The proposals for a new name, brand and identity for CILIP have provoked strong and impassioned comments from members and other interested parties on mailing lists and in social media. I fully appreciate the strength of feeling behind them, while disagreeing with some of the comments.
In responding I’d like to urge a forward-looking, forward-moving and pan-sectoral approach to our professional community and the services we provide to society. I'd like to share some of my thoughts on the points that have been made which also reflect the views of Council, and I strongly believe that they are a current reflection and interpretation of what CILIP members have been telling us continually since the member survey in 2010.
We have rehearsed these arguments quite a bit so I’ll try not to cover old ground. CILIP operates in a rapidly changing world and we have to be more visible, more articulate and more ready to speak for our community than ever. We need a name that says who we are, what we do and what we represent. There are more of us than in “libraries” alone. We have to be associated with the work of the information, library and knowledge practitioners across the piece.
Having said that, for me personally the public library is the life’s starting point in accessing knowledge. What happens in the public library connects with academic, school, business, public and third sector services that work to public, organisational or corporate needs. Our identity and our advocacy have to be directed to many stakeholders where the value of our services must frequently be demonstrated.
CILIP is not a name; without explanation it conveys nothing; it offers no description, no status and no information. This is not what our members are. They manage the nation’s knowledge, support our learning, underpin our democracy, promote our culture and sustain both geographical and interest communities.
“Library” and “practitioners”
CILIP’s vision is that “A fair and economically prosperous society is underpinned by literacy, access to information and the transfer of knowledge”. This is not delivered solely by public libraries, nor only by librarians. Colleagues across many sectors and at every level from director to service delivery all contribute to this vision. Society would be worse off without them, it simply wouldn’t operate. However, they’re not all in CILIP and we need to attract them with an identity, resources and services that relate to their work and the skills they need.
This matters for all information, library and knowledge practitioners. That means that CILIP is for the people not the institution that they work in per se; the people will serve the institution and the needs of its community, but CILIP is for the learning, personal and career development of our members who make it happen.
Markets for change
Some colleagues have criticised the rebranding as not relevant to CILIP’s immediate needs. I fear they are thinking of CILIP now and in the past, not the CILIP of the future. In the information society, in the knowledge economy, in a commercial world that depends on innovation, ideas and communications, in a cultural world that is experienced through all technologies a professional body has to meet the needs of thousands of colleagues working in all kinds of ways to deliver the outcomes required of their institution or community.
There is no limit. The public library user can be a researcher, the student might be an emerging entrepreneur, the entrepreneur a parent, the child, a future politician. This diverse service is delivered with common ethics, purpose, standards, skills and outcomes. We must embrace the totality of information, library and knowledge practitioners in common cause, to learn, exchange skills and insights and promote their common contribution to economic and social wellbeing.
Why not Library Association?
This is so going backwards and for all the reasons I’ve given. Our community is the people who work in information, libraries, learning and creative services of so many kinds. We need a name that embraces us all. My main career was as a librarian and, mostly, in public libraries. CILIP is the professional home to people in a multiplicity of settings, roles, titles and responsibilities. Less than half the delegates in the largest ever body of participants at July’s (superb!) Umbrella conference were called ‘Librarian’ or worked in a library. At the recent Libcamps a significant number of participants are not ‘librarians’ but attend knowing that this is a world they want to take part in.
We are aware that thousands of people do similar work but have not seen that CILIP could give them a professional community in which to thrive. We need a name that represents a bigger world for that larger community in which all members and sectors are equal.
Why not LIPS?
Why not? After due consideration we opted for Information and Library Professionals UK. LIPS immediately became a kind of joke, a funny acronym, light-hearted, attention-gathering. Well, I’m sorry. This is not a joke. Our new name should be a statement, an identity; it’s not an acronym; it doesn’t need explaining; it is what’s on the tin lid. People often cite the Charter, the Privy Council to promote the serious nature of this issue. Well, you go to the Privy Council and tell them you want your name – signed off by HM The Queen – to come over as a joke. And enough of puking. The proposal is Information and Library Professionals UK. For short among our community it may be said as I-L-P UK or as Information and Library Professionals. It is right, normal and common that an organisation and its members stipulate how its name is used. It should not be used with derision. The media will not abuse it, unless provoked to do so. Anyone who wilfully promotes ‘I’ll puke’ betrays our colleagues.
Great brand. Takes us beyond the colonial era when UK institutions didn’t need to be UK, when ‘UK’ was assumed. CILIP members overseas choose to join the UK’s professional body. Overseas colleagues still look to work with the UK for leadership and models for skills and professional development, strategic direction, advocacy, publishing. Let’s modernise. It is a great brand.
We are also a UK-wide organisation; the historic London-centric image which has dismayed many colleagues in the devolved nations can be dispelled as each adopt their national identity variation.
‘Professionals’ and ‘Professions’
Current CILIP members and potential future members find themselves working in different settings with diverse responsibilities. We talk easily of the changing learning, production and creative world in which we live. ‘Information society’ and ‘knowledge economy’ trip easily off the tongue.
However, we have to acknowledge that this is happening with real change in what we do and how we present ourselves.
The relevance of CILIP is manifest in many areas of public service, the voluntary sector, industry and Government where information and knowledge management are the responsibility of colleague professionals. At the same time the changing technologies, content and user needs of conventional public, academic, and other libraries brings together in a changing mix the skills and responsibilities in our professional make-up.
The multidimensional nature of our work – professions – and the diversity of our members – professionals - in different environments is captured and embraced by the title and the strapline.
What we handle is everything from data to information, to ideas, to knowledge. I know this is a matter of professional discourse and could take hours elsewhere. Knowledge management, embracing all forms of discovery, is our business whether it’s books in a branch or intellectual property in a pharmaceutical database; increasingly of course, it’s not a collection at all but a capacity to access and evaluate a remote resource.
It’s time to modernise. So much energy is spent on resisting the (very real) threats to public libraries that the idea of the library (in all sectors) is in danger of being neglected or it‘s only being discussed within sector-specific conversations.
Instead it’s time to think ahead, to fight threats not with resistance but with innovation. This blogpost on the future of libraries has been doing the rounds on Jisc discussion lists in the last week or so. It tells me three things:
- It supports why CILIP should have a new brand and identity; an identity that reflects the work of information, library and knowledge practitioners today, colleagues who will benefit from a modern CILIP.
- This is the kind of thinking that should be taking place about public libraries – as with all library and information services – and their future; it is reflected in CILIP’s new Professional Knowledge and Skills Base and the advocacy story we project.
- Let’s do this, move with the times and change for the better; the alternative is worse.
Let’s give CILIP a modern identity and then press on with what we must do.