Cilip Board elections are not noted for controversy and neither should they be. The members who put themselves forward want to support their profession by supporting their professional body. But voting is not a neutral act. The elected members are the face and voice of the body and can set the tone for the type of organisation that members want to represent them.
First and foremost being a Cilip Trustee is about ensuring the viability and compliance of the organisation. Sustainability is key to ensuring that as a profession we have an organisation that can represent and speak out for us. Trustees also need to enable Cilip to act as the body for all areas of the library, information, and knowledge management world.
They need to take a broad view in developing an organisation attractive to those working within an expanding knowledge economy. But they need to do this while ensuring existing sectors are still strongly represented. Added to this is the ability to help the organisation navigate the current, choppy political and financial waters.
Four years ago I started this blog ostensibly as a reaction to changes proposed by Cilip that I disagreed with. Luckily those changes were voted down. For me, it was something of a low point, with our professional body seemly disconnected from the concerns of ordinary members and I questioned why I and many others should bother remaining members. But I did remain, hoping for change, and never wavered in advocating for a strong, vocal professional body, engaged with its membership.
Four years later, and the situation has changed for the better, with a more engaged leadership, structural changes, and stronger advocacy.
I continued writing posts as, like many within the profession, I was appalled at the cuts and closures to public libraries. Those cuts were part of a wider austerity agenda affecting all public service and still show no sign of abating. The crisis in libraries has continued into an existential threat. Not just through closures and staffing cuts, although these continue, but by the erosion of the fundamental principles of what it means to have a free, efficient, comprehensive and publicly funded library service.
Many individuals have chosen to speak out in defence of libraries and to create platforms to reach a wider audience such as Public Library News, Speak Up for Libraries, The Library Campaign. Sadly some, like Voices for the Library, have fell by the wayside.
Famous authors, campaigners, trade unions, have all been vocal in support of libraries. Unfortunately, while many speak out, the lack of cohesion amongst the groups and individuals is our greatest weakness, despite sterling work by activists involved in the above groups.
In these circumstances it is difficult for individual library staff to make a difference. That’s why it’s more important than ever that our professional body should be the unifying voice that brings us all together to advocate for the profession.
I know that many remain cynical about Cilip. I know that many have their doubts about it’s structures and capacity to change. In the past it has been viewed as slightly elitist and only for qualified staff. That has changed and continues to change.
It was seen as expensive, and I spoke out many times about the increasing cost of membership. From this month that has also changed.
Cilip far from being elitist now welcomes staff from all levels and grades. It’s approach is one of inclusivity not exclusivity. It is the only library body that represents all levels of staff.
So if you are library staff, at whatever grade, join Cilip. If you are an activist, trade unionist, or free thinking radical, and work in libraries, join Cilip. The more members it has have the louder, and more importantly diverse, its voice will be.
For those who say change cannot happen within the organisation I say ‘Momentum’. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the group, what cannot be denied is the change wrought by a grassroots movement on a major political party.
Inertia is not an inevitability. Change comes about because people are willing to get involved.
I am standing for Cilip Board because in the current upheaval one thing is certain: silence is not support, acquiescence is not advocacy. We need a strong, professional body through which our concerns are heard and we need to be represented by those who know and share those concerns and are willing to speak out.
But regardless of the outcome of these elections my message is simple: vote for a strong, unified professional voice. Vote for Cilip by joining and by making your own voice heard.