The Soup’s On Us: Introducing the Information Maintainers

This post is by Information Maintenance Community Member Monique Lassere

Many of us are familiar with the term “maintenance,” and we may even have ready-made ideas of what maintenance looks like, whether as an occupation or what we just realized the dishwasher needs. But what about the day-to-day, minute-by-minute work that sustains our world, our societies, and the way we interact with them? Maintenance is like soup: it comes in many styles and flavors. And our preconceived ideas and notions of what maintenance entails simultaneously bias our understanding of maintenance and its value within our surroundings, while further making invisible the myriad forms of work that sustain the world around us.

In many ways that cloaking device or preconception is the reason why I write this post today introducing you to the Information Maintainers community, our purpose and possibilities, and to beckon your participation.

The Information Maintainers are a group of individuals with a common, vested interest in information maintenance and its role within our day-to-day work, our organizations, and our infrastructure. Information maintenance refers to the work that sustains and repairs information, information systems, and information communities, as well as the many actions that keep our sociotechnical world going (Russel and Vinsel, 2016). This group came together because of a deep commitment to recast our work within the frame of information maintenance and infuse it with practices, relationships, and ways of thinking and being that represent a coherent ethic of care.

The Information Maintainer community’s overarching purpose is to support the maintenance of information and those who manage, maintain, and preserve information systems.

We hope to support information maintenance in the following ways:

  1. Research issues that lie at the intersection of information and data governance, ethics, and workforce care
  2. Develop and endorse educational resources that build and support the ethics of care within the information management and data governance sectors
  3. Develop and share informational resources for use in professional and internal organizational advocacy, such as case studies, talking points, and toolkits
  4. Develop guidelines and frameworks to inform long-term, inter-generational thinking in community-based and institutional information maintenance.

First and foremost, we hope to encourage and sustain a discussion of information maintenance through the lens of care. As information maintainers ourselves, we sustain bodies of information, information systems, and the communities that support them. Our varied roles–from community organizers and project managers to grant makers and leaders in higher education–reflect a range of experiences we hold with and in information maintenance. We recognize, however, that our individual and collective identities, perspectives, and experiences are but a slice of the conversation. Sometimes they enrich and open this conversation. Sometimes they can limit the conversation as well.

To that end, our paper below, “Information Maintenance as a Practice of Care: An Invitation to Reflect and Share” lays out related issues and stakes, our terms, and occupational roles for which an understanding of the relationship between information maintenance and an ethic of care is especially valuable. More than anything, the article is a call, an open invite, a door flung wide open to a potlock discussion on the intersection of maintenance and care.

Our hope is that the ideas we put forth as a community will be incorporated in student work, in the design of professional development curricula, in management approaches within information and cultural heritage organizations, and in the individual practices of anyone who finds meaning in the concepts we describe. This aim is a large part of why we came together as a group: because we knew that to truly interrogate the ways in which we enact or disavow information maintenance we would need to do so together, across institutions, hierarchies, sectors, and ways of knowing.

We would love for you to contribute to the Information Maintainers community. In all honesty we need you—to make visible the people, experiences, and practices that remain masked by the way our society has cast the word maintenance. We cannot do this without you. Please join us today by taking these three steps:

We’ll see you at the potluck. I’ll bring the soup.