Criticism of CILIP

There have been a number of recent posts debating, and in some cases criticising, CILIP and why one would join or become a chartered member:

In CILIP: What is it good for?, Information Overlord asked

if you’re a member, why are you a member? Out of habit? because you think it looks good if you are? some other reasons? If you’re not a member, what would make you want to become one??

The many commenters were mostly law librarians and mostly unenthusiastic. There was some debate, including some rare input from CILIP people who focussed on the publicity angle. Elspeth Hyams of CILIP made the point in response to CILIP’s silence on difficult issues with reference to the Kent “deprofessionalisation” that CILIP cannot intervene publicly in these cases as they represent both sides:

Kent was an interesting case because it illustrated why, unlike the Royal College of Nursing, CILIP cannot act like a union: the disagreement was between managers and their staff, at both levels, members of CILIP.

I think this is an admission that CILIP cannot and will not do public advocacy of the profession and support its members. In reply I wrote:

However, I cannot see why CILIP could not have even made a statement of the kind you just made, explaining the case, even[if] it only appeared on its website. Why when I read about this [issue] in the Guardian were CILIP not mentioned emphasising the importance of professional librarianship- which is surely half the point of the organisation- while the AUT were mentioned as campaigning against job losses? Surely too, there were also AUT members on both sides of that dispute: many university managers are also AUT members.

Matthew Mezey (news editor of Update) and Debby Raven (editor of Gazette) seemed to suggest that part of the answer lay in contributing more to these internal publications, to which I replied:

Update is an internal document. I doubt that many university or council managers outside the library read it, so I don’t think this is publicly advocating the profession at all. You talk of publicity, but preaching to the converted is hardly the issue. It is people and organisations outside the profession that need to be convinced. For example, when library closures are in the news, why is Ian Snowley [CILIP president, or not anymore I believe] not on TV?

Information Overlord provides an excellent summary and discussion of the above comments (without the vain self-references as above). In a comment to this second post, Jennie points out another Kent story, this time of a library closure, where the local community are marching and protesting and forming action groups, and still no word from CILIP

Anne Welsh picked up on this post by asking Why CILIP? She is a lot more positive and while noting,

I also noticed that although the post went up on 26 January, the first comment from a Cilip representative / employee was not until 11 February, indicating, perhaps, that RSS flows slowly to Cilip HQ.

she is generally much more positive and gives a number of reasons which she summarises thus:

So, I guess for me Cilip is all about keeping informed and networking. Further, I’d say that, as a member, I think of Cilip as something that I am part of, that I can contribute to, and, if there are enough other members with similar views, change.

Fair enough, although I think there are increasingly more ways to keep informed without handing over cash to Ridgmount Street, and that CILIP has failed to lead the way in information delivery and dissemination. I understand that CILIP will be invaluable for networking, depending on how you view networking and its necessity/benefits, something I don’t want to go into here. Anne also wrote a related post called Why charter? which discussed a talk she attended on the subject. There are some reasonable reasons given at one point (my numbering):

  • 1. improve your skill-base
  • 2. gain an insight into the library profession
  • 3. show a commitment to your profession and organisation, which can often lead to increased organisational security
  • 4. map your exper[t]ise – useful for future job applications

These are all things (no. 3 excepted) I feel I can, and should, do myself without having to rely on a crutch such as CILIP or part with money for the privilege. What worries me is the observation near the end that:

She and the other chartered librarians in the room all agreed wholeheartedly that chartering is a personal journey, so that although everyone fulfills the same criteria, the experience they gain along the way is totally unique.

I believe a qualification (counting chartership as a qualification) should not be about the journey but should prove something to a current or future employer. I don’t go to work for personal gratification or for a journey: I do so because I need the money but I want to do the best I can while I am there. A commenter, James P. Mullan, says something similar which I wholeheartedly disagree with:

I also think Chartership shows a committment to a career in Librarianship, I’m always concerned about anyone who doesn.t want to become a Chartered Librarian as a result.

The library profession seems obsessed by proving commitment (rather than providing skills): I’ve heard that used as a reason to pursue the M.A. too. Surely this is something for an employer to worry about: commitment to a job is surely far more important than commitment to a career or a profession. I’m happy to do my job to the best of my ability and don’t think I am a worse librarian in any way because I don’t attend certain seminars or training courses in order to pursue chartership.

101 Tips for School Librarians has a different take on chartership:

CILIP are often accused of non-representation in the school library community. They take £17 off my pay every month, and I still can.t figure out why, other than the fact that I can continue to call myself .chartered.. My wife pays £30 a year for the same privilege as a teacher. Something doesn’t add up. I’m sure CILIP would disagree with my assessment, so their end of the stick can be found here.

However, they do have a couple of useful spots on their website, and they offer decent training events if you can afford to travel to London.

Most of this of course is available without membership, although training events will obviously cost more; the range of training courses, especially in terms of specificity, also needs drastic improvement in my opinion. He also mentions LisJobnet (freely available online, even to non-members), and their special interest groups. Having never been a member, this latter is one area which I really cannot comment on, although Mr 101tips says they “vary between the bland (2 shoddy leaflets a year) to the sublime (real support)”.

I would in any case recommend you read the actual posts and comments, especially the Information Overlord ones.