Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Thing 7: Face-to-face networks and professional organisations

I want to love Cilip. I really do. I remember the early days when we first met. I was working in a public library. I fell in love with my job, and threw myself into becoming A Professional Librarian. This was back in the day when it was the Library Association. I moved with it to become part of Cilip. When I moved from public libraries to academic libraries, Cilip was right there with me. My employer at the time supported me getting involved in my local branch, I attended various training events and felt I knew a few familiar faces from other libraries in the region. Then I did A Bad Thing. I moved into a role within a specialist library. Every now and then, Cilip remembers I exist but my copy of Update isn't as well thumbed as it used to be.

Other things are a bit different now I'm in the specialist library sector too. My qualification is not recognised - or required - by my employer. I pay my own membership fee's. And any events or training I want to attend are done in my own time. I'm a single mum with a disabled child, so any event I attend has to prove it's worth to me for the time and effort it would now take for me to attend. I've managed to attend two events this year. The first was a visit to the BBC Information & Archives, which includes the Natural History Unit. The second event was a CPD23 Things event in London.

Not living in London I wasn't sure what to expect. A meet up where I live is most likely to be swamped by the librarians from the two main university's in the area. I can't complain too much. I used to be one of them. There may be the odd law librarian, a smattering of school librarians and someone from a public library. So for me, the London meeting was a surprise. A librarian working in BFI Southbank (Hi, nice to meet you, can I have your job please?), from all sorts of corporate and business libraries, the British Library and various diverse university's. It was my first experience of live-tweeting an event, so was surprised to be recognised and acknowledged because of my tweeting. I definitely felt like I got more out of the event because of Twitter. The meeting was based around the idea of talking about about involvement in professional organisation, and we found ourselves considering Continuing Professional Development, how getting involved can help you get that next job, and stories about meeting Charles Oppenheim. I have come to the conclusion that every librarian has a story about meeting Charles Oppenheim.

I went away thinking more about the other professional organisations I could get involved with. Working in a specialist library, Special Libraries Association is an obvious one, but I also discovered NetIKX (Network for Information and Knowledge Exchange). Membership of this organisation entitles you to attend meetings and events for free, but is also flexible enough to enable attendance at individual sessions for a small cost. For me, this enables me to take part as and when I am able to.

I strongly believe that library and information professionals need an organisation like Cilip, to champion the role of libraries and the value that a qualified Library and Information Professional can bring to an organisation. Cilip has some ambitious plans over the next few years, to increase it's membership and  embrace the wider library and information community. I hope to to be able to get as involved as I am able to. My first step has already been taken -  I'm taking part in their 'back to the floor' initiative, and have invited them to spend the day in my office. I'm looking forward to the results of this, and seeing more of libraries like mine reflected in the pages of Cilip. As for 'why' special librarians aren't as visible within Cilip - I think that's another blog post...

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