The CILIP rebrand and me

I quit CILIP some time ago,  mainly due to personal financial reasons. I had gone through chartership and was loath to surrender the qualification, but found annual membership expensive and not delivering on its value as a service to me. I felt I was not benefiting from its offerings in advocacy, sharing of best practice, professional awareness and networking. That I was stumping the £200 p.a. bill myself was probably the main reason.

The recent debate around its rebrand and some imminent heavy changes in my professional life have given me pause to rethink my stance towards the organisation. Theoretically, I’d love to be back in a national network of fellow professionals, it would be incredibly valuable for networking and sharing best practice.  But the fact is that I’ve done tonnes of this since I left, thanks to JISC, Twitter, LibraryCamps and other things. Librarians and Information Workers are great at this. I’d suggest membership of a £200 a year top down organisation simply is not needed, at least not in its current form.

There has been a lot of hot air on Twitter over the need, purpose and approach of the rebrand, some of it has come from myself. I’ve tried to step back from the emotion and blame-shifting. The questions I’ve been asking myself are  thus:

  1. Is this rebrand a genuine top down refocus on a wider set of professional groups or simply a change of logo, font and header text and the corprorate website?
  2. If so, what steps is it taking to appeal to KM professionals, data miners, data journalists, open data evangelists etc, anyone that would call themselves a knowledge worker (other than co-opting the word knowledge). I’ve been working well  alongside members of the Open Knowledge Foundation for some years. A more different institution, set of professionals and values to CILIP I could not imagine, although theoretically, there is lots of room for overlap. Thats’ just one area. Corporate KM is different again. Until they have firm offerings, a rebrand alone is empty and pointless
  3. Is ‘library’ really being dropped because its not trendy? Most people (other than lazy BBC Breakfast journalists) seem to get that library is a lot more than books and quiet space (albeit  both still invaluable in c21).  I personally see no harm and many advantages in retaining library in the brand and agree with pretty much every Bob Usherwood states in this post on a mailing list
  4. Is it going to finally take a proactive organisation level stance against library cuts, rather than rely on the personal voices of a few folk? Will it ever achieve the political impact of the ALA?

I can’t see clear answers to any of these, but would love to be pointed in their direction.

So am I tempted to rejoin? Not currently, but I’m curious to see what emerges when the dust settles.

What kind of professional organisation would I join? It would probably look a lot like the one I described when I quit, leaner, cheaper, online only, with a distributed approach to networking and membership (kind of like OKFN, to be honest). I’ve since modified my views on librarians and coding (although it is a great skill to have), but a lot of that still stands, especially around the organisation approach to engagement with skills training and membership.

CILIP currently stands in a grey area compared to other professional bodies offering accreditation (an optional luxury as you don’t need to be in it to practice), skills training (which it is stepping away from) and networking groups (we got plenty elsewhere, see above). This is not enough to sustain it and develop it. The organisation needs a new direction in which to grow. I’m not yet convinced this latest shift is in the right way, but would love to be proved wrong.


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