Thursday, 4 March 2010

Grass roots CILIP

Bodleian visit

This is the fourth of a series of posts to help me to think about CILIP in the year of the Big Conversation.

This is the one about local involvement. I think my interest in this stems from the commonly held belief about CILIP i.e. that it's all very London-centric. I'd have these conversations with librarians about how CILIP never did anything "local". Before I was qualified I used to accept this argument - if so many people said it then it must be true?

A bit later I got to the stage where I was chartering. At this stage you start to sign up to jiscmail lists and local mailing lists to look for any events that might pad-out erm, I mean "augment" your portfolio. At this stage in your career you're not normally earning too much, so with training and development - the freer, the better... And I was amazed. It turns out our local branch puts on a number of events every year. Including reflective writing for portfolios, a summer outing to visit a unique library and network with others and also more technical events (I attended a Web 2.0 talk from Karen Blakeman which gave me ideas for most of my objectives whilst chartering). This year it's putting on about 10 events - most of which are free to members.

So how could this be when the standard response when talking to anyone about CILIP was:

"Meh. CILIP. Waste of money."

In my experience, when I went looking for local benefits, they were there. So maybe (in our neck of the woods at least) it's not the number of events that's the problem - it's getting the message across? What can we do to engage better with members and change these perceptions? Here's a couple of ideas:

1) Advertise everywhere! It would be just lovely if there was an effective means to advertise events at sub-branch level. Unfortunately, CILIP as an organisation, is not able to provide mailing lists (post or email) of sub-branch members (apparently distribution lists only go down to branch level?). I believe this is something that CILIP needs to sort out. I'm pretty sure we (members) provide details of our sub-branch affiliation and email address when we register - why can this information not be made available to sub-branches to promote local events? Anyhoo, in the absence of mailing lists from central data, sub-branches need to make use of as many other means of communication as possible. Jiscmail lists (yes, do cross-post!), locally maintained email lists (for those who don't jiscmail), cilip website, blogs, twitter and facebook (as well as all those personal networks that we all use) are all important. <rant>I have to say on this point that CILIP are not making things easy for sub-branches (in my experience that is). I have an ongoing saga that is going on far too long to get a sub-branch blog onto CILIP communities. As our strategy is to drive our twitter stream and facebook from the blog this is really holding us up!</rant>

2) Broad representation. I think this is really, really important. Among our sub-branch committee we have experience of public, school, HE, FE, health and commercial libraries. So we're lucky. When we're thinking about events, there's some understanding of what will work or what won't work for different types of librarian. I realise that this is not always the case though. If you're flavour of librarianship is under-represented at sub-branch (or even national) level, why not get involved! Easy for me to say I suppose with a supportive employer and relatively few commitments but you can get involved on any level - without necessarily giving all of your time to CILIP. If your sub-branch make it difficult to get involved (e.g. the meetings are at the wrong time) - ask them to change. They probably just aren't aware that it's a problem.

In summary...

I guess this post reflects what I've been saying in my other posts but on a local rather than national level. Branches and sub-branches need to make an effort to communicate to members from across the sector. It cuts both ways though. The next time you hear someone moan about a lack of events locally, ask them why they've done to make this better!

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