Friday, 25 June 2010

The Big Conversation in Cambridge...a few random thoughts

Here are my two cents on the conversation I attended earlier this week about the future of the information profession and about how we see CILIP's current and future role. As mostly a quiet observer, it certainly gave me food for thought and a lot to mull over. Other notes can be found here here here here here and here (phew!)

Firstly, it got me thinking about the wide diverse role of the information professional and about the stigma attached. I know from personal experience that not a lot of people actually know what we do. "What do you need to do an MA for when all you do is stamp books?" We've all heard it. So, are you proud to say you're a librarian? Furthermore, does it even matter how we're labelled? Could CILIP do more to promote our profession, or more specifically, what we actually do? I think that this is also the responsbility of the library team itself and also the organisation you're working within. It was clear from those that attended and their wide range of experiences, that we all do a variety of different things, not neccesarily just in a traditional library setting. Does CILIP successfully represent this? In job adverts we're information specialists, information officers, information architects, librarians, foi officers, records management leaders, knowlege management managers and a whole range of others...we certainly do seem to have a lot of hats. Does that matter? I think it does. Understandably, I should imagine it's probably quite a complex job, but it was felt that CILIP didn't always quite cover the bases for everyone and could improve upon this. Can we justify paying the money for membership, if we're not actually getting anything professionally out of it?

In reference to the 'Where will be in 10 years time' question then, I think the only thing I can be sure of is that it seems to me like in some workplaces it's a constant battle to justify the library's existence and one that we'll probably have to keep fighting. From my research for my dissertation, I found that librarians were real value-adders and moreover interpreters for the workplace studied (the Civil Service) as a whole. However, there was an over-riding impression that senior members of staff failed to recognise this. Remarkably, one of my interviewee's told me that the only time a senior member of staff would be interested in the library would be if it was making actions to shut it down to save money. Ho-hum! It always seemed ironic to me that those senior to me sometimes failed to recognise the value of librarian’s transferable skills when such an effort was being made to enhance professional skills for the organisation in the first place. But anyway...

Another interesting point was why do we need recognition? How important is chartering? The overall majority felt that chartership was a worthwhile process and that the 'status' gained quite possibly helped to secure future roles, especially in certain sectors in this competitive job market. I have been thinking about starting to charter this year as I can see the benefits. But again, it comes back to that niggly value and money thing...thing with CILIP is, what do we actually get for our money and is it worth it? For example, some of the courses that come up in my emails do look like they would probably help me to develop certain skills I'd really love to get a chance to have a stab at. As a student, I could say that CILIP was great value for money. But as someone who went to university in London for 3 years, then worked there for 1, then went to university again to gain my MA (CILIP accredited ;-), once I've paid up for my CILIP membership fee's, I certainly don't have a spare 370 quid knocking about to spend on a course rated 'good to excellent' by 90% of those attending (I should hope so!) I understand these are my own life choices (nobody forced me to go to university, infact I was quite willing to...) but for me (and for the majority in the group I think) it was felt that events held by special interest groups were of much more value for money. I will certainly be looking out for more of them to attend in the future. Other things like my job swap with Emma have really been valuable and things organised within Cambridge, such as the brown bag lunches, are also great. Maybe in the future I might be able to attend a CILIP course (and of course, I can't really comment on the content as I've never been) but at the moment, my other options will do nicely for me.

So, I agree that it would be great if events by special interest groups/regional branches could be promoted more effectively and that emails could easily be sent back and forth etc (this seemed to be a problem). I think the importance of talking to others in the profession, networking and generally keeping on top of things adds great value to what we do, so it seems a shame that CILIP seem to fall short. We also talked a lot about the magazines and their value and the general concensus was that there was no need for two of them. Some other comments were the maze of the CILIP website and that this could be improved drastically.


  1. Thanks for that Jenni - I've now tagged it to appear on the netvibes page.

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