Category Archives: CILIP

CILIP Manifesto and Task and Finish Groups

I was nominated to be on the committee that wrote the CILIP Manifesto by the then CDG President, Maria Cotera. The committee (called a Task and Finish Group in CILIP-ese) also contained CDG members Emma Illingworth and Sarah Ison, along with 4 other CILIP members, 1 CILIP trustee, Biddy Fisher (then vice President, now President of CILIP) and Guy Daines (CILIP’s professional advisor); the group was chaired by Peter Beauchamp.  The manifesto was published last week and I thought it worth recording my thoughts on the process of writing it and being involved in a Task and Finish Group (also my thoughts on the overall product at the end.)

The inital meeting of the group was the most interesting and the most challenging in that we had to start from nothing and begin to construct the whole thing – aims, format, content, publication strategy.  Although the headline aim of the project was to influence political parties in the run up to the general election, and ideally get some library related promises included in their manifestos, it was also agreed that a secondary, and very important aim, should be to produce a document which sums up the ambitions of the profession, and which can be widely quoted as indicative of what we as a professional group aspire to do. It was agreed that the list of our ‘wants’ should demonstrate the value that the profession has to offer – it should not be a list of demands that would each cost the government large quantities of money. Rather, the priorities should show how, if the government were to agree to them, our profession could enhance services provided by the government and assist in the achievement of other strategic aims.

It was agreed that we should end up with a short list of aims that we could tick off if and when they were achieved. As we started suggesting ideas, it became apparent that a lot of the ideas were really values.  We decided that a statement of the profession’s values would also add to the document’s impact, particularly in respect of its secondary aim. We left that meeting having each been assigned a general area to write-up into a punchy aim, and we would also each write some background information and collect a bibliography of useful sources.

Monica Anderton and I were given the area of information management to explore.  I interpreted this area to involve mainly talk of information assurance, and in particularly how the role of information professionals in guaranteeing good information management had been demonstrated as crucial by the data loss scandals of 2008 (e.g. when HMRC lost several million people’s child benefit details). The document I wrote focussed on this idea almost exclusively, and so had to be quite radically altered when it became clear that the other dimension of this aim was to be the role that government could play in advancing good practice of info management to the private sector, and also the extent to which government could learn from the private sector. Our part of the document went through about four drafts.

All the material was compiled before our second meeting by Guy and Peter. The format for this meeting was far more rigid, and we went through each of the bullet points in detail. The info management bullet point still required more work, so Monica and I were tasked with refining it further. We also had to search for further material for our bibliography because it did not yet reflect the private sector dimension of the priority. After re-submitting our refined documents, they were then re-compiled by Guy and Peter. We got to comment on drafts of the final product and we got to see advance electronic copies of what the actual document would look like.

The Task and Finish process is the main way that individual ideas get acted upon by CILIP – they are the main way that activists get to influence the day-to-day running of CILIP, so it was very interesting to see how they worked from the inside. My observations on the process are below:

  • Although this is a process that is run by the members of CILIP, the CILIP administration still plays a large part in it.  Perhaps it was the nature of this group, but Guy Daines’ input was considerable, both as secretary to the meetings and as the person responsible for pulling the thing together (although Peter clearly played a significant role in this part of the process). This was not a major problem in my view since he is a professional expert on LIS matter, and so his views were extremely valuable. But it did come as a surprise to see the extent of his influence in a member-led activity.
  • It’s important not to get precious over your own content. This applies to all group working, but particularly when working with complete strangers, and when you have had very little face-to-face time to thrash out ideas, so have do not have an opportunity gain a feeling of ownership over the outcome of negotiations.
  • When the brief for a project is so vague, it is key to get a sense of purpose early on, which then informs subsequent work. I think as a group we got distracted by the secondary aim (which I still think is arguably more important), and when I began to reflect on both aims, I found it difficult to combine them into a useful formulation of the info management priority.
  • For me, one of the key benefits of being part of this thing was  meeting the other people involved. Emma and Sarah are great to work with (I had already met them at the 2009 NP conference, but never worked closely with them) and Maria is always an inspiring colleague, but it was good to see Guy doing his thing (Professional Advisor to CILIP is a role I had no idea about before this), and to learn from Peter’s chairing skills. Biddy Fisher is a calm and effective presence – it is a genuine pleasure to work with her.

My thoughts on the actual finished product are mixed. Considering the well documented complexity of defining the library and information profession, let alone finding a series of aims that unite all members of it, I think the content of the Manifesto is quite successful. It covers a wide range of topics, and although there are obvious omissions (e.g. open access), what is included are widely held aims that speak for a large portion of LIS professionals.  The actual publication its self is more disappointing. I think the enormous ‘SIX’ on the front is distracting, and although I appreciate the difficulty of distilling complex ideas, there is still a great deal of text inside. I also think that perhaps the project should have been brought forward several months (if you accept that the main purpose was actually to influence the contents of Party manifestos), since the Parties will have finished taking submissions on policy for their manifestos some time ago.

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Good proposals

Now that the New Professionals Conference 2010 has been officially advertised, I think its legitimate to give you my thoughts on the process and on what made the proposals we selected the ones we selected.

First I’m going to outline some of the qualities that the ones we selected had in common, and then I’m going to make some points about proposals in general.

The proposals we selected all said something quite clear.  Having read them, it was easy to scrawl what they were saying in a few words at the top of the page.  This is not to say that more complicated proposals were frowned on, but just that even if they were complicated (and at least one of the ones we chose was relatively complicated), the salient points were easy to draw out.

The selected ones all adhered to the themes of the conference quite strictly. It has to be said that when a proposal started to be overly interpretive with the phrases that we had used in the call for papers, I was put off. Unlike in the 2009 conference, what we were looking for in papers this year was quite clearly set out. Obviously the call for papers was not overly prescriptive, but it was easier to spot off topic papers and, interestingly, we did get quite a few.

All the papers we chose had a healthy mix of the universal and the specific. Either a point about employability in general was made and then something that the writer had personal experience was mentioned. Or a subjective observation was made, which was then shown to be more objective. This point is relevant to applying for jobs as well, where employers often (always?) look for someone who knows about the job in general, but can also demonstrate that they have the personal skills to make them relevant to it.

Another very important factor linking all the ones we selected that I had not initially even considered, but which became apparent as the process went on, was the overall tone.  Without exception, the selected papers were generally positive. Challenges were viewed as opportunities, set-backs as ways to learn and change for the better, problems as spurs to ingenuity.  I refuse to use those wordle things, but if I did I’m sure the lexical set of the selected papers would be more Lester and less McNulty, more Homer and less Old Gil, more Obama and less McCain.

General tips (I must add that this only comes from my very limited experience of applying for things and from choosing papers for this conference):

  • Use a few short paragraphs. Long blocks of text can be frightening, as @therealwikiman pointed out. Also bullet points don’t add a great deal that you can’t say in short paras (ignore the bullet point).
  • References don’t add a great deal either, particularly for a conference like this where the approach is not particularly academic – obviously writing up accepted proposals is a different matter.
  • Don’t include a biography in the actual proposal.  Biographies are very useful to have, but put them separately, either in the body of an email, or at the end of the proposal, clearly delineated from it.
  • Use words from the call for papers blurb – obvious, but a startling number of proposals we received did not mention ‘new professionals’ at all.

Anymore tips from people who have written proposals would be very interesting. The wikiman and Lex Rigby  have already posted their thoughts on the proposal process.

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New professionals conference

Belatedly, I’d like to plug the 2010 new professionals conference.  A good account of last years conference can be found here.

Its a great opportunity to practise your application, paper writing and presentation skills.  Presenting at an event like this is a boon to any CV, and the opportunities to meet professionals at similar stages of their career are unrivalled at this particular event. 

Below is the call for papers.

Calling all New Library & Information Professionals. Have you joined the profession, either through work or study, in the last 5 years? If so, why not submit a proposal for the 2nd New Professionals Conference on the theme

Proving your worth in challenging times: forum and debate from a New Professionals perspective

Proposal abstracts (no longer than 300 words) must be submitted by 5pm on Friday 26th February 2010 to Chris Rhodes rhodesc@parliament.uk, who you can also contact for further details

The conference is organised by the CILIP Career Development Group in Partnership with the Department of Information Studies, University of Sheffield

The conference will be held at the University of Sheffield on Monday 5th July 2010

The best paper, as voted for by delegates attending the Conference will win £100 and a bottle of Sue Hill Fizz, generously sponsored by Sue Hill Recruitment. The paper will be published in Impact, the Journal of the Career Development Group.

For more information on themes and deadlines, please visit cilip.org.uk/cdg

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CILIP manifesto

On Thursday the second meeting of the group that is deciding on the content of the CILIP manifesto document will be held.  This document will provide a focus of the profession’s aims and summary of the how we view our priorities .  Below is a draft of what has been suggested so far. Please feel free to comment on it and your comments will be fed into the meeting on Thursday.

Why are libraries and information providers important?

Information is fundamental to the success of our society.  Good Library and information providers:

  • Enrich the lives of individuals through engagement with creative works, ideas and practical information
  • Help rebuild the economy by supporting people learning new skills, providing information and encouragement for the unemployed, informing the research that nurtures innovation   and facilitating successful enterprise
  • Promote community development by fostering a sense of place, supporting active citizenship and providing resources for learning
  • Inspire a love of reading in the young and provide them with the information literacy skills necessary for learning, work and living.
  • Improve the health and well-being of individuals and communities by supporting research and ensuring all have access to the appropriate information on which to base decisions
  • Bridge the digital divide by providing access to the internet, teaching the skills to use it and ensuring availability of appropriate assistive digital technology to enable access to information for all, including those with disabilities. 

This Manifesto sets out six priorities for the incoming Administration to ensure that the quality information and library provision, delivered by highly skilled and dedicated staff continues and improves.

GOVERNMENT SHOULD:

  1.     Develop a set of library entitlements for public library users and encourage similar development for academic libraries and library and information services in the private sector
  2.      Make school libraries statutory and develop a strategy for implementation
  3.       Promote user rights within the intellectual property legislative framework
  4.       Restore public trust in the responsible management of public information
  5.       Ensure the effective working of the legal deposit system
  6.      Commit to investment to optimise the potential of libraries across all sectors

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Afloat

Ok, this thing is finally up and running.

Please feel free to use the comments to tell me your thoughts on what sort of things should be changed about it. Also recommend links that you think should be available from this blog. I’m investigating the whole guest posting idea. So far the options appear to be either everyone who wants to post is given administrative rights (or possibly writing rights), or posts are given to me and I post them.  I favour the former approach because this blog is intended for new professionals, and not just me, although after discussions today I understand that there are arguments for the latter. Speak your brains.

Update: Just found out about options – people can be added as authors with very little hassle…I’m happy to do that for anyone who wants to have that done to them.

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