Two weeks ago a brief news item in a local paper (Dayani, 2008) revealed that the Foundation for Conductive Education, based in Birmingham, England, is experiencing financial difficulties. That was on Friday 13th. Unlucky for some. On Wednesday 25th, just two days ago now, further bad news followed. As part of a range of cost-cutting measures, the post of Librarian at the National Library of Conductive Education is to be made redundant.
There is as yet no news on how this Library is to continue to function. In very quick time, however, the world of Conductive Education is beginning to wake up to the fact that, without a Librarian, it might not be able to.
Without the Librarian…
Conductive Education is a small world and people know each other, as people. And if anyone has had personal contact with individuals around the world struggling to make sense of what is represented by the words Conductive Education, that person is has been Gill.
She is not the only one in CE who ‘knows everybody’ but, more rarely, she has probably never ruffled anyone's feathers. Of course she has disappointed people, probably by now in their thousands, by having again and again to point out firmly and clearly that the sort of answers that they are seeking just do not exist. She has gathered and guarded not simply a sum of knowledge but, a fairly rare attribute in Conductive Education, she has been sharp to indicate its limits…
Oh dear, despite my careful use of the perfect tense, this is beginning to sound like an obituary. It is not.
The National Library of Conductive Education
The Library was created in 1981, out of the collection of materials on Conductive Education that I had been accumulating for some ten years and was by then totally out of control. Gill came in to help, initially as a volunteer, to catalogue and process these materials, and soon became a salaried employee of the Foundation for Conductive Education. Despite the Foundation’s perennial inability to pay the rate for the job or direct sufficient funds to equip the Library as i should have been, she stayed (this verb I can properlwrite in the aorist!). She took up the task of extending and formalising access to the communicable knowledge base of Conductive Education, she simulated (nagged!) others to create new knowledge, and she took up her own publishing too. Although she hated the term, she was actively concerned in knowledge-management, this on a sector-defining scale.
In a couple of days, therefore, discussion threads have already begun on two CE blogs. Since this afternoon a posting on Gill‘s own blog (Maguire, 2008) may occasion a third. This item on Conductive World, may open a fourth. A fifth and a sixth have kicked off as I have been writing this item. A provocative aside on another might start a seventh. Emails are whizzing back and forth, airing people’s anger and sorrow, their own analyses and their calls for action (there are already two suggestions for public petitions).
Don’t just read the postings, follow on through the Comments and pitch in to have your own say.
If Gill were still in post, doubtless she would already be busy cataloguing these, documenting the international development of Conductive Education for posterity.
A personal effect already…
Already today I have spotted an important document new paper on the Internet, in Portuguese, that I would have wanted to discuss with Gill. I have also had to disappoint someone preparing a conference presentation, because it would be hard for me to find in the Library what he needs to inform his presentation (this would have taken Gill about three minutes and she might also have been able personally to connect the enquirer to the author).
I laboriously give references for almost everything that I write. If I do not, then serious people (‘scholars’) cannot check what I say and, never mind that, go search for their own sources. When I came into CE in the early eighties the field was crippled (sorry if the word offends) by its total lack of scholarship. I’m no scholar myself but I pragmatically recognised the limits that this deficiency imposed and would continue to impose upon the development of CE and its acceptability. Initiating the Library, with the explicit and unattainable goal of assembling ‘everything there is on CE, of any kind, in any language, published or unpublished', was one line that I considered an essential step in solving this problem,
If something has come out of l‘affaire Maguire over this last couple of days, it is that I am not alone in understanding the fundamental nature of this problem. Unfortunately, this also comes with contradictory demonstration that ‘not a lot of people know that‘.
Dayani, A. (2008) Charity for disabled in cash plea as it faces cutting services, Birmingham Post, 13 February