27 July 2020

Bringing Information Law in from the Cold

By Naomi Korn

Photo by Jacob Wall on Unsplash

Challenges for Library, Information and Knowledge Management Workers

Staff in library, information management and knowledge management (LIK) services are facing a challenging time, now more than ever. Technology is advancing apace and the impact of Covd-19, has utilised these changes in technology, whilst also presented challenges in terms of how we square home working, remote working and online services, with our legal compliance obligations.

Our new book, Information Law: Compliance for librarians, information professionals and knowledge managers, which I had the pleasure in co-authoring with Charles Oppenheim and Adrienne Muir, provides an overview of important information law issues for LIK workers. Focusing specifically on copyright and other intellectual property rights (IPR), freedom of information (FoI), and data protection, the book is based upon UK law. LIK workers need to know about these areas of law because their organisations must comply with the law and because this knowledge provides them with tools when providing access to resources.

Organisation-wide Impact

The ramifications of information law are organisation-wide issues that impact upon the creation, use, access to and reuse of all information resources. Organisation-wide policies and staff who are trained, and confident in, all aspects of information law are necessary to ensure that these issues are properly managed. This book aims to deal with some of these issues by bringing information law in from the cold, recognising that it raises multi-faceted organisational issues that are way beyond the types of matters dealt with by compliance officers. Indeed, the management of information law requires a top-down and bottom-up approach. In other words, what is required is an approach where staff awareness is supported by senior management buy-in and championing. This, in turn, implies a symbiotic environment where staff on the ground are well versed in the organisation’s long-term strategy and policies, are trained to think in strategic ways, and have the confidence to make suggestions and recommendations to senior management and to point out where the organisation is not acting correctly. It also implies that staff have the confidence to understand that often the issues raised involve risk management, and that an appropriate balance between total risk avoidance and high-risk approaches is necessary. The precise balance depends, of course, on the type of organisation involved, its size, reputation, the costs of proposed compliance activities, the structure of the organisation, its governance and core strategic objectives and other factors.

The ‘Compliance Methodology’

To do their jobs, LIK workers need not only to understand the law, but also to develop the skills, confidence and organisational policy frameworks to apply the law’s principles to their context of use. They need the knowledge and skills to help them decide what is acceptable and to develop appropriate risk-aware approaches when things, as they often can be, are not clear. As a result, the issue of risk within the context of legal compliance is a central theme of this book and there is therefore a focus on how LIK workers can achieve the appropriate balance between compliance and pragmatism.

Our book is based on the ‘Compliance methodology’ (see figure) that we have developed at Naomi Korn Associates. This is a tried and tested methodology, developed and used by us, to help LIK workers to understand the legal issues that are central to the information they hold or that they wish to access. It then guides them through establishing a framework so that their organisation can both comply with their legal responsibilities and support, where appropriate, a suitably risk-aware environment that optimises access and use.
Compliane methodology diagram

Information Law: Compliance for librarians, information professionals and knowledge managers is available now from Facet Publishing.

This blog was originally published on cilip.org.uk.

© Naomi Korn Associates, 2020. Some Rights Reserved. The text is licensed for use under a Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike Licence (CC BY SA)

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