Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Cambridge Conversation (1)

This is the first part of my report about a discussion between health, academic, business and school librarians held in Cambridge on Tuesday 22 June as part of the CILIP Conversation. Part 1 is all about CILIP and part 2 is about the future of libraries.

Lots of the other participants have also reported: Anna, Anne, Isla, Niamh, Sheila, and Jenni.

What do we think about the Conversation?
CILIP asked us to say what we think will happen in 10 years time, but we really can’t do that; it’s a job for futurists. What we can do is to evaluate what has changed in the last few years, and how this might develop in the next 1, 3, or 5 years, and we could have been asked about this in more detail in the survey.

We really didn’t like the CILIP survey much ; it felt irrelevant and lacking in detail. Some of the questions just didn’t even make any sense at all, such as ‘do you think that expectations of your role are increasing’. We also wanted more detailed questions about what we want from CILIP.

What do we think about CILIP?
CILIP feels distant, remote and irrelevant to many - particularly those working in business, school and health libraries – it seems like Update and Gazette have little that reflects our working lives.

The principal of chartership is worthwhile, but there was opposition to having to remain a member of CILIP for life to retain it. Personally, I understand this objection, but I suspect that this is the case for most professional bodies and that it isn’t just a CILIP issue.

CILIP CPD courses are expensive. Many people were very impressed with the courses organised by special interest groups, at very reasonable prices, although it was noted that speakers for these courses are often only paid travel expenses. CILIP courses are much more expensive than those from other similar professional bodies such as the Museums Association, and they’re not reliably good enough for people to want to risk spending £400 to attend them.

CILIP’s building in London is very unpopular; issues regarding its costs and value have been addressed elsewhere.

We read Update and Gazette for the job advertisements, and some people (those training and chartering) try to read it all, but we don’t find much that is relevant or interesting to us. The job advertisements are sometimes for such poorly paid jobs that we wonder whether CILIP should be advertising them at all. It was also noted that it’s so expensive to advertise in Update and Gazette that many jobs are missing.

It was thought that there could just be one CILIP magazine, possibly delivered online only. (I have a lot of thoughts about the online magazines, and the CILIP website in general, but I’m saving them up for another post.) It was even suggested that the magazine format could be dispensed with in favour of personalised news bulletins. There is an e-bulletin feature already, but there’s not a lot of refinement to it.

So why do people continue to pay for membership? Some jobs do need chartered status, and for professionals without an LIS degree, chartered status is important evidence of competence. People couldn’t praise the special interest groups enough – they seem to make membership worthwhile.

We do want a professional body
We want it to advocate for us, and to have good PR abilities and a strong public and media profile. The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors was mentioned; we’d all heard spokesmen from it on the TV and radio. We really want CILIP to have someone whose job it is to appear on Newsnight, instead of making excuses about how hard it is to face up to Jeremy Paxman.

We approved of Phil Bradley’s idea that it would good to see a proactive CILIP that gets things wrong sometimes, instead of seeming to sit back and let us get on with it.

The example of Micahel Rose advocating for children reading was made. Andrew Motion (chairman of the MLA) wrote in 2008 about libraries in a way that suggested he hadn’t been in many recently, but he has been speaking up for them in the last few weeks. His opinions may not be nuanced enough to capture all the issues that concern librarians and information professionals, but CILIP could benefit from having someone similar to make a public impact.


  1. I agree with your comments about CILIP and those regarding expensive CPD courses. In fact within the theological library sector, only 27% of ABTAPL librarians are members of CILIP for this very reason* (Association of British Theological & Philosophical Libraries). I am surprised that you have not had more comments about this.
    *Data from the ABTAPL membership database

  2. I suspect not many people have felt moved to comment as 'CILIP courses are too expensive' is pretty much taken as a given - it's not really news to anyone, is it? But hopefully enough people have said it during the 'Conversation' that the message might get through!