3.00 FYI France: Enewsletter and archive

by Jack Kessler, kessler@well.sf.ca.us

July 15, 1997 issue. This file presents an archive copy of the issue of the FYI France enewsletter, ISSN 1071-5916, which was distributed via email on July 15, 1997.
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Versions of the following have appeared online regularly, since 1992, as a feature of the FYI France enewsletter, ISSN 1071-5916, which is distributed for free via email every month except August. Enewsletter subscriptions may be obtained via email request to: kessler@well.sf.ca.us .

Here this file is one of a number made available -- hopefully attractively, all in one place, and relevant to libraries and online digital information work in France and Europe -- as part of FYI France (sm)(tm), an online service to which anyone can subscribe for 12 months by postal mailing a check for US $45, payable to Jack Kessler, to PO Box 460668, San Francisco, California, USA 94146 (site licenses also are available): please write your email address on the front of your check. Please email suggestions for improvements to me at kessler@well.sf.ca.us .


The New Information Profession in France

The many messages which arrived in response to the May 15 posting here of The New Information Profession, a 'digital book' Ch. 1, were divided into two camps: those who embrace the idea warmly, sometimes too warmly, and those who flatly oppose it and are sceptical that it even exists.

Fellow - zealots are not hard to convince: difficult to sway, often, but not hard to get enthusiastic as they already are on the bandwagon. The sceptics, though, need evidence. Several asked me for proof that what I am advocating already exists, somewhere; that someone already has undertaken the task of "helping people to find online digital information".

Before proceeding on with the argument this month, then, I thought I first had better offer some evidence: from France, of course, as even the sceptics grant that quite a few folks are excited about online information in the US -- how much more interesting if the excitement has spread abroad, and to a non - English language country. This is not just Internet excitement, however -- that already is well - documented -- this is serious work in helping users find information online, work which might lead to some professional re - definition, or to a new profession.

* ENSSIB / Ecole nationale supérieure des sciences de l'information et des bibliothèques

See: http://www.enssib.fr/

The French national library school, the ENSSIB at Lyon (Villeurbanne), has gone through the transformation through which library schools most places are suffering now. In the ENSSIB case, the "library" term was retained in the school's name -- only just, by some accounts -- and included as being still every bit the equal of the newer "information science" term.

The name - game is not what is most interesting in the ENSSIB's case, however. The ENSSIB program -- for its students and researchers, but also for its outside world -- has been transformed far more radically than its name change suggests. The three basic degrees which are offered at the ENSSIB now provide really very little in the way of traditional book - library education: all now primarily train students to help users search for information on digital systems --

-- perfunctory mention here, it seems, of "libraries", and none whatsoever of "books". These people are in training to design and run -- and manage and explain -- digital information systems in "enterprises", "documentation centers", "companies", and it seems only incidentally any longer in "libraries".

The research program at the ENSSIB does offer a fine and fascinating "pôle lyonnais en histoire du livre", which takes advantage of the magnificent rare book collections of the Bibliothèque Municipale of Lyon, and the treasure of the city's Musée de l'Imprimerie et de la Banque. This is the exception, however, which proves the rule: the rest of the program is devoted to digital information and to the servicing of same --

"systems and service of documentation information... With the decisive evolution of new information technologies and information networks has developed a research activity more closely oriented toward scientific and technical information and the new environments for the management and research of information."

ENSSIB research projects now have titles and orientations like, "Centre d'études et de recherches en sciences de l'information (CERSI) -- axis 1: information systems and interfaces, conception, organization and representation; axis 2: economics, management and sociology of information service; axis 3: the history and conservation of the written word" -- in this order, one suspecting that the third "axis" receives the least, and a decreasing, emphasis.

So much, then, for the training and research program in France. Librarians -- the people who work in book - libraries -- are being trained elsewhere, there. But in the former national library school, the ENSSIB, the thrust of the educational preparation provided nowadays is toward digital information: designing it, providing it, and helping people to use systems for finding it.

* ADBS / L'Association des Professionnels de l'Information et de la Documentation

See: http://www.adbs.fr/

"Documentation" -- information regardless of its container, i.e., regardless of whether or not it is "in a 'book'" -- has a long history in France, going back at least to the Belgian Paul Otlet's 1934 treatise on the subject. The ADBS is heir to a series of organizations which have taken up the ideas of Otlet and others as a professional raison d'être.

Today, the ADBS claims 5500 members -- the ABF / Association des Bibliothécaires Français has 3500 -- and offers conferences, publication, courses, and certification.

The point of "documentalism" is to provide a link between, "those who create information: editors and publishers, journalists, researchers..." and "those who use information: decision - makers, consultants, insurers, financial analysts": documentalists "search and retrieve information, deliver it to those who will use it, in forms appropiate to its use, and more generally manage it". In France, documentalists work as "information brokers", "database administrators", "corporate documentation managers", "indexers and analysts", and in many other of a long list of occupations: see a list of 29, with explanations, at,


* SVP (S'il Vous Plait)

See: http://www.svp.com/

See also, for more about "SVP" and other "information brokers":


Founded 1935 by Georges Mandel, Minister of Posts, Telegraphs and Telephones (the "PTT" -- the government communications monopoly), rescued 1937 by Maurice de Turckheim ("an information service by telephone"), real take - off 1945 as a post - war reconstruction effort, now run by Brigitte de Gastines, SVP employs 400 for 75,000 users in France, 1000 for 225,000 users worldwide. The purpose:

"To take a decision quickly but safely, senior or middle management in a company needs clear, precise information adapted to the context of their society. In order to meet their concerns, SVP diagnoses the decisive factors and examines all the data, and consults information sources before answering a specific question."

This isn't librarianship. Neither at SVP nor at the ADBS is there any mention of books, and there is not much mention of them any longer even at the French national library school. Something new is happening: something old, perhaps, if the 1935 founding of SVP and the turn - of - the - century origins of Paul Otlet's thinking are considered -- but something different, nevertheless, from the library - and - book - based information systems in which most of us were schooled, and in which many of us still feel most comfortable.

The form of that new thing -- that new profession, perhaps, encompassing activities as formerly - disparate as those of, now, the ENSSIB, the ADBS, and SVP -- is the point of The New Information Profession, a "digital book". The next chapter will appear in September, but I thought it best, here, to show the sceptics some evidence that all of this really is going on now -- even in France...

Happy day - after - Bastille - Day, everyone, and bonnes vacances. See you in September.


FYI France (sm)(tm) e - journal        ISSN 1071 - 5916
      |           FYI France (sm)(tm) is a monthly electronic journal,
      |           published since 1992 as a small - scale, personal,
      |           experiment, in the creation of large - scale
      |           "information overload", by Jack Kessler. Any material
     / \          written by me which appears in FYI France may be
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   //   \\        long as, a) they give me credit and show my e - mail
  ---------       address and, b) it isn't going to make them money: if
 //       \\      if it is going to make them money, they must get my
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which they get with me. Use of material written by others requires their
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        Copyright 1992- by Jack Kessler, all rights reserved.

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Last update: October 27, 1997.