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CILIP (not) on Newsnight

I understand that CILIP was actually offered a chance to talk on Newsnight the other day. I’ve always been of the opinion that CILIP should make more effort to push itself into the media, to publicise and stand-up for the profession. The other day the BBC actually asked CILIP onto a programme, and a significant and highly influential one at that, and they didn’t have anyone available. I expect there are real and genuine reasons why there wasn’t anyone- apparently there were people willing to speak by phone or video link- but I think the fact that CILIP was not prepared for such an occasion, even when libraries were unusually in the news that day, is very symbolic of CILIP’s attitude and institutional inability to promote the profession and to deal with modern media. This is especially surprising given all the recent soul-searching within CILIP and the recognised urgent need for the library profession to defend itself as it’s a soft target in any upcoming cuts. Any robust response to the now infamous KPMG report (see p. 19) seems to have consisted of unofficial bloggers (e.g.) and bloggers from CILIP Update (e.g.), all largely preaching to the choir. I hope they were also pushing a press release down the BBC’s throat, although I haven’t heard of one.

Update:  I should point out that, according to the thewikiman,  CILIP apparently asked to be on Newsnight in the first place:

I now understand that in fact CILIP contacted Newsnight in the first place – although they ultimately couldn’t make it happen. For me, even though the end result is the same, there’s a huge difference between those two scenarios – in one, CILIP is shirking a fabulous opportunity, but in the other (in actuality) they were tryng to MAKE an opportunity offf their own proactiveness… Which is great. Shame, obviously, that it didn’t work out, and I stand by the idea that hevean and earth should be moved in such a scenario, but the most important thing to take from this new understanding of the events is that it shows CILIP is already moving in the right direction.

I have to agree with that.

Phil Bradley on CILIP in 2020

Phil Bradley has written a long “a stream of thought” post on how he would like to see CILIP looking in ten years’ time. I’m not sure how much I agree with a lot of it, but it is interesting and very positive nonetheless. What struck me (perhaps because I do agree with them) are the following couple of points:

I want information professionals to be able to look at what CILIP does and say to their employers – this is what my professional organization is doing – why can’t I do it as well?

I don’t think it is CILIP’s job to  just lead on technology (later on he gives an example of CILIP having something like an iPad that members could have a chance to play with)  or web design as this is getting beyond the remit of librarianship. Although those areas are vital I think one of CILIP’s weaknesses in fact is that it is in many respects a vanilla professional institute which, in moving away from some core of specific skills, is leaving us with nothing special to sell. For instance, trying to take ownership of the word Information rather than the word Library is dangerous as there are others, particularly computer scientists, who already own much of that ground, and have broken much of it too. Perhaps this is what Phil Bradley is driving at when he says,

I want librarians, backed by the professional body, to be the ones telling the technical staff what they should be doing, not the other way around.

However, I think that he talking about the role of librarians within an organisation rather than the acquirement of real technical skills that could increase our ability to adapt and increase our services.

Anyway, I do think it is important that CILIP leads the way as an example to its own community as well as a something to be pointed out to others as Phil Bradley suggests, something it certainly hasn’t done in the past.

I heartily agree with the following sentiment:

I want to see CILIP mentioned in the press and the media every single time there’s reference to a library, for good or ill. CILIP needs to be the organisation that’s pulled onto programmes to talk on behalf of the profession.

I think this is a must. Other issue-specific organisations are on the telly or pop up in newspapers quite often. I think if CILIP proactively offered its services and made a hue and cry on an issue, programmes like BBC Breakfast would probably listen. Incidentally, this is one area where I think changing the name from Library Association to CILIP was catastrophic: lots of people outside the profession knew the Library Association and its name is fairly self-explanatory; I don’t think the same could be said of CILIP, and I expect many people would still be mystified when the acronym is expanded.

In one other point I don’t think Phil Bradley goes far enough:

I want CILIP to continue to run courses, and I want those courses to be held, not just in London, but at your desk, with webinars, conference calling/training and so on. Why should it be necessary for me to come to London in order to sit in and watch a council meeting? Why can’t I do it at my desk?

I want those courses to be overhauled and more specific. In particular the monlithic MA needs to be ditched, a series of specific short courses needs to be introduced, and the CILIP courses on offer need to go beyond “An introduction to…”.

CILIP has RSS feed for job vacancies

Finally, CILIP has RSS feeds for its Lisjobnet library vacancies service! Hurrah! Although the RSS Jobs Feed page still has the title Temporary Librarian Jobs RSS Feed and text saying

LIS Jobs Temps uses this technology to update you with the latest jobs as they arrive throughout the day, making sure you’re among the first to know about the jobs you’re searching for.

Which is not ideal. Presumably they copied the code from the existing temps site which has had an RSS feed for a little while.

One upshot of this, which was part of a total site redesign at CILIP, is that my own unofficial CILIP Lisjobnet RSS feed no longer works and will not be maintained. This is however no problem except for the feed’s subscribers who I will have to point in the direction of the new one.

Grappling with web 2.0 by holding a large formal meeting

The UK library world (at least online) today seems obsessed by the debate/session being held at CILIP today to discuss the organisation’s involvement with web 2.0, mostly centered on CILIP’s failure to engage with anything like Twitter, Facebook, open blogs (by which I mean ones non-members could comment on, which they couldn’t until this whole thing blew up), RSS feeds (this being my own personal beef for some time), and the like. It all became a big issue following this post by CILIP CEO Bob McGee, followed by this post from Phil Bradley. I personally think it’s shocking, even if we take into account Bob McGee’s claim to be merely consulting on the issue, that CILIP have been so slow to develop any kind of presence in these kinds of sites and technologies. The reaction to hold a meeting was in some respects a good one, in some respects bad, as it shows how formal and slow CILIP still feels the need to be. They could have set up some official presences in various places like Facebook, their news feed could have been diverted to Twitter to reach a larger audience, and a vacancies RSS feed surely wasn’t beyond the realms of possibility, all cheap, quick, and easy to set up.

There are two issues here really: 1) that the professional body for information professionals is not involved in up-to-date methods of information dissemination, which is bad for its reputation and credibility; 2) that it is not using these technologies for its own purposes, e.g. marketing research into its own reputation and credibility, although, to be fair, Bob McGee started the whole thing by pointing out that people had been asking on Twitter about any official CILIP presence on micro-blogging websites.

Follow #CILIP2 on Twitter if want to see what is going on and you have nothing else to do this afternoon. I get the impression everyone who is going is also Twittering the event, so I wonder who will be actually partaking in the debate. The feed at the moment feels like a forum during the Eurovision Song Contest. There does seem a fair bit of optimism around the session, although I don’t think a formal session such as this can effect the cultural change at CILIP HQ to really make a difference, especially as these things keep changing and can’t rely on one meeting and one set of resolutions.

Twittering about CILIP

Bob McGee (chief executive of CILIP) asks if CILIP should get involved with Twitter. Phil Bradley answers in no uncertain terms.

My own comment on the matter can be found on Phil Bradley’s post (together with a further plug for my CILIP vacancies rss feed). However, I think it is not without significance to this debate and CILIP’s attitude to technology, its own reform, and outreach, that I cannot comment on Bob McGee’s post itself as I am not a CILIP member. FTW.

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.

CILIP advocacy

After using the word advocacy a lot (but being rather shy about it), it seems that CILIP are actually going to do some public advocacy of the library profession and support the quality of the public library service. They have just written a letter to the recently appointed Culture Secretary James Purnell. Bob McGee, who rather baffled me once at a chartership talk some years ago by explaining that CILIP did all this kind of thing behind the scenes and we should be grateful, is now saying things like:

We’ll certainly be referring any Public Library Authority which we believe to be in breach of its statutory responsibilities to the Secretary of State for investigation,” said Bob McKee, “and we’ll also be asking the Audit Commission to take the availability of professional expertise into account when reviewing library service as part of the Comprehensive Performance Assessment of local Councils.

More importantly, he’s saying it publically on CILIP’s website. Ian Snowley, the new CILIP president, is quoted as saying:

It’s time to campaign vigorously for the value of libraries in society and the for the importance of ensuring that local people in every community get the professional standard of library service which they deserve and to which they’re entitled.

Arguably the time was ten years ago or more. However, at least something is being said if not done. I wonder how much is Mr Snowley’s doing, and how much is a more fundamental strategy shift (or both). That’s two positive posts about CILIP in a row. Whatever next?

CILIP on Second Life

After all my criticisms of CILIP not embracing new information technology, in particular RSS feeds, they went and opened an office in Second Life. Ian Snowley (IanSnowley Allen), CILIP president, explains how he gave the inaugural address at the office (which can be found at wales1 28, 122, 24) and how the office has already hosted a session during our recent Conference (see the Umbrella 2007 blog). See also Mark Taylor’s Blog for pictures, including IanSnowley Allen and Sheila Yoshikawa [a CILIP member] having a chat. All this is to be applauded.

However, from the two entries on Sheila Yoshikawa weblog it looks as though the launch was a fairly low-key affair with only about three people there, one of whom was late for the speech. Anyway, that is probably missing the point: at least CILIP are establishing a presence in an online environment early rather than waiting for everyone else to do it first as happened with RSS, although I’m not really sure how involved CILIP was in actually setting up the SL office, or whether it was set up on the initiative of a member. Does it matter?

Spurred on by this and a general curiosity about SL, I decided to join up, have a snoop round, and visit the CILIP office, as it is at least somewhere on SL that I knew about. Downloading SL was not hard, even though I have Ubuntu and SL is only available in an alpha version for Linux. The only problem I had was getting dressed. That, and my body was female. This seemed to be resolved when I logged in a second time and I’ve had no problem since. After floating around aimlessly for a while I managed to teleport to the address given above (linking from SLURLS didn’t work from Firefox for me, for whatever reason) which is the arrival point for wales1, the island where the CILIP hq is and which is, apparently, a virtual Wales (there are some sheep there, but I couldn’t see too much else Welsh). There wasn’t much in the CILIP office besides some chairs to sit on, an RSS news feed (ironically) which was a bit confusingly presented, and some posters on the wall. It is one room on one floor. However, this is all you need for a meeting place and it looked smart enough. Needless to say, there wasn’t anyone else there, or on wales1 as a whole.

I don’t know what to make of SL generally. As I’m not prepared to pay actual cash money to buy land or to invest in some activity to acquire virtual money (Linden dollars: $L), my options are limited unless I have a brain wave and can get a virtual job. Even if I could, I don’t want to spend that much time on it. I do find it fascinating, however, and I will go back and have a look around when I have the time and inclination. BTW, In the unlikely event you run into Orangeaurochs Woodget, that’s me.

CILIP Lisjobnet RSS feed

I have now created an RSS feed for library jobs presented at CILIP’s Lisjobnet vacancies site: subscribe to As I’ve said before, I am amazed that the professional organisation representing those who are meant to be at the forefront of information delivery haven’t already done this. They only have a simple search interface and an email sent every fortnight. I would like to add the ability to refine the RSS feed, much as you can refine the search on the site itself, but that will have to wait until I have the time/inclination/etc. As I am not actively looking for jobs at the moment, this is not such a high priority.

That there is a clear demand for this service is shown by the fact that I’ve had an unadvertised not-fully-functional version of this working for ages, only really findable through Bloglines, and two other people (sadly anonymous) have signed up for it. It was not fully functional before as the full list of Lisjobnet vacancies is presented over an unpredictable number of separate pages (at the moment 8). The old version could only read page one, so it threw up only a handful of vacancies and ignored many of them. The new version reads the number of pages from the first page of results and then checks all of them. In the end, the final fix would have taken 2 or 3 minutes were it not for me missing off a $ in a really stupid place in the php code.

I must really stress that there are some caveats to its use: firstly, it is not official and should be taken as is. Secondly, although the prototype version has been stable in serving up jobs in the correct format, I cannot guarantee what CILIP will do to the format or availability of their vacancies: even a small change in the HTML coding will bring it down until I can correct the code. Thirdly, I have done as much testing as I can to determine whether it shows all jobs, but have not done enough testing over time to be 100% sure. Yesterday it showed all 75 jobs with no problems in Google Reader; I’m not so sure about Bloglines, but I think it is OK. If you have any findings about this let me know.

Finally, I would be very interested to know if anyone uses this RSS feed and if people find it useful or have any comments.

Professional and non-professional librarians

Tim Coates has written a post suggesting that the distinction between professional and non-professional librarians should be abandoned, something I am whole-heartedly in favour of. He argues this from a public-library standpoint and with two main observations:

  1. That the librarians the public see are often not the professional ones although they are the ones the public, superficially at least, judge the profession on.
  2. In a situation where budgets are to be cut, to be a professional makes one more likely to be targetted by councillors, who also don’t understand the distinction between professional and non-professional, aiming to get rid of staff.

I’m not too au fait with the public library situation. However, the following paragraphs I think are valid anyway to librarianship as a whole:

I think it would remove an obstacle that prevents modernising the library service if the “profession” would stop making this distinction in every possible sense. Library services should stop referring to jobs which ones which only a “librarian” can do. There should be no more demarcation.

This doesn’t mean a lack of respect for the qualification or experience that trained librarians have; on the contrary. It means that experience can be as usefully obtained in doing the work and can be as valuable to the public when it is. It means that jobs and tasks should be given to the person most able to carry them out, and not on the basis of a paper qualfication.

(My emphasis). I made a similar point, though from a different angle, in a comment on the CILIP president-elect’s weblog:

A library qualification is a sine qua non for many jobs whereas chartership is not (at least in the academic sector where I work). As someone who has sat on interview panels, I would also value a candidate’s proven skills rather than whether they are chartered or not. For similar reasons I only value qualifications as far as they confer the relevant skills on an individual. For instance, neither qualification nor chartership can say whether a librarian can catalogue or not; we have to test candidates at interview for this.

I’ve seen a number of librarians arbitrarily and needlessly halted or delayed in their careers by the need to acquire the necessary bit of paper. On the other hand, I’ve seen enough to know that the bit of paper is by no means a guarantee of any skills or aptitude. The distinction between professional and non-professional (as opposed to qualified and non-qualified) also goes some way to create a degree of elitism within those who work in libraries: “proper” and “non-proper” librarians. They are all librarians in my opinion.