23 June 2010

#cilipfuture meeting CB2, Cambridge 22nd June 2010

Filed under: Meetings — Tags: — malwen @ 12:23 pm

These notes as a mix of what was said around the table at the time, what I thought about the issues then and ideas that developed overnight when thinking about what was said. Sorry for not being able to acknowledge by name the sources of the good ideas I heard. I’ll take the blame for anything considered too controversial here.

Great opportunity to talk about issues raised recently as CILIP tries to re-orientate itself for the coming years – or is that what the Conversation is all about?

Group was a good mix representing academic, special, school, government and public libraries plus myself as a non-library information professional.

Discussion covered several issues:

CILIP’s recent survey of members
Much muttering about the range of questions and the way there were presented. Some people were put off responding. Particular dismay at the lack of understanding displayed by asking us to look 10 years ahead in a profession so dominated now by IT developments
Personally, I found most of the questions not only irrelevant to my working life but highly off-putting, since they ignored all aspects of my work, which is 100% information and should be squarely in the area of interest to CILIP. It took me an hour to work through it.

Future of CILIP
Looked at what we thought CILIP ought to be doing for its members, which was mainly standing up for the profession in a range of ways, including

  • putting forward a skilled, informed and authoritative spokesperson to respond in the media when necessary
  • lobbying MPs in support of libraries
  • rejecting job adverts for jobs where the pay is too low

It is accepted that unless/until one can only be a practising information professional by being a member of CILIP, it will always be a weak body. Or looking at it from another direction, until library jobs are only awarded to qualified professionals, the profession as a whole is in significant difficulties.

CILIP’s support for professional development is generally good (although the mechanisms could do with some improvement) whether talking about initial qualifications and Chartership or subsequent CPD.

Discussion would have been very much helped by access to financial information. There was concern that the CILIP HQ was expensive but subsequent postings have explained this is not the case. There is a lack of understanding why CILIP’s training events cost significantly more than equally good ones run by special interest groups. Since I have been and am still involved in organising special interest group training activities, so have some understanding of the expenses involved in setting such things up, I am puzzled why CILIP have to charge a lot more. I am left wondering whether they use these as a way of getting income, i.e. charging to make a good profit. If so, it might be better to charge members significantly less and non-members rather more.

We do not have access to figures to show whether the publications Update and Gazette are paid for by advertising. If they are, then suggestions for change to make them cheaper are less useful. The “pseudo-magazine” format of the online Update is just silly, in my view. I can view it but it doesn’t work for me since I want to be able to skim a clear listing of what’s in the magazine — ideally title, authors and abstract — then only look at articles of immediate interest (rare!). The current formats (both electronic and hard copy) are not that convenient. I tend to ignore the electronic and only read the hard copy if on a train or waiting for a dentist’s appointment.

The CILIP website is am embarrassment. If I can use a data host such as Dialog or STN for complex Boolean searching with adjacency and field searching to target what I need, why do I have to put up with such a simplistic search option when trying to get information from my professional body?
Many information professionals apply their expertise to website design, usability, information architecture and so on – the best principles of all these should be demonstrated by CILIPs site.

Future of the profession

My idea is that people will more and more be wanting information delivered to them quickly and easily. That means full text so there are issues to resolve with publishers and copyright holders.

I think search has to get a great deal smarter. That means lots of information professionals working behind the scenes to make the semantic web happen. Every published scientific paper needs suitable metadata to make search easy. I expect that many more people will be applying their professional expertise in these areas where I have been all my working  life. Standardisation is essential, so everything works across this metadata, databases and full text papers as easily as the way it works now across HTML pages.

There will also be demand for information professionals to provide individual guidance and tuition to people seeking information. The teaching element to the job may well become more important. In the case of school librarians, a teaching qualification may soon be essential to enable them to gain the necessary respect and play their proper part in education.

Very interested to hear the view of a client in an academic library, that the librarian should be expert in copyright (my section manager librarian spends a high percentage of her time on this already), and be able to help him get his work published.



  1. Thanks very much for this contribution, and for bringing up the point about standards, I’d forgotten that issue.

    Comment by Niamh — 23 June 2010 @ 12:38 pm

  2. That’s a really thoughtful and interesting post. It’s really interesting to hear from someone outside libraries, and to learn what features you expect as standard. Despite the ‘IP’ in the name, CILIP has done a bad job of explaining to me what information professionals do, so it was great to meet you last night.


    Comment by Girl in the Moon — 23 June 2010 @ 12:57 pm

  3. It was as good for me to hear other sides of the picture. I have passed on news of our discussions to my colleagues who were unable to come yesterday. Hope it all brings about some change in the right direction!

    Comment by malwen — 23 June 2010 @ 5:25 pm

  4. The meeting was very useful as we represented a broad range of academic (in the widest sense) librarians. I learnt more about the IP, CILIP I feel has never been very forthcoming with details of the work in any of their publications.
    As a school librarian I feel my work is very much at the start of a student’s journey in learning to handling information. All the more reason to have professional librarians in place in schools.
    Excellent meeting

    Comment by Jenny Horler — 24 June 2010 @ 1:44 pm

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