Friday, 31 May 2013

CILIP REBRANDING


Last week, CILIP launched a survey to ascertain people’s views on its rebranding which generated a lot of comments and, after I did the survey myself, I can understand why. I’ve been chatting to people about this and many of them are angry, upset and confused; for all sorts of reasons. Some of these are instinctive reactions to change, some are because of misunderstandings and others are because people feel somehow let down so I’ve decided to put down my thoughts about the situation. This is my personal blog (although I’ve chosen to focus on Library Stuff) rather than an official CILIP Vice President one but I do recognise that I’m in a bit of a unique position regarding this matter.
CILIP has, is and will continue to change; it has to! It is not the same organisation it was ten years ago when it was formed by the amalgamation of the Library Association and the Institute of Information Professionals (and goodness, I can remember the fuss when that happened!). If we were a profession that had remained much the same, such as accountancy (and I’m only using this as an example so if there are any accountants reading this please don’t get upset but when I look at a balance sheet today, it looks much the same as it did many years ago), I could understand our professional association staying static. But the library world/information profession has NOT been inert. Resources and the way they are delivered, how people access information, the way they use it, the amount of information available – all this has changed and if CILIP does not transform with the profession then it will become irrelevant to its members. Even in my brief career as a school librarian (only 20 years which is quite short compared to some who have been in the sector for 40 years or more), I’ve seen tremendous transformations not only in the resources within libraries but also the scope of the work.

I know that some people feel that CILIP hasn’t being open about this process. I guess if you didn’t read last year’s annual review or browse through Update then all this may have come as a surprise but CILIP have been completely upfront about all the changes in the organisation; from the new organisational structure, the new vision and mission statements through to the revised Professional Knowledge and Skills Base and the review of Governance, and the rebrand is part of this. The changes in CILIP during the past few years have resulted in a more effective organisation that focuses on its members via the branches and groups structure, one that is now responsive and approachable.

When I organised the Mass Lobby for School Libraries last year, I had a tremendous amount of help from CILIP and I’m sure it wouldn’t have been as successful if I hadn’t received this (and remember the Lobby was not a CILIP initiative so they didn’t have to get involved). Thus when I was asked if I would put my name forward for Vice President I was happy to do so because I recognised that the changes within CILIP meant it was focusing on the members, that it was forward-thinking and interacting with various stakeholders and authorities that could secure the future of the information profession; basically it is an organisation that I want to support and am happy to give my time to.
It’s important to remember that this is a survey, designed to obtain people’s responses and reactions, which is certainly has. Neither Phil nor I saw the survey before it was released (even if people think we should have done – sorry, despite our lofty titles, we don’t actually see everything that comes out of CILIP in advance in order to veto it, that’s not our role) and I suspect that my reaction to the list of suggested names was much the same as everyone else’s! I’d be interested to know what Spencer Du Bois’ guidelines were and how they came up with the suggestions. Also whether anyone told them that 45% of the members consider themselves librarians so to include the words “library/librarian” in one of the choices would have been a good idea but then their job is to create a new brand name so they would be coming at this from a different angle. A bit like those architects who design school libraries that look good but never think about the practicalities of teenagers using them. The results and everybody’s comments will be fed back to Spencer Du Bois for analysis and further consultation which is why it’s important for people to do the survey; and the final decision will be voted on by the members at the AGM.

I know a lot of people don’t see the need for a name change but the current name doesn’t work. Yes, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals says what it does on the tin but it’s rather a mouthful and the acronym doesn’t mean anything to anyone outside the profession. There can’t be a single one of us that hasn’t had to explain what “CILIP” stands for. In my first position within libraries, I was a “Media Resources Officer” totally ridiculous title as I ran what was a traditional school library and the only media involved was one computer running the BBC Doomsday project (when it worked). Now I have all sorts of wonderful resources at my disposal and the job is very different from that first one but I’m called a librarian, something I’m totally happy and comfortable with. Mind you, my students and staff know that being a librarian involves more than just dealing with books because they see all the different things I do as part of the job (and I’m always telling them anyway). But librarian is also a title everyone understands. When you talk about libraries and librarians, the general public know what you mean, even if they don’t necessarily appreciate exactly what we do.
There is no way that whatever we come up with is going to please everyone. Some people want library or librarian, others don’t; some say the word professional is important, others want Chartered … and if we incorporate all of these then what we do end up with … CILIP! And it’s already been agreed that it doesn’t work so I think it’s going to have to be a compromise.  Plus it’s going to have to be something short enough to convey who we are because the danger is that we’ll end up with an acronym again that doesn’t mean anything and that we’re going to have to explain to everyone. A lot of people are information professionals and don’t work in any sort of library so I can see why the term librarian isn’t relevant to them but are there any librarians who aren’t information professionals? Possibly not. Yes, I’m an information professional but I’m also a library manager, teacher, literacy expert, storyteller … the term information professional doesn’t cover those other aspects of my job whereas librarian does. It’s also important to remember that many libraries are more than just about information, especially those that the public have access to as opposed to specialist units working within a narrowly defined sector. The public value libraries and librarians, and we need to use that. No-one can be unaware that libraries are under threat and I think the danger is that if we do away with the “L” word completely then we are giving more ammunition to those who think that anyone can do our job and it could have a detrimental effect on how the public perceive the value of the profession.

So why rebrand? Rebranding is not just about changing a name and logo; it usually involves the restructuring of an organisation, can be a response to changing needs of customers (ie: members) and can be used to revitalise a company. We need to ask: Is CILIP pigeonholed as something members have outgrown? Have their needs changed? Does CILIP’s brand tell an outdated story? Is CILIP still relevant in changing times? CILIP has already started on this route with the changes mentioned above thus the name/logo is just another step in the process and it would be a bit of a shame to put effort and expense into creating an organisation ready to move forward that was held back by media and public perceptions. Rebranding is also a marketing tool, a means of promotion, and the rebranding launch will be an excellent opportunity for further advocacy.
This issue has opened up discussion and generated a lot of passion which is fantastic. People that are enthusiastic and care about their profession are more likely to become involved which is much better than apathy but it’s important to ensure that this energy is directly positively towards supporting CILIP rather than negatively towards just trying to keep the status quo. Change is scary but it can also be empowering and this is a tremendous opportunity to reposition the organisation; it’s up to us to ensure that we take on this challenge because we cannot grow and become stronger without it.

 

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