1961. We have always welcomed those interested in any aspect of the information communication chain, irrespective of personal background or academic discipline. CityLIS is an international, interdisciplinary cohort, which collectively supports and works towards the understanding of information and documentation, from micro-blogging, through physical and digital books, papers, journals, creative outputs and commentary in any format, to high-level analysis. We work towards the preservation of, access to, and understanding of humanity’s record.

Library and information science skills are essential not only for those who aspire to work in a library, or information office. They form the bedrock of understanding to those pursuing an academic career, to those working in the media, to those promoting humanitarian causes, to those teaching, to those in the caring professions, to those in the creative industries, to those working in businesses, to those with leisure interests. Library and information science skills are essential to everyone who inhabits civilized society.

Library and information science is a broad field of study, which focuses on the topic of information, and which draws from a plethora of approaches, including those of computer science, human computer interaction, media studies, cultural studies, psychology, linguistics, education, history and philosophy.

The communication of information is the heart and soul of our information society.

The mechanisms and instantiations of our record are continually evolving in response to technology, politics, socio-cultural mores, and economics. At CityLIS we also emphasize ethics. We base our understanding and development of processes of the information communication chain on history and philosophy, especially the work of Karl Popper, Luciano Floridi and the developing approach of the Turing Institute.

CityLIS promotes library and information science as an important, independent discipline, which supports progress in all other disciplines. We welcome students and colleagues who wish to work for an open, rational and educated society.


CityLIS by #citylis: montage by @lynrobinson cc-by


Are School Exams Really Dumbed Down ?

I rarely meet a student interested in science. I am curious as to why science has such bad press.

Maybe nobody teaches it with enthusiasm. Maybe nobody wants to teach it full stop. Maybe nobody is inspired by it. Maybe it is just too hard.

Very few of our LS or IS students wish to specialise in science information.

Tonight’s Evening Standard (27/03/09) ran this article:

“Lords’ warning on too easy science GCSE’s were ignored”

The following questions were listed from the science GCSE:

“1. Our moon seems to disappear during an eclipse. Some people say this is because an old lady covers the moon with her cloak. She does this so that thieves cannot steal the shiny coins on the surface. Which of these would help scientists to prove or disprove this idea?

A) Collect evidence from people who believe the lady sees the thieves

B) Shout to the lady that the thieves are coming

C) Send a probe to the moon to search for coins

D) Look for fingerprints

Answer C


2. Many people observe the stars using:

A) A telescope

B) A microscope

C) An X-ray tube

D) A synthesizer

Answer A


3. The female nurse leaves the room while the X-ray photograph is being taken. Why must she leave the room?

A) to avoid being in the X ray image

B) to avoid the X ray damaging her cells

C) to avoid the X rays melting her mobile phone

D) to avoid the X rays giving her a tan

Answer B


4. When we sweat, water leaves the body through?

A) kidneys

B) Liver

C) Lungs

D) Skin

Answer D


5. Sandy is a warden for a conservation group. He notices that there are fewer sea birds nesting on the cliffs this year than in previous years. He is worried that some species of birds may die out. Which word is used to describe a species which has died out?

A) Endangered

B) Evolved

C) Extinct

D) Protected

Answer C

Just for interest, I retrieved my ‘O’ level physics book from the shelf.

[Abbott A F (1969). Ordinary Level Physics, (2nd edition). Heinemann Educational Books Ltd.: London]

It opened itself at chapter 6, Newton’s Laws of Motion. Here is one of the questions listed at the end of the chapter:

“6. State Newton’s laws of motion and explain how one of them may be used to define the absolute unit of force in the SI system.

A parcel of mass 10kg slides from rest down a straight shute inclined at 30degrees to the horizontal. If the frictional force acting is 2kgf, find:

a) the force in newtons causing the parcel to slide

b) the acceleration

c) the distance moved down the shute in 2s.”

There are 18 questions in all, but I won’t go on. My father always used to tell me that things were much harder in his day. But I wonder if they really were much harder in my day?

Of course the major point of newspapers is to sell newspapers. And maybe the questions listed are merely a taster of what a science GCSE candidate has to know to pass.

Answers before bedtime please.