Monthly Archives: August 2013

The final countdown

Firstly, I should mention my last post. I’ve never had as much traffic to my blog as I have over the last three days – maybe I should write semi-controversial things about CILIP more often! I was interested to see the various responses here and on Twitter from people at different stages in their careers. Bethan Ruddock has written a blog in response, explaining her reasoning for being a member of professional bodies. It’s a really good read, and it was good to see a different point of view on the matter. I should say that I’m absolutely not dead set against joining CILIP, and I think there are sound arguments for and against. I think the points I raised, while perhaps simplistic, are things that should be thought about and discussed, and I’ll be interested to see what happens with regard to the fees proposals at the AGM.

Anyway, back to your regularly scheduled blog post…

My GT year is very nearly over – sob! I’ve got 8 working days left (plus a week of annual leave) and then I’m outta here (said in cheesy American accent). I’m just going around work tying up loose ends, making sure I’m not leaving anything without telling someone what it is. I’m the sort of person who likes to be prepared well in advance (if you’d seen the amount of homework I did last-minute at school, you’d be very surprised to hear this) so I’ve already made a start on clearing my desk and other things that could probably wait until the last day. I’m also starting a few new things, such as writing guides on using databases and eBooks, and writing out book orders, and it’s a bit strange to know I won’t ever see the results of these things, but it’s nice to know that I’m doing things that will be put to good use in the upcoming year. It’s weird – I’m sort of well-prepared for leaving, but on the other hand it’s not really hit me yet that I’ll be (briefly) unemployed in three weeks’ time. What am I going to do with all my free time and no money?! I’m going to be very up-to-date on all things daytime-TV-related. Perhaps I shall take up knitting. Again. I’m planning to have a good go at getting through my to-read list as well.

Whatever I do, I know I’m going to miss the library. It’s a bit repetitive to say I’ve learned so much here, but I really have, and I’ve really enjoyed doing it, even the stuff that people think I’m weird to like (spreadsheets, bulk withdrawals, other data-entry-related things). I met my “replacement” the other day and I was trying to explain the sorts of things I’ve done this year, but realised it’d probably take all day! I really didn’t expect to do such a wide variety of things this year, from digitisation to teaching to stock editing and everything else in between. It’s been so interesting, all of it, and I’m really grateful to have had this opportunity. I’m excited to move on, too, and learn some of the theory behind the stuff I’ve done and seen this year (and more besides), as well as getting some experience of a new university, a new library and a new city. I’m also weirdly excited for the new batch of GTs, these people I’ve never actually met! I know what’s coming up for them in their GT year and it’s going to be really busy and really interesting. I sort of wish I was sticking around to see it all!

I saw this video yesterday from the University of Sheffield, which has made me even more excited about starting there:

 

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CILIP: To join or not to join?

I started (and never finished) a blog post the other day about the CILIP name change and how what really needs to happen is an image overhaul and positive publicity for the profession to show people the value of libraries and library (and information) professionals. However, that’s pretty much my entire opinion on the matter in that sentence, which is why that post never got finished. I haven’t really got the inclination to get involved in all the confrontational back-and-forth and besides, loads of people have written and tweeted about it with a lot more insight than I could.

What I do want to write about, though, is CILIP’s membership fees structure. Now there’s a nice lighthearted topic! It’s relevant to me at the moment, though, as I’m starting the MA course soon and feel like it would be a good time to join the professional body. However, I’m not really sure if it’s worth me joining CILIP – now or indeed ever. And here’s why: it’s expensive, and it’s not fair.

It’s not expensive straight away, not for students – it’s only £38 a year for students – but if I got a grade 3 job at MMU after graduating, which is a Senior Library Assistant, I’d have to pay £160. In fact, even if I stayed at the same level as I am now (grade 2 at MMU), I’d have to pay £160. And if I got a job paying more than £17,501, which would be a grade 4 Principal Library Assistant at MMU, I’d have to pay the top membership rate of £194. I haven’t even looked at salaries for professional jobs (i.e. jobs that require the PGDip or MA) and we’ve already reached the top of the membership fees scale.

This strikes me as more than a bit unfair. If, as I hope, I graduate from the MA and get my first professional post, I might expect to earn somewhere around £20,000. The Head of Library Services here earns three times as much as that, and yet we would both pay the same CILIP membership fees.

Another problem I have with the whole thing is that this profession is not especially well-paid. When you look at the equivalent professional bodies for people such as architects and engineers, you find that they charge membership fees around the same level as CILIP’s, despite average salaries for these professions being higher.

So, what do you get for your money? The CILIP website lists the benefits of membership as follows: Advice and support; Advocacy and Campaigns; Monthly magazine, journals and ebulletins; Networking and community; Special deals and discounts.

To be honest with you, I’m not convinced this is a fair return for my money, especially when you consider that you can get most of these things elsewhere without being a CILIP member. And when you add on the price of events (could be £5, could be £30, could be over £300), I’m really not sure I can afford to invest.

The saying goes that if you put more in to CILIP, you get more out. But not everyone has the time, transport or money to get involved in committees, special interest groups, conferences and so on, which means that through no fault of their own they’re not benefiting nearly as much from their membership fee – they’re essentially getting a very expensive magazine subscription.

CILIP are considering making student membership free, which I think is a good start, and will possibly encourage more people in my situation to join. However, I think the jump from “free” to up to £200, dependent on salary after graduation, will still count against CILIP, and I’m not sure how much of a difference it’ll make. The proposal mentions e-only communication and making sure people get value for money, which is encouraging, but I do think there’s more that can be done before I’d be convinced to join up.

My suggestions are as follows:

  • Make it free or very cheap for students, and then have a fees structure that increases steadily, perhaps loosely following pay grades for library staff. I know salary scales vary by employer, but it can’t be too hard to have very generalised bands, e.g. £0-£4,999; £5,000-£9,999; £10,000-£14,999 etc. And don’t stop at £17,501!
  • Don’t waste money on print stuff. E-communication, e-journals, e-whatever are the way forward, especially for the information professions. Printing and postage costs are huge these days, and it’s quite an easy way to make savings that could be reflected in reduced fees.
  • Give more support for students and new professionals. I think a special interest group for these people, offering networking and cheap training sessions, as well as advice and support tailored to new  and aspiring professionals, would encourage uptake of membership. Having cheap/free student membership as well as this might require creative budgeting, but I think it’d pay off by increasing the retention rate for new members.
  • Be more visible (in a good way). I don’t want the only time I read about CILIP in the papers to be about squabbling over name changes. Being seen to be taking positive action and advocating for libraries, rather than staying in the background a bit, can only serve to increase people’s inclination to join in.
  • Provide more stuff. This is coming, in the form of a Virtual Learning Environment as well as a Professional Knowledge and Skills base, but really, the more benefits of membership, the better. Club membership and cheap breakdown cover on my (non-existent) car aren’t really doing it for me.

I’m sure I’m not the only person who feels like this, and I reckon CILIP needs to think seriously about what it’s offering people like me (and what its image is like to people like me) as, if students and new professionals don’t feel inclined to sign up, then the membership will continue to dwindle. Hopefully some positive news will come out of the upcoming AGM, where the free student membership is being proposed, which might lead to me taking the plunge and signing up.

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