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.


24 thoughts on “A Bit of Reflection

  1. Excellent. If you want someone to read through your statement or discuss ideas, let me know. Though I am sure you have many helpful people to give you advice on that one.

    Goes without saying that you’ve got my vote, obvs.

  2. Wow, good for you. I’m a ‘wait-until-you-know-everyone-on-the-ticket-before-declaring-allegiance’ sort of gal, so no promises of a vote yet, but hurrah for doing it and opening up the spread of sorts of people who stand. 🙂 (And guilting me into trying to be more active)

  3. Wow! This is gutsy and I’m intrigued. Best of luck to you!

    And ditto to what Katie said – you’re a continuous source of guilting me into wanting to do more.

  4. Oh wow, fantastic news! I’ll echo what Katie said in that I probably shouldn’t declare my allegiance until I know who else is running, but lets just say that any other candidate would have to pretty gosh darn impressive…

  5. I’m sorry to say you have lost my vote already with your attitude towards the low impact but nethertheless very important to CILIP members work that branches can and do do. This is just another example of the ‘them and us’ divide between people who work in CILIP, Ridgemount Street and people, many of whom do not have the time or resources to get to CILIP London who are actually working as Librarians every single day and fighting to keep their jobs and stay in the profession they love. It is for these people that branches are tirelessly trying to organise events for people in their local area and keep enthusiasm alive, despite reduced budget constraints.

    1. I think that it’s a real shame that you’ve decided not to identify yourself ‘clo1’ as that does speak volumes – all of it negative I’m afraid. The best example of a ‘them and us’ attitude is the situation where you chose not to be identified, so we have no idea of your background, what you do, or an ability to put your comments into context.

  6. I think you’ve misinterpreted what I said about branch activity; I have and am involved with my own local branch, having attended the last two AGMs, given talks, attended networking events and helped out wherever I’ve had the opportunity. I’ve also supported SINTO, which is an information partnership working in Yorkshire and north Derbyshire, to put on events, visits and training sessions, through employment with them and in my own time.

    I think you might also have jumped to conclusions about my location – I currently live in Leeds and will be moving to Glasgow in January – so any idea of a ‘them and us’ would, I hope, be significantly undermined by this! I really fail to see how my campaigning around the country, helping librarians who are fighting to keep their jobs and stay in the profession they (and I) love, supporting my local branch and other smaller networks within CILIP, can be seen as a poor attitude that’s another example of a ‘them and us’ divide.

    At no point did I say that branch work was unimportant, but you’ve said yourself it’s low impact. I’m aiming to make an impact. I have a choice to make about the amount, type and level of professional activity I’m involved in. I believe I can make the most difference by standing for VP, and being involved in work to advocate for my colleagues in that way.

    I do hope I’ve clarified my position and that you’ll reconsider your vote.

    1. I apologise if my previous blog post sounded a bit abrupt, as you can probably guess, I am involved in my local committee and certainly the feeling that I get from members is that there is a ‘them and us’ divide between CILIP in London and people working more locally, I just feel that any future CILIP leadership needs to address this so that it does not alienate members in the future.

      1. This was something that came up in discussion in the run up to the elections last year, and I do get the impression that a lot of work is already being done to address any issues, which is reassuring.

  7. Hi Lauren
    Great to hear you’re standing, new voices & perspectives is exactly what is needed.
    There’s just one point you made that made me cringe a bit; that public libraries are coming under threat first, & that public librarians are the first to face redundancy or changes to employment conditions.
    This has been a classic mistake of people at Cilip over many years, and I sincerely hope you are open minded enough not to repeat it. Before the current cut backs, which have indeed been most obvious threat to public libraries, about ten years ago, there was a similar wholesale threat to a section of the information profession. Centers were shut, staff made redundant, new trainees not hired, staff outsourced. All this happened without a word from Cilip. Which sector? Business information researchers, working in banks, consulting & accounting firms. Cilip seemed indifferent – personally I think they either weren’t aware of these people or else didn’t consider them ‘ real’ librarians & therefore nothing to do with Cilip. I’m not sure which is worse…
    As you can imagine this attitude alienated a lot of people & lost Cilip a lot of members & potential members. The same process is going on right now, with law librarians, who are seeing whole departments outsourced & staff relocated or made redundant. Again, I see no action from Cilip on this. Its debatable which started happening ‘ first’ this time, law firms or public libraries.
    I’m not sure why there is this blindness to wholesale changes impacting librarians working elsewhere – ‘ they’re in the private sector, it’s not as worthy as serving the public’, ‘ it’s just business research, it’s not real librarianship’, some other reason?

    Whatever it is, I hope that you are able to reach out to all these other groups of info professionals (this could equally apply to health, school or government librarians as business ones) and not just focus on public libraries.

    1. Thanks for your comment Nicola, I’m really glad this has come up because I have discussed the point with other people in emails but did want to talk about it here.

      The point I was making was that my experience and knowledge, which I’ve gained through fighting for public libraries, is something that I want to be able to apply in the wider context, across all sectors. At the same time, I’m well aware that there’s only one of me, so I can’t spread myself *too* thinly by doing it alone. We need more people with knowledge of particular sectors speaking out and doing it well, and I think I can help with that.

      I can’t comment on what CILIP may or may not have done in the past and the attitudes they did or didn’t have towards library and information workers in different sectors – and nor would I want to. I’m not in a position to comment on what they’re doing behind the scenes to support staff in all sectors, but I think it’s safe to say that just because it isn’t shouted about, it doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

      Personally, I am aware of cuts to legal libraries because of conversations I’ve had with colleagues working in those areas, and I am concerned that there needs to be more publicity about it and a clear case articulated as to why the decisions being made aren’t necessarily the best ones. I’m aware of looming threats to other areas, too. My aim is (and has been since joining!) to get people to join and get involved with CILIP, so I’m certainly not trying to alienate people or discourage them from becoming or continuing to be members. I’m not sure how beneficial it would be to keep saying “I don’t JUST care about public libraries”. That’s the area that, yes, undeniably, I’m the most passionate about. Advocacy isn’t a binary process, though, and standing up for one doesn’t mean *not* standing up for another. I’d love to see CILIP loudly and obviously advocating for all sectors – and as I say, I think I can help with that. So yes, I think you can be certain I’m open-minded enough to not (or try my very best not) to repeat mistakes that might have been made in the past. 🙂

  8. I would like to support what Nicola said, I myself am in a university library, which had been under threat of redundancy but has had a reprieve this year thanks to staff taking voluntary severance, remaining staff are now being asked to do more work for no addtitional pay and, as you can imagine, morale is low. There is also the possibility of redundancies again next year if student numbers are affected by 2012 tuition fee rise. I also know of local FE college’s and a healthcare library who have made redundancies or who have not filled posts when staff left and a business library who did not, initially fill a post, although I think they have now.

    I’m not saying that public libraries are not important, I myself was a public library assistant and am very saddened to see what is happening in them, (closures, redundancies, reduced staff etc) particularly as I have had a lifelong love of them since I was introduced to one at a young age, but Nicola is correct in saying that there are other sectors which are suffering losses.

    I commend you for running for CILIP Vice-President, but feel that you need to appreciate the fact that CILIP membership consists of people working in other sectors too, not just Public Librarianship.

    1. I’ve just commented above on Nicola’s post, but am concerned that again, you’ve misinterpreted my post. At no point did I say that I’m solely concerned with public libraries; quite the opposite. I said that the whole profession can benefit from the advocacy work that’s been taking place on behalf of public libraries, and that I’d like to encourage people to advocate for and promote the profession and the services we provide – and I thought it was fairly clear that I mean across all sectors.

  9. Wow, I think you’re incredibly brave to consider doing this alongside a PhD! I’m really interested to see how the CILIP Community reacts to a new professional standing for president.

    I’m not going to try and interpret your post here as a mission statement, as I’m sure it’s not intended that way, so I’m looking forward to hearing more about your perspective on where CILIP should be going.

  10. Interesting train of thought regarding cuts and how, as professionals, we tackle the issue. Nicola is right in saying that since the dot.com bubble burst the commercial sector has continued to re-structure, downsize, adapt, fight for- lose, win- the information service battles. And so it continues- however the key issue for all sectors is ‘new economic’ models that are being adopted, tested and introduced. Whilst ‘fighting a cause’ is admirable one should not lose sight of what strategic objective will improve services and professional reputation. Getting at that key objective will unlock strategies for reform that can and will unlock ‘different’ opportunities to the profession. Forget the job titles, the kudos of being called XYZ but look at the key components of opportunities and establish if we have the competencies to tackle the issues. Advocacy and a platform for a ‘voice’ to be heard can work- however I suggest that by fully understanding the convergence and shifting of economies and technology of information development and dissemination the whole profession can be best served without exclusion.

    1. Thanks Sue,

      I don’t think it’s a case of either understanding shifting economies or advocating – it’s about understanding the issues, where they challenge or are in conflict with the values of the library and information profession, and tackling these enables us to challenge those ‘new economic’ models that do not improve services or professional reputation. In fighting a cause in a positive way, it makes it possible to control the narrative and discuss the things we need to do to ensure that changes are beneficial to our users (and society). It enables us to be more proactive rather than reactive.

  11. This is a brave and commendable step – good luck Lauren. As some others have said – I won’t decide who to vote for until I’ve had a chance to see what all the candidates are saying – but I suspect you will be a popular choice. All the best with it 🙂

  12. Congratulations on your decision to do this. I will wait until all the other candidates have thrown their hat in the ring before I make my choice, however, you come across as passionate and enthusiastic, and going on your past record with public library advocacy I’m sure you will give it your best effort.

  13. Not waiting until the other runners “declare”. You have my support, and I hope you win. You, Uncle Phil and Auntie Annie (and the council) would make a damned formidable triangle of outspoken advocacy, as none of you duck away from the tough stuff.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s