Archive for October, 2010

The eHustings for the CILIP 2011 elections  are well and truly under way and are proving lively andvery interesting. I have seen some comments that the threads are not very easy to follow, so I am posting the questions, and my answers here. I have given the questioners anonymity but if they want their names attached I am happy to do that.

Question 1:

CILIP members, and UK librarians not currently (or yet) members of CILIP, express their opinions, feelings, and relevant information about all things libraries in a range of media. Online forums, this website, events, twitter, mailing lists et al.

It is impossible, due to sheer hours in the day, to monitor all of these sources, let alone engage with most or all of them.

How do candidates receive information from, and the opinions of, UK librarians and information professionals (CILIP or not)? In other words, what media or sources do the candidates use? And how do they engage (i.e. respond, debate, as oppose to just passively read) with these professionals?

Answer 1:

You’re quite right, no one person can keep track of all the methods of communication people use. As Gareth says, that would be mitigated on Council by Trustees using and being responsible for different areas of communication.

At the moment the main sources I use for “active” information are mailing lists,  Twitter , my blog and the campaign group I am part of, Voices for the Library .  For more passive use I have RSS feeds to several blogs, news sites etc.and, obviously, I receive CILIP’s Update and Gazette.

I receive a lot of feedback on Twitter from librarians and information professionals, whether CILIP or not and try to always acknowledge it where appropriate.The response may not always be immediate if further investigation is needed.  If, for example, I am sent a link to a news story or posting about threats to library services I may well take that to VftL for investigation and follow up.Where appropriate I would also pass it to CILIP.  If I were elected to Council then I would also bring it to the attention of the other Trustees.I also make my email available to people who prefer that method of engaging in debate and discussion.

I am a strong advocate of face to face communication, and am always pleased to be able to discuss issues affecting librarians and information professionals at conferences, meeting and just about anywhere else within reason.

I hope that answers the question and look forward to more discussion and debate.

Question 2:

We’ve had a summer of unusually high media focus on the costs and usage of public libraries (certainly far more than on e.g. costly Trident). In many of the TV programs and debates, The Big Lie has been propagated:

Libraries are not needed as books can be downloaded online.

We – people on here know this is a lie. Many people can’t or don’t have the Internet (and ironically the library is the free place to go for this), or don’t have e-readers, or don’t have the technical experience. And that’s before the vast amount of publications – not just books – that are NOT online and can instead be found or ordered through the public library.

So it’s a lie. A Big Lie.

But that doesn’t stop politicians with an agenda for using it, such as the councillors in Edinburgh slashing their libraries, or the councillor in Walsall speculating about the council closing all public libraries there. Some (most?) of these politicians will know it’s not true, but it sits well with people who don’t realise it’s A Big Lie.

How will CILIP effectively counter The Big Lie? Librarians, and many library users, know it’s a Lie, so preaching to the converted or informed is of limited use. How can and will CILIP point out to the wider masses – citizens, voters, politicians – that not everyone can download everything online?

Answer 2:

The misunderstanding and misinformation about public libraries and librarians is a very important issue which CILIP has to counteract vigorously. The unfortunate Newsnight incident where a person who today made the statement “Libraries are buildings with things to read” and “Running good libraries is actually not very difficult” was wheeled out as a spokesperson for the profession must not happen again. I was very pleased to hear Annie Mauger defending and discussing the public libraries on Radio Leeds yesterday (about 1h23m in). This is exactly what CILIP needs to be doing, getting out there and making reasoned accurate arguments in public to a wider audience. CILIP needs to be getting into the debate, issuing statements, challenging misinformation and making sure CILIP representatives are ready and able to step into the debate wherever it is happening. To actively lobby government (local and central), to extend support to local activism for libraries, to actively seek publicity. To become the first place anybody thinks of coming to for comment, to open up to the public to encourag participation, and most of all to make it crystal clear that CILIP’s only vested interest is to  “support the principle of equality of access to information, ideas and works of the imagination which it affirms is fundamental to a thriving economy, democracy, culture and civilisation” If I am elected I shall be working very hard to help that happen. The first steps are being taken, but there is still much work to do.

Question 3:

In your (John’s) statement, one of your aims is “Go beyond ‘qualifications’ to “accredited development” for a modernised workforce”.  Can you clarify this, as it could be read as being a little dismissive of those of us who have worked hard to gain our LIS MA/MSc’s, and of the grounding in the broader professional context that you get from it, and which you don’t necessarily get just from workplace training.

If you do feel that the future is, what steps would you see as necessary in ensuring that workplace training is to a high standard everywhere?  I come from a public library background and am very aware that training budgets for library staff are a soft target within a soft target and are certain to be cut.

Answer 3:

I suppose in n some ways it could be argued that all our training is vocational, although not workplace based. As you know CILIP already offers a choice of routes to becoming a professional librarian. I believe this is important to cater for as wide a range of situations as possible and each is equally relevant to the profession. I do, however, feel that academic rigour and diversity of topics studied is important whichever route is taken, and would have concerns if all training were to be workplace based.

One of the benefits of my training as a BA student was the exchange of ideas, the building of a personal network and the interaction  with colleagues from a wide range of backgrounds professionally and personally, with a wide range of views on the profession. I found the same to be true when I undertook the EDMS on a part-time basis “under my own steam”.

I think there is a danger when training is entirely or significantly workplace based that it will concentrate on the needs of that particular role, within that particular organisation, rather than the wider picture. That is why I think training in professional matters should be under the auspices of, and/or accredited by, CILIP.

I agree with John that training should be delivered flexibly in as many ways as possible, to suit the content and the learner. I would like to see training offered to all library and information workers, at all levels not only to move towards professional qualification but also to refresh, update and inspire their professional skills and development.

Question 4:

Candidates: what are your professional ethical values and at what point would they be triggered by something that emanates from officialdom, local or national? Can’t vote for people unless they can demonstrate an understanding of professional ethics…

Answer 4:

CILIP has a very clear Code of Professional Practice and Statement of Ethical Principles, as I am sure you know, which I fully support.

I also have my own personal ethics and standards of professional behaviour. I believe very strongly, for example, that as a manager it is my ethical and professional duty to ensure all my team are treated equally by myself, their colleagues and the organisation. I have in the past “drawn a line” on issues affecting this equality of treatment and ensured discrepancies were rectified.

Everybody who uses a service for which I am responsible has a right to feel safe and secure in doing so, and has equality of access, and should local or national pressures be brought to bear to prevent that my professional and personal values would most certainly be triggered and I would have to address it. Hopefully with the support of CILIP and, if available, the relevant trade union.

What I am trying to say is that I strongly believe in treating people equally and with respect, whether as colleagues, customers or managers. Any denial of equality of access to services or information to which a user is entitled is against my professional ethics and I would strongly resist it.

I always strive to be truthful, objective and open in my professional life. I do not say what people want to hear to make myself look better, or to avoid issues, to me, that is unprofessional and unethical.

Whilst I am in no way an advocate of confrontation for its own sake, I am not one to stay silent when “officialdom” is asking me to behave in a way that I find unethical and unprofessional. I do not take the easy way out. I believe that when there is a Code of Ethics and Professional Standards it must be seen to be adhered to, or it is worthless and that, in itself, is unethical.

Throughout my personal and professional life I have been prepared to put myself on the line to uphold my ethics and standards and I have no intention of changing.

Question 5:

What would the candidates do to make the non-librarian information professionals feel that CILIP supported them, welcomed them, understood the world they work in …?

Answer 5:

I have heard librarians who work outside the public or academic sector express similar concern as to CILIP’s relevance for them. Looking through the Special Interest Groups it seems that most of them do, indeed, appear more relevant to librarians than otherwise. One way that CILIP could address this is by reviewing the current groups and identifying areas which are unsupported.

If CILIP organised more informal events around the regions bringing together members from all sectors to network, exchange ideas and share their experiences I think many people would feel more valued and understood.The fact that the majority of meetings are held in London during the working week can make it difficult for many people to attend, causing them to feel excluded and disenfranchise. Live streaming, video conferencing, webinars etc. could all be used to ensure as many members as possible are able to participate.  More articles on the website and in Update about and from the diverse range of professionals who make up the CILIP membership, and also from the Special Interest Groups so that we can all learn about the work our colleagues do and the environments they do that work in may also help improve CILIP’s inclusivity.

That might be a start, and I for one would be very interested to talk about this with you and others in your position to discuss ideas CILIP could implement to ensure members realise that they are al equally welcome, valued and understood.

Question 6:

I go to many library meetings (over 18 years now) in both the US (I’m a long time member of the ALA) and the UK (I’m not a member of CILIP yet; depends on this election). And in the UK of course hear many CILIP members talk, respond, make statements.

A very wide spectrum of views are held on technology in libraries. There are a sizable proportion of CILIP members who do not like the prevalence of technology, in one of many ways, in the library sector. For example (all these I’ve heard in the last two months, from CILIP members, at events), feeling that:

– the internet is a ‘threat’ to traditional and contemporary library services
– the ‘book’ should be the sole, only, or by far the most prevalent media of knowledge access
– libraries – and librarians – should not blog or tweet, but spend that time on more book-related tasks
– PCs in libraries weaken library service provision, as people use them for Facebook and not ‘useful’ tasks
– the money spent, and space taken up by, technology in libraries is better spent on ‘good old books’

So … would you counter the views of librarians who are anti-technology in some way, and if so, how?

Answer 6:

It’s always disappointing to meet people who have no understanding of the opportunities new technologies can bring, or even in some cases not so new technologies. I am always reminded of the Norwegian sketch about the book as new technology. Here is the You Tube link , Maybe I would show them this as a gentle reminder that everything was the latest trend in technology at some time.

I wouldn’t want to stop anybody using the resources they are most comfortable with, but I hope, like Gareth, I would be able to show them some uses and applications that would improve their working experience and help them gain confidence in using less familiar technology. In my work with the local Community Access Point  I have come across a lot of people who held similar views to the ones you describe and am always amazed by how quickly their attitude changes and their eagerness to embrace new technology increases once they find a personal application for it. I am sure the same would be true of the people you descibe. Once they see how the technology can help them do their own work, help their users and provide access to an even wider range of information and reading materials I would hope they would come to appreciate it as another useful tool.

As for the antipathy to social networks, I have come across this attitude from students and academics as well as public librarians. I would attempt to open their eyes to the Personal Support Network, the professional interaction, and the shared experience that can be gained from their use.

Expecting modern libraries to contain only printed material. lor only electronic resources,  is denying our users and colleagues access to the rich diversity of format and content and the best in information. I would hope that being exposed to the best of all worlds would re-ignite their professional passion.

Question 7:

Annie says in the Guardian that, ‘I don’t believe [….]that this government wants to be responsible for the end of the public library service in this country.’

Do you agree?

Answer 7:

I don’t think any Government would want to be the one to be responsible for the end of public library services. Do I think that would stop them? No, I don’t. If public library services are seen as an easy and popular target for cuts then they could be endangered as public services or at best be severely depleted.

I hope that answers your question.

Question 8:

What is your favourite colour?

Answer 8:


If you are interested in asking a question or reading the other candidates’ answers then please visit the Hustings and for the VP election go to VP Hustings.

Question 9:

I think that xxxxxx misses an important point in his question. The anti-technology views he mentions are often expressed by library users and in particular by those who are strong supporters and defenders of libraries. These people often suggest that librarians have allowed themselves to be distracted by the superficial attraction of technology and have lost sight of the core role of the library and the core needs of the majority of library users. They are often very sceptical about the competence of librarians to deliver a Good Library service.

Given that libraries need all the friends they can get, how would candidates engage with these views.

Answer 9:

As I mentioned in my reply to John’s question (from the librarians’ perspectiv)e finding a use for new technology which is of value to the individual is, in my experience, core to gaining acceptance, appreciation and use of new technologies.  I also think that library users have a right to use whichever format they feel happiest and most comfortable with, and which is most appropriate to their requirements, so I would no more try to force them to use an Internet site to access information than I would impose print only options.

I find it hard to reconcile the role of defender and supporter of libraries with an attempt to restrict the resources available to all the library users to content in formats of their own preference. I do not believe that the attraction of technology is superficial, any more than the attraction of the printed word has been.

I would engage with these views by presenting the case for technology as part of the core role of librarie,s by examples of real users who access the service in this way. How online catalogues have made it easier for users to locate and access holdings, whatever format they may be in. How the library has always been a place for quiet study by everybody from schoolchildren to mature students, and access to technology supports that, providing not only access to research materials but also a means of creating their course work. How local history collections can be enhanced by technology such as online mapping and archeological databases. There are numerous ways in which technology is being used which the people who object to it so vociferously seem to ignore. The role of the librarian has often been stated to be to provide access in the right format, at the right time, to the right person (pardon the paraphrasing) and they would be doing the genuine library users a disservice if they didn’t harness every means available to them to fulfil that role.

CILIP needs to address these misguided opinions (which, strangely enough, are often delivered using modern technology such as blogs) by engaging with users, decision makers and opinion formers in a proactive way to present the facts and the positive impact of technology, and to allay the fear that books are about to disappear from libraryshelves forever. The skills of librarians and information professionals involved in delivering unbiased public library services must be emphasised and their ability to run first class services which meet the needs of all users demonstrated. I am part of the Voices for the Library group, and I would want to bring that approach of open discussion,  example and fact to CILIP. I think steps are already being made in that direction (for example Annie Mauger’s recent interview on Radio Leeds) and I would like to be involved in ensuring that continues.

Question 10:

Michael Stephens, an influential information professional in the USA, has written a column in Library Journal:


In it, he writes:

“If the online world is not for you, then neither may be a career in librarianship. The most prevalent LIS jobs in the next few years will probably be ones where you’re not tied to your desk and you communicate well beyond the physical walls of the building.”

What do candidates think about about this?

Answer 10:

I think that is a fair comment, but then as a librarian in public, FE and HE roles I have never been tied to my desk, or within the physical walls of the buildings. That is one of the things that is so great about the job, there are no phyical constraints on who wecommunicate with or where we can access information. Another of the great things is the chance for face to face interaction with the people we help and deal with in the role. I could turn this statement on its head I suppose and say “If the real world is not for you, then neither may be a career in librarianship”. We have to work and interact and access both worlds. We are lucky that way.

Question 11:

(For information, Ian Clark has written a good blog post about this announcement at http://thoughtsofawannabelibrarian.wordpress.com/2010/10/21/why-the-publishers-association-are-wrong/)

I agree that the decision of the PA is ridiculous and poses a real threat to public libraries. I’d like to ask all the candidates how they think that the PA might be persuaded to change its mind on this issue.  What arguments would make a difference to the publishers?

Answer 11:

The only argument that would make a difference to the publishers would probably be the one that hits their profit margins. If it became clear that public opinion was moving the market away from their business then maybe that would make a difference. I have been discussing this on Twitter as well, and I believe that they are in danger of affecting their own future market, if people begin to associate e-books with difficulty in access, cumbersome procedures and barriers to access there is a possibility that they will go elsewhere to access the product. Whilst all the relevant bodies, including CILIP, need to enter in discussion with the PA to find a way forward that protects the commercial interest but also allows access I am not hopeful of a quick solution. I have yet to hear how public libraries will be able to deal with the various technical difficulties imposed by such a restriction, or whether it is to apply to academic and other libraries or just public libraries. I shall be following the reports, lists and Twitter stream with interest to see how this develops.

Question 12:

I recently read the CILIP Presidential Address for 2010. In it Biddy said…

“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?”

How do you feel we could achieve these things?

Answer 12:

First and foremost we need to decide who we are and what we do and agree that identity across the membership. What we do is complicated and diverse and we must celebrate and embrace that. No area of the professions CILIP represents, or the sectors in which they work, should be overlooked. We then need to make sure we are positioned as the recognised leadership for the public we serve. CILIP is already making steps in that direction, and more needs to be done. We need to engage with our “public” openly and honestly, be prepared to accept criticism when it is justified and be willing to find ways to change and develop to allay future criticism and improve our perceived worth. . We must also be prepared to vigorously refute criticism when criticism is not justified. We need to embrace every method of communication of our value and skills available to us, not just formally but in all our informal dealings with our public as well. And we need to work together, to present a unified and coherent front to the world via the Chartered Institute to which we belong. The sterling work in raising our profile achieved by groups such as Voices for the Library (to which we both belong) and Heart of the School and presenting the views of the professionals and users in a less formal and sometimes more accessible way should be embraced and harnessed. CILIP’s endorsement of such groups strengthens the message we are all trying to get across. “This is who we are, this is what we do, this is what we bring you, this is why you need us”.

That would be a start towards achieving these things.

Question 13:

Another question for you all. CILIP announced today the closure of the MSU. Do you agree?

Answer 13:

Like Andrew and Gareth I don’t feel I have enough information to make a reasoned response to this question. I realise hard decisions have to be made and have every sympathy with those who will be leaving CILIP through no choice of their own. As many people have stated elsewhere they do a great job and have been the “”recognisable face” of the organisation for the many members they have helped and corresponded with. I trust that everyything is being done to support them.  I also have sympathy for those who have had to take this difficult decision. I would like reassurances that the work of the Unit will be continued and that Members will not lose out because of this. I assume, and hope, that more information will be forthcoming very soon. In the meantime I would like to thank the 3 affected members of the CILIP team for everything they have done, and wish them every luck and success for the future.


Read Full Post »

Getting the confirmation that I will be standing for the elections to CILIP Council as a Trustee has made me revisit my reasons.  So far I have found that I am even more committed to this than I thought. When I got responses and questions to my previous blog post and also got asked some equally pertinent questions on the e-Hustings it made me think really hard all over again about why I wanted to do this.  It is everything I said in my manifesto but it is something more as well.

I am passionate about what librarians and information professionals do. It doesn’t matter where we work or what sector we are in, the vast majority of us are passionate about what we do. If we weren’t why would we return day after day to workplaces where we are rarely thanked when we do a good job. Where some of the customers actually abuse us verbally and, on occassion, physically, and others patronise us and stereotype us whilst at the same time being unable to perform their own jobs without us?  Why would we face the uphill struggle of getting funds to improve and maintain our services when we could just take the easy way out, shrug our shoulders and blame the financial situation? Why would we investigate new technologies, and fight to integrate existing technologies with them when they are supposed to work together but far too often don’t?

So the least we deserve is a professional organisation that will back us to the hilt, shout our praises to the rooftops and be the first at the barricades with us. CILIP may be moving in the right direction but it needs to move faster. I want to be one of the people pushing in that direction. I want to let everybody know what we do, I want to face down the scurrilous dismissive comments being propagated by people who seem to have an almost  pathological fear and dislike of us. Maybe because we understand information, how to use it, provide it, disseminate it and make it accessible in all its formats. I want to be the one who fights for the individual as well as dealing with “the wider picture”.

I want to be able to talk to people in the UK and have the same reaction as I did in Vietnam. I want us to be recognised, utilised and respected. I want to be part of CILIP Council because I believe this is what a united CILIP could and should be doing. If that’s what you want too, then you know how to vote.

Read Full Post »

As you probably know I have decided to stand for election as a CILIP Trustee or Councillor. I love my profession. In this cynical day and age that may sound somewhat overblown but it is true. I believe we provide a very important service to the community, wherever we are employed and whoever we work with. We provide access to materials and information from an increasingly complex range of sources, and what is more we provide our “customers” with the training to eventually do that for themselves if that is appropriate, and they they have the inclination. I feel the recent attacks on our profession, denigrating our skills, our professional qualities and our value to society, have to be confronted and refuted. Not just because we want to protect our jobs but because we want to protect for future generations the skills and services that this generation has enjoyed. I believe that all sectors of the profession are facing tough times, and we must provide a united front with a strong public voice. I also believe that CILIP should be spearheading the fight back, not individuals who may have vested interests or private companies with an eye on their profits. I want the chance to be involved in the fight, so as well as being involved in Voices for the Library I decided to ask for nominations to stand for election to the Council.

My manifesto probably best sums up my reasons for standing, so I have decided to post it here.

“I have been a professional librarian for just over 13 years, working in Schools Library Service, FE, and latterly HE. I have a passion for information literacy, and its teaching. Prior to that I worked in IT in local and central government posts and in the private sector. I have seen what happens to a public service when it is handed to the private sector, both the positives and the negatives.

The current debate about the future of public library services is also an attack on our profession, its value and its perception in the public eye. There has been a slow erosion of our role in schools, Colleges and even Universities. People don’t understand what we do.  The profession is at a crossroads which can either lead to a better understanding and recognition of what we do, or a gradual oblivion. CILIP must be central to ensuring we take the former route. I also believe it is up to us to work through and with CILIP to ensure a unified approach.

If I were elected I would work towards making CILIP a more member-oriented organisation (work which has already been begun). I want CILIP to act as an advocate for the profession and individuals within it.

I want CILIP to be the first place anybody, media, government or public, thinks of going when they want to discuss, debate, change or work with the Profession. I believe CILIP needs to be more proactive in seeking publicity and reaching out beyond the profession.

I believe CILIP has to lose its inhibitions and get loud about our skills and our value to employers, children, adults, government, anybody who seeks for, produces or uses information. CILIP has to move outside the comfort zone. I ask for the opportunity to help achieve that.”

If you are able to vote for me I would be proud to represent you and not afraid to speak out on your behalf and hopefully CILIP can take on the biggest fight it has faced for some time.

Read Full Post »