Cilip AGM 2013

Well the Cilip AGM is over and by Cilip’s standard it was a fairly contentious one including the much debated proposal to change the organisation’s name, a motion of no confidence in Ed Vaizey, and free membership for students as part of the subscriptions package (full details).

Name change: For those of us who were vociferous opponents of the name change it was a victory of sorts. There were plenty of comments against and few for. In fact none of Cilip Council who had previously defended the name change so staunchly actually spoke in its defence. Perhaps they realised the mood was very much against the proposal.

The actual vote was 644 ‘against’, 356 ‘for’, and 22 ‘abstained’. For me the saddest fact is that so many members failed to vote. In one of the most hotly debated and contentious professional issues for a long time only a small percentage (7% approx.) of the membership actually bothered to express an opinion. Membership engagement still remains a problem for Cilip and is one area that very much needs addressing.

That said, membership, like communication, is a two way process and requires both parties to meet in the middle so it would be unfair to blame the low participation totally on our professional body.

Vote of no confidence in Ed Vaizey: The minister was recently overheard to admit that actually he is indeed completely useless. I’m sure there are very few within the library world who would disagree with this self-assessment and indeed many would add a few more choice and rather more frank epithets to bolster the description!

Anyway the motion of no confidence was passed so thanks should go to Jo Richardson who proposed and spoke so ably for the motion and the inimitable Tom Roper – whose testimonial as the most dangerous man in British librarianship’ makes me smile every time I see it! – for seconding it. Well done to both of them.

669 members supported the motion, 200 were against, and 103 abstained (get off the fence will you!). Again, no one spoke in opposition so it’s difficult for me consider the rationale of those who voted against. Perhaps they considered such a move endangers Cilip’s relationship/engagement with the Minister or others such as the Libraries All Party Parliamentary Group. However, such quiet and polite diplomacy has failed dramatically so far in relation to public libraries. Personally, I think a more confrontational style is needed.

My only criticism of the motion is that in many ways it didn’t go far enough merely instructing Council to “…work with all other interested parties to protect library, information and knowledge services.”

Given that some of the senior Council members actually voted against the motion I don’t think we will see any change in Cilip’s stance for the foreseeable future.

Perhaps those behind have more manoeuvres up their sleeve. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Free student membership: I changed my mind on the day and voted against the subscriptions package. It occurred to me that what students really need is for a professional body to be relevant rather than free. Cilip should be asking why so many LIS students consider the body so inconsequential that they don’t want to join.

My other reason for voting against is that as a librarian working in public libraries I don’t consider Cilip to be worth my current subscription let alone raising it to £200 per year. If the extra money was going to be devoted to more effective advocacy I might be convinced.

Others also argued that the fee structure is inherently unfair in that everyone earning over £17,500 has to pay the same flat rate. An argument I have a lot of sympathy for and would support the introduction of different bands (within reason).

So another year and another AGM over. Let’s hope that now the renaming debacle is over Cilip will focus more on providing the advocacy and leadership that the profession so desperately needs.


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