Cilip AGM 2014

Today is something of an anniversary for me. It was the debate over the renaming proposal last year that reignited my interest in Cilip and attendance at the general meeting, which led directly to me starting this blog, with the first post being a report back on the AGM 2013.

Since then I have widened the posts to include issues around library closures, service reductions, campaigns, and advocacy, as it is libraries in the political arena that mainly interests me. Most of all I have tried to bring a librarian’s view to the debate as I firmly believe that professionally qualified librarians are fundamental to the very nature of a library service and integral to the best possible service delivery. Quite simply, a library without a librarian is not actually a library.

Now obviously there are practical caveats is to this statement such as smaller libraries would be overseen and have consistent access to a community librarian (or similar) rather than one being based in each library but overall the general principle stands.

Sieghart: Anyway, back to the Cilip Big Day and AGM. The keynote speaker was William Sieghart who was obviously very supportive and sympathetic to public libraries. The main thrust of his speech was that libraries need a change of narrative to highlight how valuable they are. As well as updating the infrastructure and governance models, with Suffolk libraries being held up as what could be achieved when libraries are released from the bureaucratic constraints of local authority control. Overall, the talk was high on aspiration but low on substance. Anyone attending expecting a detailed analysis will have been disappointed so will have to wait for publication of the report for the specifics.

Governance: Although less controversial than the name change last year there had still been quite a furore caused over the proposed changes to the governance model, which on the day needed a two thirds majority to pass. Given the barbed comments at times on emails lists and social media the debate on the day was good natured, with the result being the adoption of the new model of governance but keeping a fully elected Board.

Credit to Cilip for allowing the proposals to be voted on separately as most members agreed that a new model was needed but many were not convinced about the proposed changes to Council.

Fees: I was in a minority regarding the subscription fees and the increase was passed. I think a debate over fees was lost amongst the changes to the governance model but I am hoping this will be the last rise for a while otherwise I see another argument brewing for the future.

Engagement: What continues to perplex me is the continuing low turn-out and voting on issues by the membership. I’ve said before that £200 is a lot of money to pay to then more or less ignore the workings of the professional body. Even where members are unable to attend AGM’s the proxy voting system is quite straight forward (although I look forward to the day when as an information profession we manage to do this online) so I find such indifference puzzling.

Fellowship: Another highlight was the awarding of the Honorary Fellowships of which there were six worthy recipients including John Vincent for his work around social justice and equality, and Janene Cox for championing the development of the Universal Offers.

However, this is not a blow by blow account of what happened on the day – full details can be found here – but rather my impressions. A highlight for me was Philip Wark’s comments during the Library Change Lives awards defending the professional integrity of library services over them being handed to volunteers. Philip is head of the award winning Midlothian library service and a honorary fellowship recipient.

On a personal note it was good to catch-up with colleagues from other services or that I had worked with in the past. Equally, it was good to talk to Council members such as John Dolan and Martyn Wade. It’s easy to forget in the cut and thrust of disagreement that Council is made up of genuinely decent individuals, giving their own time and doing what they think is best for Cilip. It’s OK to disagree but let’s remember do it professionally.

So one year on and while many things have changed the battle for public libraries continue. With the Sieghart review due for publication and a general election on the horizon we are certainly living in interesting times professionally, and I wonder what my reflections will be in a year’s time?

4 thoughts on “Cilip AGM 2014

  1. Glad you enjoyed the day and, yes, was fantastic to recognise so many achievements of members from various sectors. Also agree with you regarding lack of engagement of members, totally perplexing … difficult to know whether this is disenchantment with the organisation or a genuine lack of “not bothered as it doesn’t really affect them”. I used to have a few Standard Life shares (result of having a mortgage when they changed from building society to bank) and never bothered to vote at their AGM at all. Think I felt that the decisions made wouldn’t really impact on my day to day existence so didn’t seem worth the effort.

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  2. This was the first time that I didn’t engage with a CILIP vote, mainly because I just didn’t notice it was happening until too late. The AGM information was too hidden by the publicity for the Big Day aspect which I ignored as I knew I couldn’t go.

    Next time please please make the publicity more explicit, I for one would appreciate a stand alone email alerting me to the AGM

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  3. The reason why so few voted was because of the poor publicity for the AGM and for how to vote. Reminder e mails, sent to individual members’ e mail addresses (and letters where the member isn’t on e mail), were needed. Instead, the voting instructions were lost in a difficult to find part of the CILIP web site. Council (or rather Board) needs to reflect on the poor turnout and consider ways to improve publicity and methods of voting for the next AGM. As for the governance, it was the membership of Council, and only that, which was controversial. And once again, Council failed to get its wishes approved. Another message there for the new Board – stop ignoring criticisms and stop trying to steam-roller things through. The Board has lost of confidence of far too many members, but it is not too late to get things right in the future.

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  4. Pingback: Libraries News Round-up: 22 September 2014 | The Library Campaign

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