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News & Press: Profession

Response to open letter to CILIP

12 July 2019  
Posted by: Nick Poole

Dear colleagues,

On behalf of the Trustees, Presidential Team and Senior Leadership Team at CILIP, I would like to thank you for your open letter to CILIP (received 08.07.2019 via the CILIP website). We appreciate you sharing your concerns regarding the CILIP Employer Partner Scheme.

As a sector, we believe in free and open debate and as fellow library, information and knowledge workers, we welcome your engagement to help shape our policy and practice.

It is, I think, important to recognise that CILIP is a membership association and as such, the best way to help shape our plans and priorities is to join if you are not already a member. This is not to dismiss your case, but to point out that our first duty must be to the thousands of fellow workers who have opted-in to membership of CILIP – many of whom work in organisations that are members of the Employer Partners Scheme.

As a democratic member-led organisation, there are numerous opportunities to shape our work throughout the year and I would encourage as many of you as possible to take advantage of these.

CILIP Employer Partners Scheme

As stated in the clarifying note (and as you acknowledge), the CILIP Employer Partner Scheme is a continuation of our existing organisational membership programme.

A key message from the CILIP 2016 Shape the Future consultation is that librarians, information and knowledge professionals want us to be more proactive in making the case for their roles, their professional skills and for professional registration to employers.

The Scheme gives CILIP a sustainable platform to engage with employers, to ensure that the supply of library, information and knowledge management skills meets their current and future needs and to encourage them to reflect best practices in the development of their professional staff – including and with a particular emphasis on engaging with professional registration.

On consideration, I believe that there is some merit in your assertion that the use of the word ‘partner’ implies a stronger relationship than ‘member’ and that there is some risk that this is perceived as an implied endorsement of the actions of a given partner. This ought perhaps to have been made clearer in the transition to the new Scheme.

With this in mind, I have instructed the Executive to revise and update the materials about the Employer Partner Scheme online to ensure that it is clear that the focus of the partnership is workforce development and does not represent an endorsement by CILIP of all actions by the partner organisation or of their products or services, nor does it confer on the partner undue influence over our work.

I do, however, believe that you over-state the case when you say “this scheme offers employers a licence to shape what was a member-led organisation into an employer partner-controlled organisation.” It is perfectly normal for membership associations to maintain relationship-based memberships for both institutions and individuals – to the respective benefit of both.

Stable employment in libraries and information services

CILIP shares your view that a central focus of our work must be on promoting the creation of high-quality, secure and well-paid jobs for librarians, information and knowledge professionals and on supporting our members in making their own case for better employment terms and conditions.

The Employer Partner Scheme (and its previous incarnation as Organisational Membership) has provided an important platform to engage employers in this ambition. It has been encouraging to see positive engagement from employers across all industry sectors with the need to support ongoing professional development and recognition for their staff.

With regard to your broader points, CILIP has no formal mandate to intervene in any 3rd party labour dispute. We are not a trade union, as you are aware, and so while we actively promote the interests of our members, we have no legal right to make formal representation in employment matters.

If members call on us to make a representation on their behalf, we do so – time and capacity permitting. Where the situation involves a trade union and an employer, we will seek to engage with all parties concerned to try and achieve a better outcome in the interest of the member – including those members working in organisations that are part of the Employer Partner Scheme.

Eligibility and assessment

As noted in our clarifying statement, CILIP uses a 3-part assessment process when considering 3rd party relationships. This approach comprises:

  • An assessment of the legal status of the 3rd party;
  • A reflection on whether the business activities of the 3rd party are compatible with CILIP’s responsibilities under the Ethical Framework, and;
  • A consideration of any further reputational issues attendant on the relationship.

The Board is accountable for this assessment process, which is delegated to the Executive and Senior Leadership Team under our direction and as governed by the CILIP Bye Laws.

CILIP Ethical Framework

I would like to comment on the concerns you raise regarding specific ethical principles under the Ethical Framework.

As you will be aware, this framework was developed through extensive consultation with library, information and knowledge professionals across the public and private sector and Government – including those working in commercially-sensitive and secure environments.

The Ethical Framework applies to individual library, information and knowledge workers and not to the organisation in which they work. This was raised at the time of the original Ethics Review with specific reference to the Museums Association’s Code of Ethics for Museums. At the time, the development of a broader set of institutional ethical principles was considered out-of-scope for that project.

You may be aware that CILIP Trustee Dawn Finch has stated in her capacity as the Chair of the CILIP Ethics Committee that she will be bringing to the Board a proposed extension to the Ethical Framework to address institutional ethics and we envisage that Employer Partners will be invited to subscribe to this extended framework.

For clarity, our intention is that these organisational principles will run in tandem with the existing Ethical Framework as it applies to individuals.

Next steps

I would like to assure you that your letter has prompted proactive engagement and discussion within the CILIP Board, Presidential Team and Executive. The issues you raise are important and while we are satisfied with the overall structure of the Employer Partner Scheme, it is clear that there is more to be done to clarify how the scheme operates and to allay any concerns members may have.

To this end, I have mandated the CILIP Executive and Senior Leadership Team to strengthen and clarify the information and communications materials available in support of the Scheme.

On behalf of CILIP, I hope this letter provides a full and balanced response to the concerns you have raised. We do listen carefully to our members and I hope the further actions we are taking on the Employers Partners will both clarify and reassure.

Given the reductive nature of social media, we do not feel that it is helpful to rehearse the discussion about this letter (which is openly available on our website) further via twitter, although we will of course always do what we can to support individual members.

Yours sincerely,

Caroline Brazier,
Chair, CILIP Board

Published: 8 July 2019

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