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News Release

For immediate use 

Oct. 13, 2005 -- No. 490

Top scholars, leaders in information and technology
launch international academy to anticipate, address needs

By WANDA MONROE
UNC School of Information and Library Science

CHAPEL HILL – Are you one of the many thousands who search for information on the Web only to receive 150,000 responses to your keyword? What about the information you receive? Can you trust it? Is it legitimate? Is what you find really what you need? With so much information delivered to our desktops each day, many could use some help identifying what is credible, comprehensive, relevant and reliable.

In an effort to address these issues and answer such questions as those above, a newly formed academy of some of the world’s information and technology management leaders gathered recently at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for a two-day inaugural meeting. The leaders’ intent is to identify methods by which knowledge, trust and stewardship can be advanced in the digital age and information made more manageable and useable to more knowledge consumers.

Convened by UNC’s School of Information and Library Science, the Louis Round Wilson Academy is made up of global thought leaders and information revolutionaries who serve as a modern-day council of elders.

Members were selected for their broad range of experiences and insightful outlooks that are focused on collecting, sharing and preserving the record of human accomplishment, activity and imagination. They are charged with addressing a future of constant change in which new knowledge professionals – experts who can help locate, evaluate and guide users to credible, comprehensive information that is relevant and reliable – must anticipate and understand the information needs of tomorrow’s society.

The founding members of the Academy include presidents and chief executive officers of information technology organizations, historians, authors, university scholars and librarians and information scientists from around the world.

"Our faculty, and the faculty of every leading University in the world, realizes that the role of the 21st and 22nd century knowledge professional must be carefully shaped," said Dr. José-Marie Griffiths, dean of UNC’s School of Information and Library Science and founding chair of the Louis Round Wilson Academy. "We understand that those who pursue careers in this increasingly important profession require an education that engenders responsibility for all knowledge that influences change."

Griffiths’ vision of the 21st and 22nd century knowledge professional resembles a cross between the Pope’s most trusted advisor and a Jedi master – with every corporate, government, academic and scientific leader relying on this individual to ensure that the information on which critical decisions are based is accurate, complete, unbiased and relevant.

"Without trusted guides through the rapidly accumulating volume of recorded knowledge that is available, global society will lose both confidence and the innovative spirit," Griffiths said. "As knowledge leaders, we must move immediately to shape curricula and career paths that respond precisely to emerging needs in industry, government, science and academia."

UNC’s School of Information and Library Science is the number one school of its kind in the United States. It is recognized worldwide as an international seat of excellence for knowledge organization, management and dissemination and it has set standards for and carries on traditions of information and library science since it was founded in 1931 by Dr. Louis Round Wilson.

"Citizens of the world are increasingly aware that they need help in sorting and substantiating the information they require," said Griffiths. "I agree with fellow Academy member James J. O’Donnell, provost of Georgetown University, when he says the librarian of the future will have to be a more active participant in decision-making or we will live in infochaos."

In O’Donnell’s book, Avatars of the Word, he puts what he refers to as "the historical moment" in which we live into perspective and points to what he believes may be our future as we move toward cyberspace. Both O’Donnell and Griffiths say they believe that information specialists and librarians of the future will be immensely important.

"If the traditional librarian has been conceived as a figure at home in the discreet silences and cautious dealings of a Henry James novel," O’Donnell writes, "…now, perhaps the right model will be found in James Fenimore Cooper or the Star Wars films: something between the pathfinder Natty Bumppo and the Jedi knight."

In founding the academy, Griffiths and her colleagues intend to take on the extraordinary assignment of reviewing and re-designing roles and models for knowledge professionals who will assume more larger and pivotal roles for centuries to come.

Current members of the Louis Round Wilson Academy include:

Academy members will next meet in March in Granada, Spain, at the invitation of the Spanish government and the University of Granada. The invitation was extended to the group at its Oct. 6-7 meeting by Ubaldo Gonzales from the Embassy of Spain.

Invitations to prospective members are still being extended. Membership may not exceed 100 and must reflect the global nature of the initiative.

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Photograph from Knowledge Trust's inaugural meeting: http://www.unc.edu/news/pics/event/sils_recpt_1.JPG

CAPTION: Dr. Brewster Kahle, digital librarian, director and co-co-founder, Internet Archive; Dr. Vivian Siegel, former executive director, Public Library of Science; Dr. José-Marie Griffiths, dean of UNC's School of Information and Library Science and the founding chair of the Louis Round Wilson Academy; Catherine DeRosa, vice president of marketing and library services, OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc.; Dr. Joan Challinor, commissioner, United States National Commission on Libraries and Information Science; Dr. Nancy Davenport, president, Council on Library and Information Resources; Dr. Eva Mendez Rodriguez, profesores ayudantes (assistant professor), Dpto. de Biblioteconomía y Documentación, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid; and Dr. Jane Greenberg, associate professor, UNC School of Information and Library Science.

School of Information and Library Science contact:
Wanda Monroe, (919) 843-8337 or wmonroe@email.unc.edu

News Services contact: Lisa Katz, (919) 962-2093