what is the point of CILIP

The future of libraries is good. In a recent interview I was asked to do a presentation on “is there a future for academic librarians” – the short answer is yes & I went on to explain some of the areas where I felt the Library had a role to play in the wider HE world. I was questioned after the presentation by a Faculty member who asked whether what I talked about had to be the role of the Library. I said it didn’t – if we don’t do it then someone else will. Libraries are well-placed & well-skilled to move into lots of these areas, but there needs to be the will and the desire to work with users, and the strategic support from the organisation, and wider, to claim these as legitimate roles for librarians.

As such I found Bob McGee’s post on the CILIP use of Twitter to be very backward looking & navel-gazing (see also Phil Bradley’s reply which seems to have prompted most of the comments on the original post). Now I don’t think that Twitter is the answer to everything (thiss post couldn’t use twitter as it’s far too long), but I think that Twitter does have a use and could be used by CILIP to engage members and non-members. CILIP Communities was set-up to allow  CILIP members to engage with each other and share good practice etc, but it is quite clunky to use and many people have complained that it is difficult to get updates from it sent to yourself and to reply you then need to go into the site. Twitter, on the other hand, is much easier to use and there does seem to be a community of practice emerging in the library and information professional areas. So it could be argued that twitter is enabling the discussions that CILIP Communities was set up for (although there are still differences between the two).

Jenny Levine’s post on the use of twitter by ALA shows just what can be done if we as a profession are open to new things and willing to experiment.

Between the discussion on whether CILIP had a twitter account and Bob’s post about it the discussion had moved on to what was the point of CILIP. Not many positive reasons for continuing to be a CILIP member were said. I have been a member since I did my MSc and plan to continue to be a member during my professional life, but I found it hard to explain why (especially in 140 characters or less!). I suppose the main reason at the moment is to maintain my MCLIP status, as it was alot of effort to get, but CILIP membership is expensive just to have that on my business cards (which MPOW have not yet managed to print me in the almost four years I’ve worked here, maybe with my new job…).

Reading Bob’s post made me so angry I really want to do something to change this attitude, but how do I do that? What is the best way to engage with CILIP and work with them on this?


  1. I heard about Bob’s post the other day, talking to a colleague at another uni. I’d love to say this attitude is rare – but it’s been my experience that this attitude is sadly pretty pervasive at the upper echelons of library management.

    It seems from my experience that there’s a real fear that these new channels of communication will undermine their carefully constructed hierarchical command structures. It does rather re-enforce my impression that Bob’s sadly out of touch with the ground troop librarians and what we’re actually using; which isn’t going to help CILIP’s already embattled image in the community.

    Well maybe they will or maybe they won’t, but for one I’ve found far more community interaction and engagement in 6 months twittering than 15 years using JISCMAIL mailing lists. It has a value to me, and therefore to the profession.

    But will it last the distance, I dunno – things are far more in flux, and I can imagine for a lot of people in the sector that’s a terrifying prospect; but then when isn’t change?

  2. Like you Clari I’m beginning to wonder why I pay my money to an institution that doesn’t seem to engage in the “Future of Libraries”. Bob McKee’s post seemed to be about maintaining the librarian stereotype of control and authority, and I just don’t think there is a future for that kind of librarian.

    Whilst I myself am still on the periphery of using twitter, at least I’m experimenting and trying it out. Because I want to see what it can do and how I can use it as a professional. Isn’t it about time that CILIP did the same?

  3. What really annoys me is that there are so many opportunities that CILIP could use to do good stuff that would really help us, but they seem to be ignoring it because they don’t control it. But what do we control? The debate on access v ownership has happenned in eresources, and control of those in mnay cases has passed to aggregators and subscription agents. CILIP seems to be setting this year as the year for advocacy and campaigning (with their toolkit etc) but aren’t really engaging with the different tools that they could use to advocate for the organisation as a whole!

    (And Juanita, I’ve added the monsters just for you!)

  4. Thanks for bringing this to our attention Clari. I haven’t been a CILIP member for the last 5 years, and this has stopped me feeling guilty about it!

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