Thursday, 9 December 2010

Now I have been blogging about

how to be an activist and I have made the point about the need to be well informed.
How you become well informed is, of course, entirely up to you.
In my particular job it means reading a lot and from a wide variety of resources. For other people it can mean a combination of reading and learning to do something or research other than reading. It might mean listening to other people or observing them at work or a combination of those things.
Being well informed involves receiving information.
It is not however sufficient just to take that information in. The Book Street Library is going to be closed? It is easy to panic when you hear something like that. First of all though you need to know whether there really is a plan to close the library. Do you believe it because Jo Reader from next door (who tends to sensationalise news) has told you? Do you believe it because the local paper has said that the library is going to close? Do you believe it because the senior librarian tells you there has been a meeting and it looks likely to happen?
The least reliable source is likely to be Jo Reader. Do not act on that. Do some research.
The local paper may not be a very reliable source either. It depends on the paper but newspapers are in the business of selling you news (even if the paper is the local "free" paper).
Treat the information with caution. Do some research.
The senior librarian is a different story. He or she has good reason to tell you. It is probably his or her employment on the line as well. You are almost certainly being told because there is some truth in the story. Do some research.
Jo Reader is a tertiary source of information, the least reliable there is in many cases. Jo Reader can be useful. Jo Reader may alert you to a problem or the fact that a rumour has moved on to a stage where some action has been taken.
The newspaper is a secondary source of information. There is usually something in the story. A journalist will have been sent to inquire. If it is a really big issue, such as the closure of the entire Book County Library Service, then there wil be information coming from other sources as well. There will be radio and television coverage. There will be official meetings etc. Keep alert.
The senior librarian is a primary source of information. The libraian will be involved although he or she may not know all they need to know or would like to know. It is also possible that someone in this position will not be able to share all the information they have. Some of it may be confidential.
Ask questions. Listen to the answers. Inform yourself. Start sorting out the arguments for both sides. Be firm but do not make a nuisance of yourself. If someone says they do not have time to help ask when they will have time or how you can get the information in another way. Ask for an appointment. Go with a list of questions. Do not allow yourself to be sidetracked or for the person you are questioning to take over the interview. You need to be assertive without being rude.
My last cat hair of advice this morning? If you are given confidential information - DO NOT leak it. You are not Julian Assange. If you leak confidential information, however great the temptation, then your career as an activist is over. Nobody will trust you - and that includes your own side. There are times when it is necessary to be more silent than a Trappist monk.


Ann said...

Well said.

catdownunder said...

Thankyou Ann!

Rachel Fenton said...

More silent than a monk? Really? Hehe! I'm enjoying this advice and activist lowdown.