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.

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