Saturday, 24 May 2014

Information sharing from a Government perspective

CILIP Cymu Wales Conference 2014 - image with thanks to @CLICLibraries 
At this year's CILIP Cymru Wales Annual Conference I was delighted to provide a workshop session on sharing of information to the internal and external communities of the Welsh Government.  This posting summarizes key points and discussions within the session.

The session considered:
  • Welsh Government (WG) as an information sharing organisation and how effectively it fulfills this role;
  • How WG Library & Archive Services (L&AS) works hard to maintain the comprehensive archive of WG Publications, making these easily available through the Publications Catalogue;
  • Considers a small project expanding the type of information included within the Publications Catalogue, and how this prompts reflection on characteristics of poor and effective information sharing.

The slides from my presentation are available in SlideShare (and see below). The session was designed to be participative, with the aim of gaining feedback from delegates about the WG web site, and the Publications Catalogue. The key points  were:

1. WG publishes in excess of 750 formal publications p.a.. L&AS captures on average 770 titles p.a. and manually adds these to Publications Catalogue. We publish policy documents, consultations, guidance information, some research and statistical information, in addition to documents about the performance and activities of the WG.

The Catalogue is available via the Welsh Government web site > About Us > Freedom of Information. The direct link is .

Awareness of the Publications Catalogue was low, but those who did know about it had found it increasingly difficult to find after  changes to the web site structure in Summer 2013.

2. The catalogue contains information from the times of the Welsh Office (1965 - ), although some older materials are also included.

3. More recent catalogue records include document file attachments which include Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, PDF files etc. We have supplemented some records for older materials with electronic full text provided from document scanning projects, and through documents retrieved from the web archives. Some of the scanned outputs may be in image format only, and therefore will not be text searchable. Excepting these image files, the catalogue provides options for searching for keywords or phrases from the attached document files.

4. Where electronic versions of documents are not linked to the catalogue then an online request can be made. The WG First Point of Contact Centre (FPCC) also welcomes enquiries by telephone or email. The FPCC is open Monday - Friday 08:30 - 17:30 and contact details are provided here.

5. Participant feedback indicated that it can be difficult to locate recent publications and information within the Welsh Government web site. Several people recommended using general internet search engines to locate recent Welsh Government information.This matches the experience of L&As.

6. Our experiences of using the various web archives for retrieving older information about publications has been mixed. Web archive snapshots, particularly of older versions of the site are limited with:
  • a lower frequency of snapshots taken, including some significant and long gaps of coverage missing;
  • limited scraping and capture to the full depths of the site. Many Web Archiving services only effectively scraped the top 3-5 layers of a site. The WG site often extends far deeper than this, with a consequence that much information is missing from the Web Archive.
  • no available keyword or phrase searching available within the web archives. Successfully locating information in the web archive is dependent either on having the original URL, or by navigating the site to the appropriate page. As previously indicated the complex structure of the WG site means that this is difficult, time-consuming and with low likelihood of success.
7. The appeared to be low awareness of Web Archiving services, especially in the context of retrieving old Welsh Government materials. Appropriate Web Archive services in this context are: 

8. Because of the limitations with web archiving services L&AS are experimenting with expanding the remit of the Publications Catalogue. We are piloting including Freedom of Information Request responses and Ministerial Decisions. The inclusion of this information within the Catalogue will provide a useful and more complete historical resource for Welsh governmental information.

However, our Publications Catalogue still doesn't adequately function as a full archive for our publications. Digital continuity issues have yet to be resolved. In light of this we continue to maintain a paper-based archive of publications too.

9. As a result of experiences of this pilot project, the barriers and enablers to effective information sharing were suggested to be:

The session reaffirmed for me:
  • The need to raise the awareness and of the Publications Catalogue;
  • To continue to advocate for a higher profile for the Publications Catalogue within the WG web site, and for improved "findability" of WG publications generally within the site;
  • How boundaries between the roles in the information profession are blurring. The context of this example demonstrates how librarians may also need to be champions for improved access to information, responsible for archiving information and digital continuity, in addition to the traditional roles of identification, capture, resource description, storage and retrieval. I wonder if these challenges are also true for colleagues working in other sectors?
I will welcome your comments, or requests for further information in relation to this session or the activities of the WG L&AS more broadly.

I am extremely grateful to CILIP Cymru Wales for this opportunity to facilitate a session at Conference, and for my attendance throughout the day. 


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