Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Some thoughts from Cambridge

Thanks very much to all who came to CB2 yesterday to discuss the future of libraries and feed into the CILIP discussion.  We had strong representation from academic and medical libraries and it was great to get some perspective from corporate and school librarians as well.  Since other posts have already given a really good overview of what was discussed, I think I'll stick to my own thoughts from the evening.

The future of libraries and information professionals
I thought the Futures Thinking report was very interesting and relevant outside of academic libraries as well.  I think we're moving towards an even greater emphasis on providing one-to-one support and training to users.  Online services will be ever more important, but I agree with Libby Tilley's suggestion that the face-to-face contact will remain essential.  I think that people will engage more with the service through online channels if they know who they're talking to.

I think that there will be a greater emphasis on the teaching role of the librarian, hopefully working more closely with teachers/lecturers to embed information literacy training into the curriculum.  This is already happening but not across the board.  I like Anne's suggestion that it should be part of the librarianship qualification, although perhaps as an option rather than a core requirement.

The greater emphasis on electronic resources will continue but will not replace printed books.  Even with a reduction in the number of printed books in the library, physical spaces will still be required for private study, group work and informal learning.

I thought the idea that researchers need more practical advice on copyright, referencing and how to get published was interesting, and it struck a chord with my past experience as Music Information Officer at the Contemporary Music Centre.  There, promotion and advisory services to composers were part and parcel of what we did.

I am concerned about the deprofessionalisation of the public library sector, which reinforces the idea that all librarians do is stamp books - a self-fulfilling prophecy.  If we're trying to tell people that librarians can help them with their research, but there are no actual librarians in the public libraries, how is that going to look?  As Anna pointed out last night, things will tick on nicely for a few years before the effects will really be seen.

Regarding suggestions of a name change for libraries and librarians, I don't think that's necessary.  What we need to do is to promote ourselves more as we are, demonstrate the different things we do and counteract the stereotypes in our daily work.

CILIP - now and in the future
I have to say that as a student member I feel I have benefited hugely from CILIP to date.  In the few months since I moved to the UK I have attended courses on chartership, disability awareness, Librarians as Teachers, 'Working Smarter' and 'A cut above the rest'.  Looking at that list, all were organised by special interest groups.  If the special interest groups can deliver these excellent training opportunities so affordably, why can't CILIP centrally do it for less than a few hundred pounds?  I really like the suggestion of transmitting events electronically so that members who can't travel/get childcare/afford the cost of the events can still benefit from the content.  There's only so much you can get by following on Twitter.

At £38 for the publications and training course discounts alone you can't go far wrong.  Will I remain a member when I'm no longer a student?  I'm not sure.  I really do want to charter, but if I don't feel I get anything from CILIP after that will I be happy to pay an annual fee just to write MCLIP after my name?  If the subscriptions were lower I wouldn't have to think twice about it, but at the current rates I would need to have a much better idea of where my fees are going.

I'm willing to accept that the Newsnight debacle was a once-off down to very short notice, but I agree that I wouldn't be too happy if it were to happen again.  Hopefully the one-minute messages and comprehensive training for staff and sector representatives will address this in the very near future, especially since CILIP constantly talks about its advocacy role.

Do we need two publications?  Could they be merged?  I have to say I do like Update Digital for the multimedia that can be added, but the content needs to be available on the website at the very least as a normal pdf and ideally through an RSS feed.  It's not enough to have the pdf download within the flash file - if you don't have flash you still can't access it!  I also don't think it's unreasonable to expect that the professional body for library and information professionals would have a decent website that is easily navigable and works as it's supposed to (for example, I've given up trying to get through to the journals I should be able to access).

The Conversation 
Great use has been made of the internet and social media in this consultation, but I feel that every branch should have organised face-to-face discussions to feed into it.  I know that some in Wales, for example, are feeling neglected.  I'm also unsure how well information professionals outside the more traditional library sector have been consulted, and felt that the questionnaire was only a tool for producing stats to pad out the end report, not really interested in our views.  I don't want to sound like I'm being over-critical here (I know some members of the project board have felt under attack) - I just want to voice my concerns and hope that the final report will show that they are unfounded.

This has been a bit of an essay, I'm sorry!  I'd love if people could continue the discussion through the comments and the other blog posts arising from this:


  1. great post - and some really interesting points.

  2. Yes, yes, yes, to need for branches to organise events for the Conversation. Is anyone from the East of England branch reading this - can you say why there wasn't anything branch organised? Or was there, and I didn't hear about it?