Updated CILIP Volunteers In Public Libraries Policy

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Today CILIP published their revised volunteer policy for public libraries. The decision to revise it was made after concerns were raised by members of the library profession (including myself) about the existing policy.

The back story to this change is written up in the following posts.

CILIP Volunteer Policy & Job Substitution: Letter to CILIP Update (16th May 2012)

Response To My Letter Re. CILIP Volunteer Policy (6th June 2012)

Further Discussions About CILIP’s Volunteer Policy (18th June 2012)

The wording of the new policy is as follows:

Use of volunteers in public libraries

 In 2012 CILIP Council agreed the following policy statement on the use of volunteers in public libraries. 

CILIP believes that society benefits from the contribution that trained and skilled library, information and knowledge workers make to developing and delivering services. We do not believe that volunteers should undertake core service delivery or be asked to replace the specialised roles of staff who work in libraries.

Volunteers have long supported and provided highly valuable additional support, working alongside qualified and paid staff, and they should be acknowledged and valued for this role. They should also be given appropriate role descriptions, training and management.

CILIP is opposed to job substitution where paid professional and support roles are directly replaced with either volunteers or untrained administrative posts to save money. This applies to all library and information services in every sector.

If this happens services will suffer and will be unsustainable. What remains would be a library service unable to serve the community comprehensively, support people’s information needs or provide everyone with the opportunity for learning and development.

CILIP will not assist in recruiting or training volunteers who will be used to substitute the role of qualified, trained and paid library and information workers. 

We acknowledge the difficult times that we live in, but now more than ever, high quality information services are vital to people’s lives, and local communities, learners, workers and businesses need the support of a trained and skilled workforce to thrive.

Date of policy: June 2012

Policy to be reviewed: June 2014

I’m very pleased with the revised policy. It acknowledges the support role of volunteers, but it also puts it in the context of how this is a support role and should not be used either as a replacement for trained staff providing core public library services, or as a cost saving exercise. In fact, it goes a step further by including “untrained administrative posts” alongside volunteers in this context – a statement which could prevent some library services from considering this route too. It emphasises that it will not assist in the development of roles that fall under this this banner.

At the same time as emphasising these areas it is also good news that the policy has expanded on the reasons why it is important to have library services provided by “trained and skilled library, information and knowledge workers”.

I also think it’s important to highlight that, in relation to its opposition to job substitution, the policy also states:

“This applies to all library and information services in every sector.” 

In doing this, CILIP emphasises that this is not acceptable in any situation and demonstrates its support for the profession across the board.

Not only does the new volunteer policy set out CILIP’s stance in line with advocacy work it has previously mentioned, but it also provides a policy with more substance. The original policy (from 2010) was too vague and brief – it didn’t clearly define CILIP’s position and left gaps that could allow library service providers to misinterpret it in a way that went against the spirit of the policy. This vagueness and brevity was a major cause of concern.

However, it’s reassuring to see that CILIP has taken note of these concerns, that the issues previously raised have been addressed and I hope that it will help ensure that public library users receive the professionally run library services they deserve.

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4 thoughts on “Updated CILIP Volunteers In Public Libraries Policy

  1. A strong definition I think! More importantly I think this can provide real support to library services under pressure to re model. A big round of applause to you for making this happen.

    • Thanks for your comment, karenjg. I agree. Hopefully it will make them think twice about which direction they go in if they do re-model. Thanks for the thumbs up too, but I think it was pressure coming from a few sides that made this happen.

  2. I am pleased you are happy with the revised policy and many thanks for coming to speak to us at the last CILIP Council meeting – we are always happy to listen to, and take on board, members’ views.

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