Category Archives: CILIP

image of a rainbow coloured umbrella

Umbrella 2013

Just a quick post to share my Umbrella 2013 presentation, ‘A critical approach to information literacy’, and to thank everyone who attended and got involved with it on twitter for being such a welcoming and interested audience. The presentation and ‘paper’ (which I turned into notes but didn’t stick to at all!) are here:

1. Introduction

This paper introduces the concept of critical information literacy; an approach to information literacy (IL) that embraces the political nature of education, and the necessity of a critical approach to pedagogy in order to empower citizens to meaningfully engage with democracy and challenge social injustice.

The library and information science (LIS) profession has a social responsibility to engage with issues of critical pedagogy, and although LIS often claims to serve democratic goals, it often falls short of its worthy claims. Several problems with IL practice are discussed, and the ways these can be overcome through engagement with critical pedagogical theory are explored. It is argued that IL has the strong potential to secure its place as a relevant democratic and educational tool in a learning society, provided that researchers and practitioners engage meaningfully in substantive issues of pedagogy, politics and professional jurisdiction. Some examples of the ways in which members of the profession are already engaging with critical pedagogy through critical information literacy in practice are identified.

The brevity of this paper does not allow for in-depth discussion of the concepts introduced, the complexity of critical pedagogy and the implications of critical approaches to information literacy, so further reading of sources referenced is strongly recommended.

2. Critical Pedagogy

Critical pedagogy is an educational movement which gives students the opportunity to develop the knowledge, skills and sense of responsibility necessary to engage in a culture of questioning. These abilities allow young people to challenge perceived inevitabilities of social injustice that they may have, and engage in meaningful participation and leadership (Giroux, 2010). Henry Giroux (2011, p.144) argues that civic education is the cornerstone of democracy, in which people must not only have the right to participate, but should also be educated in order to be able to participate. Giroux advocates for the necessity for critical pedagogy in education in order to “help students to develop a consciousness of freedom, recognise authoritarian tendencies, empower the imagination, connect knowledge and truth to power, and learn how to read both the word and the world as part of a broader struggle for agency, justice and democracy” (2012, p.116).

In order to enable people to possess the political agency advocated by critical theorists, education systems and educators, including librarians, must take a critical approach and challenge the frameworks and processes that prevent people from being able to see alternate perspectives and think critically. Although critical pedagogical theory has not yet widely been applied to LIS and very much remains on the margins of information literacy discourse (Cope, 2010, p.24), it has been recommended by a number of theorists within the discipline who believe it is an important area with which to actively engage, particularly with regard to information literacy provision (Elmborg, 2006; Eryaman, 2010; Gage, 2004; Kapitzke, 2003).

3. Information Literacy

Information literacy is an increasingly important area of work in LIS, often presented as the foundation of the profession’s educational jurisdiction (O’Connor, 2009, p.272). A number of frameworks for information literacy have emerged, including the SCONUL Seven Pillars Model, which is especially popular in UK higher education libraries, and the ACRL Information Literacy Competency Standards, which are commonly used in the United States. Frameworks offer a means by which practitioners can assess individuals’ levels of information literacy, offering a useful, standardised set of performance indicators which can then be tailored to meet individuals’ or institutions’ needs. The SCONUL framework for example, offers a ‘core’ vision which can then be added to with a series of ‘lenses’ which represent different learner groups (SCONUL, 2011). Information literacy can be seen as a ‘cognitive schema’ – a way of thinking – which can offer continuity and a means to obtain resources (Whitworth, 2013), which are beneficial features. However, information literacy is an evolving concept, with some problems that need to be addressed in order for it to properly fulfil the role it claims to perform. A number of criticisms have been made about the aspects of the development of IL, which will be discussed below.

3.1 Origins

IL has been criticised for the nature of its origins. For example, Foster (1993, p.346) claimed that IL is “an effort to deny the ancillary status of librarianship by inventing a social malady with which librarians as ‘information professionals’ are uniquely qualified to deal”. Tyner (1998) suggests that the lack of a simple definition of IL, may in part be due to the idea that the IL as a concept exists as the result of a need of the library profession to market their role to the educational community. He suggests that this occurred as a result of the LIS community strongly feeling that they had been excluded from educational policy, particularly the US report A Nation at Risk (1983). Similarly, O’Connor (2009b, p.493) suggests that IL was a concept developed out of a reaction to the threats faced by traditional access-oriented librarianship roles. She suggests that IL legitimated the profession in that it created a more flexible, educational jurisdiction for librarians (p.499). This in itself is not necessarily negative and does not negate the value and relevance of IL (p.506), but does become potentially problematic when librarians make claims to teaching roles (p.502). The majority of librarians in the United Kingdom do not have teaching qualifications and have not studied educational theory. It could be suggested that this may be a contributing factor to why IL has not yet fully engaged with substantive issues such as pedagogical theories and limit the ability of LIS to best meet the needs of learners through IL provision.

Criticisms of the origins of IL do not mean that it is not a valuable part of library and information provision, but does suggest that practitioners and those writing about IL need to be aware of the background and rationale behind it, in order to question the practices and activities we encourage and discourage. Reflection and understanding of the sometimes reactive and defensive origins of parts of the discipline can help us to meaningfully define and articulate the role of IL in the future.

3.2 Theoretical Grounding

IL has been criticised for a lack of theoretical depth. Buschman (2007, p.1492) criticises LIS for being simultaneously both under- and over-theorised in approach, arguing that “LIS cast as a science has flattened libraries and information systems/products into objective and neutral entities studied without reference to context or power”, while suggesting that at the same time there has been “an over-theorised notion of power and domination proliferates within areas of LIS theory adapted from postmodern sources”. Similarly, Cope (2009, p.11) suggests that “LIS commentators tend to shy away from more complicated discussions of social and political power”, and Day (2010, p.2) argues that LIS research has shaky conceptual foundations.

Gage (2004 p.73) accuses the library and information profession as having become a “hollowed out reification of consumer society” which systemically fails to problematize issues of importance. This lack of deep engagement with critical theory has led to an overemphasis on a positivist approach (Kapitzke 2003, p.11), which critics argue impedes the development of critical reasoning (Pankl and Coleman 2010, p.6).

Doherty and Ketchner (2005) question whether the library profession is aware of the structures of power and hierarchy that it has built around information literacy tuition. They argue that “information literacy is not as empowering as the library profession would like to think”, citing Kapitzke (2003) who argues that “[f]ar from contributing to equitable education outcomes, this [information literacy] framework for school library research masks an exclusionary ideology”.

3.3 Skills-Based Frameworks

The ACRL’s Information Literacy Competency Standards (ALA, 2000) represent an approach to information literacy education that a number of theorists find problematic. Pankl and Coleman (2009, p.8) criticise the ACRL Standards for “hindering the transformation of…students and inhibiting their impact on the world”. Webber and Johnston (2000, p.384) identify a step-by-step process approach to information literacy, which they suggest “facilitates the mapping of information literacy onto current assignments and class curricula, focusing exclusively on skills”, which they argue “reduces the complexity of learning and knowledge to limited and isolated units”.

Whitworth (2013) also criticizes standardised competencies, particularly the ACRL definition of IL which implies that information literacy is a linear sequence in which the learner deliberately engages, which he says fails to account for other ways and forms of engaging with information and learning. He also believes that standardised competencies have become cognitive schema; ways of thinking to which people are expected to conform, which promotes one way of thinking over others without allowing for the ways in which learners develop their own criteria for establishing what information is important and relevant in their own contexts.

The skills-oriented approach has also been criticized for isolating information from its social, cultural, historical, and technological contexts (Jacobs and Berg, 2011, p.386). Špiranec and Zorica (2010, p.142-143) suggest that adopting a skills-oriented approach “is a limited perception of [information literacy] as a neutral process which is entirely unaffected by any kind of social, political or historical background”.

This approach to information literacy emerges from the idea that information literacy is a problem needing to be overcome (Jacobs and Berg, 2011, p.387). Librarians see the ACRL standards as a solution, based on the assumption that students are lacking information literacy skills. As a result, information literacy is treated as the learning of “survival skills” (p.387). This is problematic, because it means that the focus of information literacy practitioners is on practical survival skills and more pressing information needs (Kopp and Olson-Kopp 2009, p.58), and not on more abstract goals such as the development of critical consciousness and the critical aims of IL according to the Alexandria Proclamation, which emphasises the need for IL to extend “beyond current technologies to encompass learning, critical thinking and interpretative skills across professional boundaries and empowers individuals and communities.” (IFLA, 2006).

3.4 Critical Information Literacy

Critical information literacy takes the theories of critical pedagogy and critical literacy, and translates these into the practice of IL. Whitworth (2011) argues that it is important to have a clear idea of what IL is for and an awareness of the conflicting views about this because it raises political challenges for LIS. He connects the concept of noöpolitics, which is interested in control over informational resources (Whitworth, 2011, p.191), to a critical approach to IL, and argues that in order to challenge the transmission of cultural hegemony (manipulation of culture by those in control in order to present social, economic and political injustice as inevitable). LIS needs to be aware of noöpolitical issues and equip learners with the ability to critique and scrutinise information in order to challenge and question the messages to which they are exposed.

Elmborg (2006) argues that in order to align themselves with the democratic values they invoke, libraries must engage in critical literacy and focus on the links between educational processes and the politics of literacy (p.193). This includes the need for educators to be aware of the ways in which schools and curricula themselves present and protect traditional, authoritative knowledge, whilst failing to “respect students as people capable of agency and meaning- making in their own right” (p.194). Elmborg (2006, p.195) argues that literacy must be looked at in a pluralistic, non-judgemental way, which with respect to information literacy requires IL practitioners to help learners to present information that meets the standards expected of their learning environment, but also to help them understand systems of thought, information flows and to be able to “critically evaluate the system itself” (p.196).

Critical information literacy puts to work the democratic ideals of LIS, which are frequently recited but often ignored (Buschman, 2007). The following section briefly details some examples of LIS professionals engaging with critical information literacy, which indicates that critical pedagogy may be having some positive influence on IL practice.

3.5 Critical Information Literacy in Practice

Pankl and Coleman (2009, p.9) recommend the encouragement of sharing and dialogue between students, which can be achieved through creating a space where students are facing each other and are not behind computer monitors. They also advocate the fostering of “intellectual curiosity” in students, which can be achieved through promoting research that is “relevant to the students’ personal and academic lives”. Cope (2009, p.25) says that classroom practices of critical information literacy “would entail a move away from the demonstration of technical search processes and simplistic claims that some sources are “authoritative” because authorities have decided that they are”.

Torrell (2009, pp.89-103) describes her application of critical library instruction in her library workshops. She aims to create situations in which students are enabled to identify when they are being manipulated by outside forces such as newspapers, and learn to be less uncritically willing to accept the authority of the written word. Contact zone pedagogy techniques are used to maximise student agency and engagement.

4. Conclusions

Although IL has contributed to an understanding of the role of the library and information professional and provided a rubric by which we can chart the performance and abilities of learners, it is vital for the LIS profession to view IL as a more meaningful educational device. If we are to consider ourselves as educators, we must engage with educational and pedagogical issues. If we are to consider ourselves as supporters of democracy, we must engage with political issues. The nature of information, knowledge and education is inherently political, and librarians must be able to justify the decisions they make and consider the political implications of the practices they choose. The decisions we make about our approach to education must be explicit and transparent; neutrality is not an option (Elmborg, 2006, p.193).

Engagement with critical approaches to information literacy would not only help librarians to justify the existence as a profession and demonstrate their values to the institutions in which they work and the learners they serve, but also contribute to the strengthening of democracy through providing citizens with the abilities to become active agents in society, motivated and able to participate through a sense that the information they are able to access, critique and understand can be used by them to effect real social change.

Taking a critical approach to information literacy is a complex task, which requires much reflection on the part of those involved. We must be conscious of the need to work within ethical constraints and to avoid interfering in the political lives of others, at the same time as working to ensure that we do not shy away from political issues concerning our educational values and wider ideals for society. Developing an overall policy for critical information literacy instruction and would allow the LIS profession to lay the groundwork for specific tuition based on the needs of learners within each learning environment.

3.7 References

  • Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) (2000) Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. American Library Association, Chicago, IL. [Online] Available from: <http://www.ala.org/acrl/sites/ala.org.acrl/files/content/standards/standards.pdf&gt; [Accessed 13 May 2013].
  • Cope, J. (2009) Information Literacy and Social Power. Critical Library Instruction: Theories and Methods, eds. M.T. Accardi, E. Drabinski and A. Kumbier, pp.13-28. Library Juice Press, Duluth, MN.
  • Cornelius, I. (2002) Theorizing information science in: B. Cronin (Ed.) Annual Review of Information Science and Technology (ARIST), Vol. 36, Information Today, pp. 393–425.
  • Day, R. E. (2010) “The Self-Imposed Limits of Library and Information Science: Remarks On the Discipline, On the Profession, On the University, and On the State of “Information” in the U.S. at Large Today”. InterActions: UCLA Journal of Education and Information Studies, 6(2).
  • Doherty, J.J. and Ketchner, K. (2005) Empowering the Intentional Learner: A Critical Theory for Information Literacy Instruction. Library Philosophy and Practice, 8(1), pp. 1–10.
  • Elmborg, J. (2006) Critical Information Literacy: Implications for Instructional Practice. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 32(2), pp. 192-199.
  • Eryaman, M.Y. (2010) The Public Library as a Space for Democratic Empowerment: Henry Giroux, Radical Democracy, and Border Pedagogy. Critical Theory for Library and Information Science, eds. G.K. Leckie et al., pp. 131-142. Libraries Unlimited, Oxford,
  • Foster, S. (1993) Information Literacy: Some Misgivings. American Libraries, 24(4), pp.344–346.
  • Gage, R. A. (2004) “Henry Giroux’s “Abandoned Generation” & Critical Librarianship”, Progressive Librarian, 23(Spring 2004), pp. 64-74.
  • Giroux, H. (2012) Education and the Crisis of Public Values. Peter Laing, New York.
  • Giroux, H. (2011) On Critical Pedagogy. Continuum, New York.
  • Giroux, H. (2010) Lessons to be learned from Paulo Freire as education is being taken over by the mega rich. Truthout [Online] Available from: <http://archive.truthout.org/lessons-be-learned-from-paulo-freire-education-is-being-taken-over-mega-rich65363&gt; [Accessed 13 May 2013].
  • IFLA (2006) Beacons of the Information Society: The Alexandria Proclamation on Information Literacy and Lifelong Learning [Online] Available from: <http://www.ifla.org/publications/beacons-of-the-information-society-the-alexandria-proclamation-on-information-literacy&gt; [Accessed 13 May 2013].
  • Jacobs, H.L.L.M. and Berg, S. 2011. Reconnecting Information Literacy Policy with the Core Values of Librarianship. Library Trends 60(2), pp. 383-394.
  • Kapitzke, C. (2003) (In)formation literacy: A positivist epistemology and a politics of (out)formation. Educational Theory 53(1), pp.37-53.
  • Keer, G. (2009) Critical Pedagogy and Information Literacy in Community Colleges. Critical Library Instruction: Theories and Methods, eds. M.T. Accardi, E. Drabinski and A. Kumbier, pp.149-160. Library Juice Press, Duluth, MN.
  • Kopp, B.M. and Olson-Kopp, K. (2009) Depositories of Knowledge: Library Instruction and the Development of Critical Consciousness. Critical Library Instruction: Theories and Methods, eds. M.T. Accardi, E. Drabinski and A. Kumbier, pp.55-68. Library Juice Press, Duluth, MN.
  • The National Commission on Excellence in Education (1983) A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform. [Online] Available from: <http://datacenter.spps.org/uploads/sotw_a_nation_at_risk_1983.pdf&gt; [Accessed 13 May 2013].
  • O’Connor, L. (2009) Information literacy as professional legitimation: The quest for professional jurisdiction. Library Review 58(4), pp. 272-289.
  • Pankl, E. and Coleman, J. (2009) “There’s nothing on my topic!” Using the theories of Oscar Wilde and Henry Giroux to develop critical pedagogy for library instruction. Critical Library Instruction: Theories and Methods, eds. M.T. Accardi, E. Drabinski and A. Kumbier, pp.3-12. Library Juice Press, Duluth, MN.
  • Society of College, National and University Libraries (SCONUL) (2011) The SCONUL Seven Pillars of Information Literacy: Core Model for Higher Education [Online] Available from: <http://www.sconul.ac.uk/sites/default/files/documents/coremodel.pdf&gt; [Accessed 13 May 2013].
  • Špiranec, S., & Zorica, M. B. (2010) Information Literacy 2.0: hype or discourse refinement? Journal of Documentation, 66(1), pp.140-153.
  • Torrell, M.R. (2009) Negotiating Virtual Contact Zones: Revolutions in the role of the research workshop. Critical Library Instruction: Theories and Methods, eds. M.T. Accardi, E. Drabinski and A. Kumbier, pp.89-104. Library Juice Press, Duluth, MN.
  • Whitworth (2013) The politically and socially empowering dimensions of information literacy. Chat Literacy Blog [Online] Available from: <http://community.eldis.org/.5b8e33ea&gt; [Accessed 13 May 2013].
  • Whitworth (2011) Information literacy and noöpolitics. Information Literacy: Infiltrating the agenda, challenging minds, eds. G. Walton and A. Pope, pp.187-218. Chandos Publishing, London.

Library Day in the Life: Day Four

I wish I’d taken my camera to work with me today because I met a fox, a magpie and a crow at the top of the steps down to the train station. Aw well. Imagine a scene a bit like this:

The main events of today were:

  • Being interviewed by a lecturer from a library and information studies department in Japan about my involvement in library campaigning and advocacy as part of Save Doncaster Libraries, Voices for the Library and CILIP.
  • Giggling all the way through my lunch break whilst looking at The 25 Most Awkward Cat  Sleeping Positions.
  • A meeting with my supervisor to see how I’m getting on – basically, it’s okay that I’m not really sure what approach I want to take and I have a better idea than I think about the area that I want to research. And, it’s okay to keep on reading!
  • Compiling a big reading list for the next couple of weeks.
  • Struggling to make EBSCOHost work. What’s going on, guys?
  • Publicising the fact that I’ve set up a Google Calendar for my CILIP Vice President activities (I’ve only added the lobby for libraries at Westminster so far, but there are things I’m doing that don’t have a set date yet).
  • Promising Colm that I’d put the report from last year’s Fallacy of Footfall Workshop online. Here it is!
  • Having a wander round town – I’m trying to learn my way around bit by bit (I’ve only lived here for three weeks and have been in Amsterdam, Doncaster and Leeds for some of that!) – so I managed to get lost, but I did also manage to find a rucksack that my laptop will fit in, so I’m counting that adventure as a win.
  • Learning how to use a waiter’s friend with the help of youtube videos and diagrams from my housemate.
  • Watching Channel 4 News just to watch the report about National Libraries Day.
  • Planning when my friends from Leeds can come up and visit me in Glasgow – yay!

2011 in Perspective

I hadn’t intended to write a post summing up what had happened this year or making resolutions for the future (and still don’t!) but then I saw this story in the Independent and thought it was too good a springboard to not use for a little bit of end of year reflection.

A comment that’s sometimes thrown my way when I talk about fighting library cuts and closures is that perhaps I need to get a sense of perspective. It’s only a few books, what am I getting so het up about? Shouldn’t I take my incandescence and direct it at something  worthier, bigger, more ‘important’? In our crazy, messed up world, what’s the point of someone like me spending so much time and energy on library advocacy and activism?

Unsurprisingly, I don’t struggle to construct a fairly comprehensive response about the utter wrongheadedness of that kind of suggestion, which I won’t bore the already converted with here! But now I have this to add to my arsenal. The Independent have named library closures as one of the 12 biggest news stories of 2011:

Library closures: Colin Dexter, 71, author

Libraries became the unexpected social flashpoint of 2011 when the Government cut funding to local authorities and councils responded by proposing library closures.

Local communities, allied with a host of literary stars including Colin Dexter, the creator of Inspector Morse, rapidly mobilised to defend them. Judicial reviews challenging the closures were launched across England and Wales. In Scotland, MSPs were petitioned. Private US library service providers moved in for the kill, and many battles are still being fought up and down the land.

“As an older person who has seen libraries through the years, the events of this year are deeply depressing. What has worried me most about the calls for a ‘big society’ solution to the library problem in the past 12 months is the idea that you can cut library services and employ amateurs instead. Librarians have taken years to train up and can tell you what you should and shouldn’t read. Some of the processes are very complicated indeed.

“I think the Government has been surprised by the scale of the response; their actions were taken on the assumption that people would just sit back and let the consultations pave the way for closure. Instead, you saw the people gather and revolt and take their case to the courts instead.

“I would rather turn off every light on the motorway than close our libraries. What we have seen this year will invariably lead to further cultural deprivation.”

I rarely get the sense that what I do is a waste of time. In the darker moments when I get the feeling that everything sucks and The Man is just too big and how can little me and the people I work alongside possibly win this, I always come to the conclusion that I’ve got to do it anyway and try my best and that’s all there is to be done. But knowing that the work that’s been done to get the media aware of the situation and the social and cultural implications of public library cuts has actually had an impact and is listed alongside stories like the fall of Gaddafi, the death of Bin Laden, the NHS reforms and the riots, proves to me that this is the big deal I think it is and that over the last year and a bit, we’ve really managed to get out of the echo chamber and show the world that too. I’m very happy to be part of it and am incredibly proud of the people I work with for everything they’ve achieved.

Edit: It was also announced today that Voices for the Library has been named an Independent voice of 2011. You can see the full Peer Index rankings here. Another achievement for the team to be proud of!

CC tomroper on Flickr

I’m also happy about the fact that issues about power (and abuses thereof), democracy, access to knowledge and freedom of information are being put together and are starting to have a more prominent position in public discussion. More of this please (not least because it’ll really help with my PhD research…)!

via interoccupy.org

When I think about the things that have happened this year I get a bit dizzy. It’s certainly been a big year and it’s had its fair share of bad as well as good. As for 2012…I can’t even begin to think about that without getting a little bit overwhelmed. I can’t wait to get started on my PhD. I’m looking forward to becoming CILIP VP and doing a lot of work to support the organisation and its members as well as help to make it a stronger and louder advocate for the profession. I’m anxious about what’s going to happen with the local and national public library situation and will be doing everything I can to try and get it to go it in the right direction. It’s National Libraries Day on 4th February, so that’s the first big milestone to work towards next year.

I owe a huge thank you to the people who’ve helped me get through this year without being (too much of) a wreck. Thanks guys, you’re awesome, I’m incredibly fortunate to know you and without the support I’ve had this year I’m pretty sure I’d not be coming back for round two in 2012. As it stands though…

via catmacros.wordpress.com

CILIP Vice President 2012

Some big news much earlier than I was anticipating: I’ve been elected unopposed as Vice President of CILIP for 2012, and will be President in 2013. For many reasons I wish there had been the opportunity for hustings and an election, not least so that I could discuss issues with members and hear about what people think CILIP should be doing, so please, talk to me, let me know your opinions. It’s really, incredibly important for people to be active and vocal, let CILIP know what it can do for you (and what you can do for it). I can’t wait until January to get cracking and am really looking forward to joining President Phil Bradley and the rest of the CILIP team.

Thank you very much to Liz Chapman, Mick Fortune, Alan Gibbons, Ned Potter and Laura Woods for nominating me. You can read their statements here. My manifesto is below:

The library and information profession has seen considerable changes over recent years. CILIP is seeking to better meet the needs of its members, with support for new professionals, an increased emphasis on advocacy and the provision of a significant voice for the profession, to inform policy and legislation. In Defining our professional future, members said that they “want CILIP to become, above all, a visible campaigning body. This means pro-actively advocating the profession to government, opinion leaders, employers and society as a whole, to ensure the professional function and skills are fully understood, appreciated and resourced.”

I can help CILIP and its members achieve these goals. I want to increase CILIP’s ability to support its members through effective advocacy alongside the provision of advice, guidance and mentoring for members at all stages of their career. I have a strong media profile, built through significant experience of acting as a media spokesperson about a wide range of library and information issues , for which I have received international recognition . I have lobbied local councils and national government, and supported staff and users to advocate for their services. I promote the value of all kinds of library services, the variety of resources available through them and the need for professionally staffed libraries.

The profession needs a strong ethical framework to provide a clear sense of our core principles and articulate the enduring value and relevance of the profession. I want to see CILIP better define and promote the importance of professional ethical responsibilities, for the benefit of its membership, library users and wider society. These are an integral part of the library and information profession – something which we should be proud to call attention to.

A Bit of Reflection

I’ve already written about some of what I got up to at Umbrella, but the most valuable aspect of attending the conference was the opportunity to talk to CILIP members and other attendees about what we’ve all been up to, how we think things are going with libraries and CILIP, and what the future might hold. Consider this a practical application of Thing 5, as well as a bit of an announcement…

Over the past year I’ve done a lot of work in public library advocacy, which has been an incredible insight into how the media works. Doing the work I’ve been doing (public speaking, writing articles, giving media interviews, attending conferences and events as a representative of Voices for the Library, helping local campaigns get up and running) – especially during a period of unprecedented threats to libraries – has made me realise even more that libraries of all kinds are important – fundamental to a successful society, in fact – and more relevant than ever before. We need to keep advocating and campaigning, wherever possible, to as many people as possible. We need to raise the profile of libraries, which I believe Voices for the Library has and continues to do successfully, to the public, policy-makers and stakeholders.

As a profession, we’ve got a lot more work to do. Every so often I hear or read someone say that it’s not just public libraries under threat. And they’re right. But public libraries are the first to face the cuts and challenges. Public library staff are the first facing redundancy, cuts to pay and working hours, changes to their employment rights and working conditions. Public library users are the first to face having to fight for their access to vital information and cultural services. The whole profession has a lot to learn from the work that’s already underway and the issues that have already been raised, and all libraries have a lot to learn from each other, the skills of their staff and the needs of their users.

With the benefit of being a sprightly young thing, I’ve been able to devote a lot of energy to the cause. I’d love more newcomers to the profession to consider what they can do in a way that fits with their lifestyles, skills and personalities, find out how they can get involved and play an active role in protecting and developing library and information services. I’ve been involved at a level that I certainly didn’t expect to be able to be a part of at so early a stage in my career. I hope this sends the message that it’s possible, valuable and of a significant degree of impact to get out there and do something, anything, to advocate for and promote the profession and the services we provide.

The work we’ve done so far has been time-consuming, complex and, to be honest, at times gut-wrenching. But I love it. I think it’s fairly obvious to everyone I meet that I love it with a (healthy!) passion. I very much intend to continue to be involved, and when I start my PhD in January I’ll be able to do so in a more flexible way. I’d also like to be more involved in CILIP. I could do this by getting involved with a new branch or getting more involved with the groups I’m already part of, but I wouldn’t be able to carry on being vocal at a national level and the impact of my involvement would be limited.

So. With all that in mind, I’ve decided what I’m going to do about it.

I’m going to stand for election as the Vice-President of CILIP.

The nominations will open at the beginning of September and close at the beginning of October. Ballot papers will be sent out on 13th October and the voting ends on 30th November. If I were to be successful, I’d be Vice-President for 2012 and President for 2013. I want to be able to represent members at a national level, so even though it’s a few months away I thought I’d write about it now because in the next few months I’ll be doing a lot of talking and thinking about my position on things in order to write a nomination statement. The discussion starts here! Let me know your thoughts.