CILIP Presidential Address 2010

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I’ve been reading the CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) Presidential Address Biddy Fisher gave at the CILIP members day last week. The key quotes for me were:

“The members of the profession, whether in practice or in employment, must be independent in thought and outlook. They must be willing to speak their minds without fear or favour.”

I feel without this independent and free thinking we can’t really engage in debate about our profession or develop information and library services in new and innovative ways. If we are held back by what we think we should say, or what we are told to say we run the risk of getting told how we should run services, rather than leading the development of these services.

“In its specific field of learning a profession must give leadership to the public it serves.”

“…we still struggle with the question of how are we able to truly recognise and then relay to society our worth to our communities?”

We are the experts in our profession. We should be guiding our users – showing them what we have to offer. We should be thinking about the opportunities that are out there, how we make use of them to help our service users, and how we sell what we do to users and non-users. We shouldn’t wait to be prompted and guided by those outside the profession about the services we provide and how we provide them.

“One of the issues that I have grappled with this year has been to determine what we, as CILIP, are advocating.  I know I am not alone in this.  Part of the  ‘problem’ is the confusion about what exactly we are advocating for.  Is it:

Libraries – as buildings and as the icons that exemplify our cultural and economic contribution to society?

Library and Information Services – as the content within those buildings, or increasingly virtually beyond them, and by which users and individuals are able to access knowledge and information?

Librarians and Information Professionals – as the agents that develop and maintain the tools, the processes and systems that permit consistent and non judgemental access?

Or possibly the unique body of knowledge that appends our professional practice and that we acquire in our education, develop in our practice and discussions with peers and which grows with our increasing expertise, confidence and the taking of  opportunities?”

In my mind it’s all of these things that CILIP and its members should be advocating – anything that promotes the idea of what an information professional or librarian does and all that entails. It’s all so intertwined that in some cases it is difficult to separate the different strands.

I thought Biddy’s speech was powerful and it made me feel positive about the role that CILIP will be playing for our profession in the future. We as professionals and individuals though, need to take note of these ideas and make sure we put them into practice. Otherwise we will just remain as we are now – undervalued and disenfranchised!

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CILIP AGM and Elections

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I attended the CILIP Annual General Meeting last week. As I’d just become a new member of CILIP I thought it would be a good opportunity to see what goes on behind the scenes. I’m not going to go into detail about it. Phil Bradley’s blog post and the comments below it cover all the things I’d like to say.

My only other concern about the AGM was that only about 80 CILIP members attended. I understand that most members would be getting on with their day job during the time that the CILIP AGM was taking place and that’s fair enough. However, those who didn’t attend had the opportunity to vote on various decisions by proxy – only a handful of people took this opportunity. Why? Was it really so difficult to look at the agenda, read the documents, make a decision and cast a vote for an organisation you have paid to be a member of?

I really hope this lack of interest isn’t going to be an indication of voting in the CILIP elections too. All it takes is a little bit of time to have a look at the various manifestos of the candidates and a moment to put a little cross in the box, pop it in the post and you’re done. Everyone should take the opportunity to vote.

Libraries are going through a time of change at the moment and the value of librarians and information professionals is being questioned in the media, by the Government and by people who just don’t grasp their importance in the 21st century and current economic climate. We need to fight this attitude and show that we are interested in our own future and that what we do is relevant. We need to support the organisation we have chosen to become members of – the organisation that represents us and our values (CILIP). By voting in the elections you can put people on CILIP Council and in the position of Vice-President who will help shape the future of CILIP and ensure that the message that libraries, librarians and information professionals are still of value in a digital society, is heard.

Searchable Tagxedo Wordcloud

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A while ago Phil Bradley created a Tagxedo cloud image for the ‘Voices For The Library’ site. The team thought it was a fun thing to do and I wondered if we could build on this, to make it something more than just a static image. I’ve used Tagxedo before – creating a short animated film , a tribute to Middlemash and a way of generating word clouds automatically from blog posts.

Tagxedo is built on Microsoft Silverlight, which is similar to Flash. The great thing about Tagxedo is that, not only does it allow you to create a Wordcloud as an image, but it also allows you to index the words in the wordcloud and make the whole image searchable. Not many people seem to have cottoned onto this fact and I think it’s a really underused feature. It makes browseable wordclouds much more interesting if you’re actually clicking around a picture to perform the search. Part of the reason why it’s not been used much might be that, to create a clickable Tagxedo, you originally had to have Silverlight installed. This changed a while back when Hardy Leung, creator of Tagxedo, added a html version of this. It’s not as dynamic as the Silverlight version (ie the words don’t pop up as you hover over them), but it still works really well. With this in mind I’ve created a clickable Tagxedo for the Voices For The Library website here.

I created it in the shape of a heart, in keeping with my the ‘We love public libraries’ theme. 🙂 It’s not hosted on the ‘Voices For The Library’ site, but links through to it. Please give it a go and let me know what you think.

Why I joined Voices for the Library & CILIP

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A few weeks ago I became part of a campaign called Voices For The Library and a couple of weeks before this I joined CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals).

These two situations came about from a feeling that something was up in the library world – for a few months there’d been a rise in the number of people questioning the value and relevance of libraries and librarians/library staff in a digital/online world dominated by Google. The media ran stories about library cuts, and people commented on their vision of libraries that might have been relevant a few generations ago, but aren’t any more. “How much more of this can I listen to and read before my head pops?” I thought.

I felt like I needed to do something, rather than just sitting there moaning, getting frustrated about stories in the media and responding to the odd blog post.

To be fair, lots of people outside of the profession might still see libraries as no more than just shelves of books, and librarians just stamp books all day and point people to the nearest copy of Encyclopedia Britannica. I know this isn’t true, but it’s only recently that I’ve come to realise the full range of work that the profession participates in. Over the past couple of years my network of library friends has grown beyond my immediate workplace (a public library service). I now know people who work in academic, business, school and specialist libraries and I’ve learnt that being a library or information professional in these areas entails so much more than even I ever thought it did. Take a look at the stories on the ‘Library Day in the Life‘ wiki to see the great breadth of work librarians and information professionals across all these sectors are involved with.

Anyway, I just felt that I didn’t want the role of libraries and librarians to die out, that’s why I got involved in both Voices for the Library and Cilip. Our profession is relevant and I really don’t want to let people who aren’t librarians or information professionals taking the lead on how our futures and the futures of libraries pan out. I do feel we need to fight our corner.

The Voices for the Library campaign came about from the threats of cutbacks and closures to UK Public Library Services and the trained staff who work in them. The various people in the group come from different backgrounds, but are all either librarians or information professionals and we just felt that there was no point sitting back and complaining and tutting to ourselves about the situation. We wanted to do something to stop it and correct the facts that were being given out about our supposedly failing public libraries. An irony of the group is that I’m the only public librarian in it! The main outlet for the campaign is the website, but we are doing so much more than this. The campaign is a way for library users to tell everyone what public libraries mean to them. It supports campaigns defending libraries under threat. It is helping to make the media aware of the value of libraries and librarians/trained library staff and it promotes positive stories about libraries beyond them being places that just contain books.

With regard to CILIP, it’s seen as the representative body of librarians, but there’s been a bit of a negative attitude towards the organisation from some quarters. I’ve only recently taken notice of what CILIP can offer me. I really thought it wasn’t worth the subscription fee for 20 years, but as I’ve got involved in discussions with various members of the CILIP team and taken note of what it gets up to behind the scenes, I realised it’s doing an awful lot of work that is not acknowledged. However, I still feel it really does need to shout about what it does and make itself heard. I also think it needs to move into the the 21st century, with regard to what librarians/information professionals can offer the Google dominated information world. By joining Cilip I hope to help make it the organisation I’d really like it to be!

It’s funny, after 20 years of being a librarian, I think I’ve finally found my library mojo 😉

I know I can’t keep up with the other members of the Voices for the Library team all of the time, but I try my best. They are whirlwinds and it tires me out just looking at/thinking about all of the work they’ve done in the space of a month (on top of their home and work lives). I’m really proud to be part of the team and I look around at who is involved in it and think, “Blimey! How did little me get involved with these top library bods? They are ace!” I know that sounds sycophantic and creepy, but I mean it.

I also know I’ll never be a top dog in CILIP either, but in both situations I think I do have a part to play, no matter how small, and I’m happy to do what I can to show people that libraries and librarians do have an important role in the 21st century.