Sunday, 31 July 2011

Thing 7: face-to-face networks and professional organisations

The only professional organisation of which I am a member is CILIP. I joined when I was doing my MA, mainly because I wanted to be a New Professionals Support Officer (NPSO) on my local CILIP Career Development Group (CDG) committee, for which I needed to be a member of CILIP and, within that, CDG. I also thought I should see what CILIP had to offer, whilst I could join on a much cheaper student membership fee. Finally, I thought that it would look good on job applications, demonstrating a commitment to the profession. I remain a member now for two reasons: 1) so that I can continue to serve on my local CDG committee and 2) so that I can Charter.  I’m not sure whether I would be a member otherwise. I feel that being a member of CILIP has offered me some opportunities which I wouldn’t otherwise have had, but I have quite a few gripes with CILIP and feel that they could do a lot better.

Benefits of CILIP membership
  • The opportunity to serve on a committee. I really enjoy being involved in CDG and meeting and working with people whom I wouldn’t otherwise encounter. I haven’t done that much yet as an NPSO, for various reasons, but over the coming year I have some plans for how I would like to engage with local new professionals on behalf of CDG, particularly the MSc students at UWE, and am really looking forward to hopefully putting some of them into action soon.
  • Bursaries and sponsored places at events. I was able to attend this year’s Umbrella conference because I got a full sponsored place from my local CILIP branch, for which I wouldn’t have been eligible were I not a CILIP member. All of the other sponsored places to Umbrella, and, earlier, to the New Professionals Conference, that I saw advertised, similarly required applicants to be members of a CILIP branch or special interest group. This is a really valuable aspect of CILIP membership for me, as I gained a lot from Umbrella and I wouldn’t have been able to go without a sponsored place.
Where CILIP lets me down
  • Membership fee categories. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; they’re just plain daft! The top membership fee band is for those earning £17k or more; so senior library assistants are paying the same membership fee as library directors. Not fair, and at such a large fee I expect more from CILIP than what I currently get. On a similar note, I am not impressed at having to pay £50 to register for Chartership and then £50 to submit my portfolio (that’s every time you submit; so if you fail it’s going to cost you another £50 to submit again). I haven’t compared this with the fees charged by chartering bodies in other professions, but it does feel extortionate. CILIP cannot, I feel, be an inclusive organisation when it charges fees like that, with little help for those who will struggle to pay.
  • The lack of online facilities. CILIP, why do I have to post you a paper renewal form and a cheque to renew my membership?! Why isn’t there a quick and easy way to do it online (without setting up a direct debit)? And while we’re on this topic, is it really necessary for me to submit three bound copies of my Chartership portfolio? I understand that they are hoping to accept one electronic copy with two bound copies from next year, but still, this is long overdue, I feel. For a profession that is supposed to be IT literate, CILIP falls behind.
I have some other criticisms of CILIP – lack of affordable training and lack of advocacy, for example – but I believe that these are things which are being addressed in the current and forthcoming plans for CILIP which have come out of the results of the survey put out to members last year. I look forward to seeing what is going to happen with CILIP; I hope that they really will genuinely address some of the issues that I and others have raised.

The face-to-face LISNPN meet-ups that take place around the country were mentioned in the instructions for Thing 7 as a face-to-face addition to an online network, and this is something that I find really valuable. It’s great to talk to people online, but I enjoy getting to know people in “real-life”, and consolidating contacts and maybe even friendships. There is another Bristol LISNPN meet-up coming up, being organised by World’s Deadliest Librarian, if anyone in the area wants to join in. And if you’re thinking of organising one in your area, it’s really easy; I’ve written some advice based on my experience of organising the first Bristol one.

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