Monday, 23 September 2013


On Saturday I attended the CILIP AGM at the Library of Birmingham. Despite being a member for many years, this was the first AGM I have ever attended … being a school librarian I am unable to take any leave during term time and they are usually held on a weekday. It was an interesting day! The agenda included votes on the name change and a motion expressing no confidence in Ed Vaisey, the fire alarm went off in the middle of the name-changing vote and the venue was incredible!

The vote went against the name change (356 members for, 644 members against, 22 abstained) – I was in favour of the name change and I’ve explained the reasons why in previous blogs so I’m not going to go over the same ground. Instead I will carry on with what I usually do: advocating and promoting for the profession, particularly school librarians and supporting CILIP in their work.

One of the things that struck me at the AGM was how many people kept referring to when CILIP was the LA and how it used to be, in a rather nostalgic way, and almost implying that we should go back to that. And this is also true of many comments that have been made online. It’s as though people are still harbouring some sort of resentment from when the LA became CILIP and blaming the current team for what happened back then, over ten years ago. What on earth is the point of this? I’m not saying we should throw away our past, our heritage, the rich tradition of libraries that we have or the ethos and vision of those libraries but we really cannot go backwards. The world is going forward. It is not the same as it was in the days of the Library Association. Technology has progressed incredibly; the global economy has changed; society’s values have altered; people’s perceptions towards information (both the sources and how it is obtained) have been transformed … this is what we have to work with. If we don’t then we are going to be left behind. And somebody or something else will fill our space (in many schools this has already happened … it’s called Google).

I tend to think of CILIP council as similar to a school governing body; a selection of voted governors who have a range of duties and powers with a general responsibility for the conduct of the school. Most decisions are discussed at sub-committee level then recommendations brought to a full governing body meeting. You could not have every single change put to all the students or parents; you would never get a consensus and so much time would be wasted in pointless, endless deliberations (trust me, we spend a lot of time in discussion at governors’ meetings as it is!).  This works … and it’s the same in many organisations. You also have to, at some point, accept and trust the judgement of the people you have voted for to act on your behalf. By all means, question them and ask them to explain their choices but, ultimately, if you are going to object to every single decision then you have to wonder why you voted for them in the first place?

So … members have voted and decided they rather like CILIP and want to stay with it. It’s funny how when you think you’re going to lose something, it suddenly becomes appealing. The new name was only a part of the rebranding process. This will continue … CILIP has already made changes and more are planned in order to make it the forward-looking organisation it needs to be, that is relevant to both its members and all sectors of the profession. Many people have remarked to me that they have already noticed how different CILIP is from what it used to be (in a good way!) and I’m really pleased whenever I hear these comments because I know it’s true and how much hard work has gone on to make those changes.

I now hope that those who spent a lot of time and effort in fighting to retain the name CILIP will put the same sort of expenditure into supporting and promoting the organisation.

Finally … I really cannot leave this blog entry without mentioning the Library of Birmingham. I know it’s had its detractors, people don’t like the building, others say that the money could have been used to keep branch libraries operating, etc. but this Library has had so much media attention, attracting over 100,000 visitors in just over a week from all sectors of the population, it really has raised the profile of libraries nationally. On the day of the AGM, it was heaving and there were queues to get in by the afternoon. I managed to have a wander around and it was astounding ... those who say that a library is just a room full of books need to come to this building. What especially touched me was how many families were reading together. And I also noticed the high percentage of teenagers … when I asked Brain Gambles, Library Director, about this, he remarked that the Library had already become the “cool” place to go to J