Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The rot sets in

We note with displeasure that the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) has reorganised its branches so as to conform to the Euro Regions.

SQA watches developments in CILIP with interest as CILIP is a kindred professional body and more than a few archivists have line managers who are members of CILIP.

Some time ago the Society of Archivists [sic] made the same decision to organise according to the EU regions and SQA has previously commented on the slavish compliance of the cultural heritage sector with the EU's demands, see The Balkanisation of Britain.

We wonder how many members of CILIP are aware of the true EU motive behind this development and the long-term cultural damage that will ensue?

CILIP states:

In the developing regional and devolution agenda, CILIP's Branches are an influential voice for the profession, whether in the Home Nations or the English regions.

So CILIP has redrawn the boundaries of its Branches in England, to ensure that they match the powerful Regional Development Agencies (RDAs), and allow CILIP's Members to deal with the RDAs, Government regional offices, Regional Cultural Consortia and other important bodies on equal terms.

This cynical, deceptive and propagandist statement makes no mention of the EU what-so-ever. Either this means librarians are no longer as well informed in current affairs as they used to be, they are dimmer than they used to be or their leadership thinks they are more ill informed and dimmer than they actually are.

Judging by CILIP's mealy-mouthed comments, they are unaware of the devastating blow dealt to the EU's plans for dismantling England into Euro Regions by Neil Herron's North East No Campaign when the proposed north east elected assembly was rejected by a massive majority of the north east's voters in the recent referendum.

The EU map of Britain

Compare CILIP's new branch boundaries and list of counties and administrative areas with the above EU map of England: click here

The spurious basis of this reorganisation is the Regional Development Agencies Act 1998 but SQA is aware of the true reasons: EU integrationism.

We are witnessing a crucial stage in the development of EU totalitarianism, the destruction of English cultural heritage, perceived by our European neighbours as the basis of our identity and opposition for centuries. And quite right too: England has withstood and even defeated their dictatorships and corrupt systems of government for as long.

Further reading: More on archives and the UK Euro-regions

Who do you think you are?

The recently published National Archives Standard for Record Repositories (2004) has opened up a can of worms as far as SQA is concerned.

Not only does the new Standard seemingly attempt to duplicate parts of BS5454 and at the same time defer to it as a fuller authority (see our previous blogs Some Dos and Don'ts and Up a bit, left a bit, down a bit, right a bit), quite unnecessarily when one considers BS5454 can be cited in its own right, but the whole concept of the identity of an archivist, that strange, hard-pressed being who actually runs an archives repository or service, as described in the Standard, seems wholly at odds with SQA's declared position.

So what does the Standard say that so antagonises SQA?

Our concerns relate to p.5, under Interpretation. This describes professionally qualified archivists and conservators as those having a professional qualification or specific training or equivalent experience recognised by the Society of Archivists [sic] (from which further details may be obtained on request).

Who are the Society of Archivists [sic] to dictate what constitutes a professionally qualified archivist? Does their privileged position derive from a supposed privileged position assumed in turn by TNA?

Is there a special relationship between TNA and the Society of Archivists [sic]? Does TNA have statutory powers to choose and discriminate between or recognise and appoint professional bodies? Hardly! There is no such national archives legislation.

And who exactly recognises the Society of Archivists [sic]? Neither TNA nor the Society of Archivists [sic] indicates who the recognising body is.

Not only does the Standard exclude SQA from this crucial matter, despite all our members being qualified archivists, but the Society of Archivists [sic] is made up of a membership that can hardly be described as exclusively professionally qualified archivists.

The Society's own web site makes this free-for-all clear. The Society of Archivists is the recognised professional body for archivists, archive conservators and records managers; admits students in full-time education, admits as Full Members archivists, archive conservators, records managers, archive education officers, archive assistants, record clerks and other staff; and admits as Affiliate Members any individual......provided that they are not qualified to join as full members of the Society. Individuals elected to this grade enjoy the [sic] most of the full benefits of Society membership.

On top of all this there is one further glaringly anomalous concern arising from TNA's statement. Quite simply it is this: it is not necessary for a qualified, professional archivist to belong to the Society of Archivists [sic] or any other given body in order to practice as an archivist in the first place. If it were, then TNA might be in a position to recognise only that body. Our so called profession is unlike the law or medicine in that persons can practice as archivists whether qualified or not and whether a member of any given professional or quasi-professional body or not. Any arrangement TNA has with any one professional body is thus entirely contrived.

As a digression, SQA has commented previously on the bogus status of registered membership of the Society of Archivists [sic]. Interestingly, TNA's Standard does not mention this, as though in confirmation of our own views.

Most professionals such as solicitors, barristers, accountants, surveyors, engineers, architects and doctors must marvel at this highly unprofessional mix of qualified archivists, registered members of the Society of Archivists [sic], unregistered members of the Society of Archivists [sic], unqualified archivists (is there such a thing as an unqualified archivist?) (Is there such a thing as an unqualified barrister?), archival conservators and paper repairers, bookbinders, teachers working as archive education officers, clerical officers working as archive assistants or record clerks and the ominous sounding other staff all going under the name of a profession.

Does the last category of other staff include manual staff such as cleaners and drivers? Or librarians (members of their own professional body CILIP) and library assistants, working in combined archives and library local studies services?

Do these any individuals and other staff feature in TNA's concept of a professional archivist? It appears so.

There is no concept of a professionally qualified elite in any of this. Neither is there anything of a traditionally recognisable profession. And hardly surprising, given the tendency of TNA to recruit into its curatorial grades persons other than qualified archivists and the general drift of political correctness against elitism.

SQA is not alone in expressing concern about the government's campaign against elitism, as we have commented in an earlier blog Where have all the intellectuals gone? The government's dumbing-down campaign, shared by TNA and the Society of Archivists [sic], is aimed at academia and professionalism alike.

An indication of how professional archival matters are regarded as subordinate to the grand design is the existence in TNA of a post of Director of government and archival services as though TNA is about anything other than archives.

We await the outcome of the selection process for the new Chief Executive of TNA with interest.

Further reading: Career Guidance

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