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Foreword: Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP)

Published onOct 29, 2019
Foreword: Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP)

“Librarianship is a profession that is not afraid to reinvent itself” (Elves, 2017,89)


Change and innovation are the enduring hallmarks of the library and information profession. Parcell (2019) maintains that libraries have survived due to their “culture of cooperation and innovation… becoming centres of digital practice… navigating changes in digital content and scholarly communications”. The GLAM Handbook embodies all aspects of Parcell’s statement; innovative and transformational in production and publication as well as content.

The creative collaboration, teamwork and consensus building required to produce a Handbook via the Book Sprint method is a perfect fit for the sector and the topic. Book Sprint (according to its website) is an idea originally conceived in 2005 by Thomas Krag, as a collaborative process taking several months. Adam Hyde developed this original idea further in 2008 by designing a method for a five-day event writing documentation for Free Open Source Software, subsequently refined and tested further (2019). The GLAM Handbook is based on this latter method.

Earlier examples from the library and information profession include the Open Science Handbook created in 2018 by a team based at the TIB (German National Library of Science and Technology) as “an open, living handbook on Open Science training”. The facilitators, Heller and Brinken share tips and experiences in an LSE Impact blog “How to run a book sprint in 16 steps”.

As the title indicates, this handbook focuses on building a GLAM Innovation Lab. Innovation Labs represent a contemporary approach to effecting systemic change by creating solutions to problems or issues too large for any one country or organisation to resolve alone. The defining features of such Labs include the need for heterogeneous participants and targeted collaboration; “imagining the impossible” and “discovering the future” (Gryszkiewicz, Toivonen, & Lykourentzou, Nov. 3, 2016).

Its publication is timely for several reasons. In June 2019 the European Union published the Cultural Heritage: Digitisation, Online Accessibility and Digital Preservation report, reviewing and consolidating progress in “digitising cultural heritage and making it available online in the public domain as well as in-copyright”. Equally, the emphasis on equality of contribution as well as equality of access to materials represented by both the production methods and content of the Handbook, resonates with the values outlined in the IFLA Strategy 2019-2024, launched in August 2019 and endorsed by CILIP: The Library and Information Association, amongst others.

As outlined in the following chapters, libraries and librarians are collaborating with colleagues in cognate sectors, embracing positively the challenges presented by the increasing demands of managing and making digital cultural heritage content freely available in the public domain. For the future, not only will the sector need to navigate changes in digital content and scholarly communication but will need to pre-empt the challenges presented by developments in artificial intelligence, cyber security and big data. Predicted in the report Harnessing the Power of AI: The Demand for Future Skills, published on 30th September 2019, is that 133 million new jobs will be created globally by the adoption of artificial intelligence by industry.

In this rapidly evolving world, the opportunities for the GLAM profession are enormous and exciting; the expertise and skill set present in the sector result in our being uniquely positioned to deliver and lead this futuristic skills agenda. The GLAM Handbook is a starting point: the team gathered in Doha, Qatar in September 2019 to create this work, represent a global commitment to cultural collaboration and innovation, capturing the pioneering spirit of contemporary professionals from galleries, libraries, archives and museums. I am pleased to have been invited to write a foreword to this exciting experiment, serving as a model for the sectors in so many ways.

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