Category Archives: Governance


I’ve written before about the Cilip Governance Review (Fit for the future? & Chairman of the Board), which will be debated and voted on at this year’s AGM in September. Cilip Council met recently (8th July) to discuss the proposals and comments from the membership. The minutes and comments can been seen here.

It seems a number of reservations have been expressed regarding several areas of the review but overall there doesn’t seem to be that much opposition to the proposals from the wider membership, certainly not in the way that the name change last year generated opposition. Whether this amounts to approval of the suggested changes or just simple indifference is difficult to tell. Maybe librarians are more concerned about pay and conditions than the esoteric maneuverings of their professional body. Certainly there are a lot less of us nowadays in public libraries to be worried about Cilip’s shenanigans.

That said, I still believe that this is an important issue that will see Cilip being less democratic in principle than before, particularly in relation to co-opted members being given voting rights to elect the president.

The issue took on a new twist with the resignation of Tom Roper from Cilip Council who has also expressed concerns about the review and in the way Council conducts itself. Tom is considered a leading light in the library sector and has challenged Cilip over issues previously, particularly the vote of no confidence in Ed Vaizey, but whether Tom’s exit will rock the boat enough to knock the review off course remains to be seen.

There are some very sensible suggestions in the review and in the main I support more of the proposals than I don’t. However, the recommendations form a single package so it seems a case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater to vote against them. And perhaps that is what Cilip Council is hoping for to get the plan through without too much resistance. Then again, perhaps some members will feel strongly enough about the issue to submit amendments to the proposals.

What would be interesting to know is what other professional bodies Cilip looked at and considered to reflect good practice. If they could highlight how the model has been successfully achieved elsewhere without undermining the fundamental link between the membership and leadership it might go a long way to allaying mine, and I suspect other members, fears. Comments from Cilip Councillors welcome.

One way or another the issue will either fizzle out due to members having more pressing concerns, such as trying to hang onto their jobs, or it could be an interesting few months of infighting similar to what we saw last year.

Given the potential for conflict and the fact that the keynote speaker is William Sieghart who’s recent comments about the future of libraries didn’t exactly garnish overwhelming approval it could be an interesting AGM once again this year.

I very much look forward to it!

Cilip Governance: fit for the future?

The Cilip Governance Review continues and there is a two page spread in the Update Magazine (May 2014, pp 22-23) explaining what’s happed so far. Members will be given the opportunity to vote on the new structure at the AGM, 20th September 2014.

As I’ve said previously the proposals are in the main reasonable and will hopefully make Cilip more flexible and responsive as an organisation. However, I also raised concerns about the accountability of the Board particularly concerning the role of appointed members and their influence in voting for the post of President.

I also raised the issue that only elected members should be eligible for the President’s post as I believe there should be a direct link between ordinary members and the post of President. Currently Cilip Council is considering an amendment to the proposed byelaws that the President should always be an elected trustee. Hopefully, the amendment will soon be a reality. Personally I wouldn’t support the new structure if it wasn’t.

This still leaves us with the issue that a third of the Board will be appointed (unelected) and therefore directly unaccountable to the membership. I am not opposed to using appointed members as they can provide much needed expertise and experience. However, they would have ‘full and equal rights as members of the Board’ including the right to elect Cilip’s President. This continues to strike me as undemocratic. Therefore, I would urge a further amendment that only elected members can vote for the post of President.

One thing that struck me is that as part of the process Cilip has considered various documentation to help inform the new structure and quotes the following:

‘Governance pertains to the legal and formal structure for exercising power and authority in the association and ensuring a smooth operation that benefits the individual member and the entire membership.’ 

FLA Guidelines for Governing and Leading Library Associations

However, the same guidelines, outlining where authority and responsibility should lie, also states:

‘Usually this person or group with ultimate authority is selected by members and reflects the whole membership in order for decisions to be acceptable.’

My own view is that when it comes to electing Cilip’s President appointed members lack the mandate from ordinary members and as such do not reflect ‘the whole membership’ in order for this particular decision to be acceptable.’

As I said in my previous post about the governance review I urge Cilip members not to let these proposals go through without rigorous scrutiny and debate. Cilip is our professional body so let’s help it modernise but also keep it democratic, accountable, and answerable to its members.

Details can be found at What’s Next? and you can send your views to:


Chairman of the Board

Cilip Governance Review

While issues of governance might not be the most exciting of topics I would urge all Cilip members to pay attention to the recent draft papers.

First let me say I am not against the governance review and there are sensible and sound proposals put forward that I agree with, particularly around the issue of merging the roles of Leader of Council and President. I also support the move to make Cilip a more modern, flexible organisation.

That said, there is one element which, if it goes forward, strikes me as being deeply undemocratic and has the potential to lessen accountability; that is the role of the appointed members of the board.

The proposal is for the Board to consist of 12 members of which 8 will be elected and 4 appointed. In principle I have no objections to having appointed members as they can bring much needed expertise and knowledge that the organisation would otherwise lack. A point that Phil Bradley makes very well in his article.

Equally, I have no strong objections to the Board electing one of its members as President. I accept that disinterest has made filling certain positions difficult and this approach is a pragmatic solution. Despite this however I believe that Cilip should maintain a direct causal link between the membership and the elected role of President.

For me that means only elected members of the Board, with a legitimate mandate from the membership, should elect the head of our professional body.

The byelaws as they stand allow non-elected, appointed members to vote for the President’s post. As a third of the Board they will form a strong voting bloc to influence policy, strategic direction, and the selection of its leader. Now bear in mind that these appointees do not have to be from a library/information background and do not have to be members of Cilip.

More worryingly is the fact that appointed members can also stand for the President’s post. Now it does state that the nominees must be personal members of Cilip but you have to dig around somewhat in the documentation to find this out. It’s not explicitly stated in the byelaws but is mentioned in the President’s job description and the FAQs (point 13).

This raises the possibility of a non-library/information professional being elected to the President’s post. The stipulation that says the President has to be a personal member is ambiguous; it doesn’t state for how long or at what level. As such, an appointed member could join Cilip for a short period in order to qualify for election.

However unlikely, even the possibility of this strikes me as being undemocratic, lacking accountability, and disconnects the leadership even further from ordinary members. As such I would prefer to see the byelaws amended to explicitly prevent an appointed member standing.

I am hoping that as these are draft proposals, and Cilip is seeking feedback, such issues can be ironed out beforehand and we do not get into the same situation as the renaming debacle.

Therefore, I would encourage two very simple amendments to the draft byelaws:

  • Only elected members can stand for the post of President
  • Only elected members can vote for the post of President

My plea to fellow Cilip members is not to let these proposal go through without rigorous scrutiny and debate. Cilip is our professional body so let’s help it modernise but also keep it democratic, accountable, and answerable to its members.

Comments and views regarding the review can be emailed to