Stronger Together

cilipI make no apologies for this post being unashamedly a recruiting drive for Cilip after seeing on Twitter that membership is still falling by 3%. However, as with everything, the context needs to be understood to see this fall as a positive and not necessarily a negative.

For years I was a harsh critic of Cilip, not because it had lost its way, but because it didn’t have a way forward at all. It was floundering under the pressure of austerity and the resulting widespread hollowing out of public libraries with the loss of jobs and thus membership. Worse of all, this was happening without Cilip speaking up for the profession or advocating the advantages of retaining a professional workforce.

It also faced the challenge of arresting the decline in membership. My own opinion was that members where leaving because they could no longer see the relevance of belonging to a professional body, and paying expensive subscriptions, that was too far removed from their everyday experience of year-on-year budget and job cuts.

But all this has thankfully changed. Cilip now has, and continues to develop, a strong voice in defence of its membership and championing library services in different sectors; public, schools, health. It challenges Government policy and intervenes, as much as it can, in local decisions to reduce services. Cilip is becoming the professional body its members need it to be.

I contacted Nick Poole for further information about the fall in membership and he sent this reply:

“The current rate of attrition is just over 3%. That’s actually around half what it was 3 years ago, but it’s still a declining number. We follow up with people who don’t renew, and the underlying reasons are informative. A significant proportion are due to retirement, which is why we’re working to improve the offer the retired members. Similarly, we see a significant drop-off in the transition from free student membership to full membership. We have seen a decline in the number of people leaving because of dissatisfaction with CILIP.

 Of course, over the past 10 years, the most significant decline in sector terms is membership among public library staff. This is one reason why we launched the new Careers Hub on the CILIP VLE – to provide support for public librarians who find themselves having to make a transition to other parts of the library sector. We know that public libraries are changing, but we see it as essential that public library staff are encouraged to engage with their professional body, develop their skills and maintain the connection to the wider library and information profession. This is why we are pleased to be working with SCL on the new Public Library Skills Strategy, which will help address some of these issues.

 We know from the workforce mapping project that there are around 69,000 people in the library & information workforce in the UK. With around 12,500 members, we currently represent around 18% of that workforce. The average for professional association membership in other sectors is around 20-22%, so there is scope to grow our membership base. It is important for us to do this because the more of the sector we can represent, the more credible we are when advocating for librarians and information professionals.

 When we went out to the wider profession, we found that a lot of people want to be part of CILIP as their professional body but don’t currently regard membership as affordable. The new membership model on which members are currently voting is designed to help us retain and support our existing members, and reach more of those people. We also found that there are a lot of people who want to be part of the profession but aren’t yet ready to commit to Professional Registration. Welcoming these people to the CILIP community and encouraging them to take up Chartership has been a major factor in the design of the new model.

Ultimately, the sector needs a strong independent voice – I’d argue now more than ever. We understand that people expect value for money from their membership, and we are working hard to deliver that. This is a model for growth and we are really hoping that members will support it and empower us to reach out to those people who could and should be members, but currently aren’t.“

All I ever wanted from my professional body, what I had the right to expect, is that it speaks up in defence of its members and profession. Cilip is absolutely doing this, which is why I have changed from critic to proponent for the body.

I absolutely understand why library workers have drifted away from Cilip in the past but I genuinely believe it has changed and would encourage all library and information workers, especially public library staff, to stay connected to the profession.

Here’s some very simple reasons I think you should stay with, join, or rejoin Cilip:

  1. Advocacy: a strong voice for the profession
  2. Lower subscriptions and better value for money
  3. Advice & support including access to employment law advice
  4. Professional development and networking

Ultimately, we are stronger together, and I look forward to Cilip expanding towards the 69,000 target.

Please do forward your question and indeed criticisms via the comments area and I shall ensure they are passed on to Cilip to answer.

Further information:

Show me the money…again & again & again

The Cilip AGM is upon us shortly and members are being asked to dig deeply into financially shallow pockets yet again. In a post last year I argued against raising the subscription rate but was in a minority and the increase was passed. Unfortunately, it seems Cilip is determined to treat members as milch cows despite the job losses and limit on public sector pay.

I think the debate over fees was lost amongst the changes to the governance model last year and unfortunately might well be again this year as the focus will be on the proposal to oppose the amateurisation of the public library services.

But the ever increasing subscription rates is an important issue that should be given greater prominence.

The current fee for those earning more than £17,501 is £204 with a proposed increase to £208 from 2016. Since 2010 subscription fees will have increased from £184 to £208 (if agreed) representing an increase of 13% and the fourth time they will have been raised in a relatively short time.

Now set this against a background of pay freezes and pay caps for public sector workers, including library staff, over the past 5 years. Many librarians have felt the full impact of the austerity measures not only in terms of job losses but also in rising living costs. The government has announced that public sector pay will be capped once again at 1% until 2018. But the 1% is not guaranteed. Greg Hands, chief secretary to the Treasury has stated that the rise should be paid in a ‘targeted manner’ with some workers getting more and others getting less than the 1%.

The change to subscriptions not only affects professionally qualified librarians but also many experienced staff who apply for ACLIP status as they have to pay the same rates. These staff are likely to be on the lower end of the subscription band and tend to be part-time workers. In fact throughout public libraries underemployment is a real issue limiting the amount of disposable income.

For library staff who have suffered derisory pay rises during the past few years the cost of membership is a major investment. With this in mind Cilip should be looking at ways of freezing or reducing fees rather than putting an additional burden on members.

One of the inequities is that the subscription band for most members ranges from £17,501 – £42,00. This is far too broad and members have repeatedly requested that different bands be created with a more equitable sliding scale. This has not happened and I suspect there will be many who will ask if the investment in membership, particularly in public libraries, justifies the cost and decide to vote with their feet. For an organisation that struggles to retain members this continuing increase in fees is not a sustainable policy.

Needless to say I will not be supporting the subscription increase and hope that others also question the need to do so during difficult financial times for members.

Addendum

As part of the justification for the increase the subscription proposal argues that:

“Wage inflation is varied with general wage inflation reportedly being 3.5%, however at the same time I am well aware that some members in the public sector will have had no inflation increase.”

However, as a recent story in the Financial Times recognised this rise is driven by private sector pay and bonuses. Thus, the above claim is misleading and a far cry from what public sector workers, who face a pay cap of 1% until 2018, can expect.