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Information Scotland

The Journal of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland

ISSN 1743-5471

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August 2005 Volume 3 (4)

Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland

President's perspective

Getting it right

Alastair Johnson is in campaigning mood.

Those of you who were at Peebles in May may recall a mention in my address of the delays currently being experienced by our members awaiting news of their Chartership applications. I had picked up at various ‘Meet the President’ events that all was not well in Ridgmount Street and that five or six months had gone by without Chartership applicants having had the courtesy of an acknowledgement for their applications. I determined that that was not good enough on several levels and embarked on a campaign. Bearing in mind that our professional body has a lot of ground to cover if it is going to increase its membership – and remembering that the current membership is as low as 35% of eligible colleagues – you might imagine that reputation and image would come pretty high up the administrative agenda of an effective and efficient organisation. More importantly there are well over 100 candidates out there who are increasingly disillusioned with a professional body who, to all intents and purposes, appears uncaring and just plain indifferent to the difficulties being experienced by their members. At Peebles, a consultation with Bob McKee found him, it has to be said, a little mystified. He was unaware of any difficulty but did give a prompt undertaking to investigate and to do everything possible to minimise the delays...

Imagine my surprise to be told by a member of my own staff in early July of a phone call that day from Ridgmount Street. She had submitted her application in December 2004, the phone call was her first communication or acknowledgement and it was to enquire as to whether the package received by them some seven months prior was complete. Somewhat taken aback my staff member enquired as to the likely timescale for a decision. “Well, mmm, difficult to say, could be September, more likely October – depends on Board meetings really,” was the reply. By this point my enthusiasm to help colleagues was turning into deep embarrassment on behalf of my professional body and dark anger at those I perceived as being responsible.

An email was dispatched to Bob – it concluded "As Chief Executive there is a time when decisive action is required and, in my view, that time has now been reached!” It also strongly suggested that a personal letter of apology be dispatched to all of the affected candidates. Bob’s reply is as mysterious as was his puzzlement when initially told of the problem. It’s all been caused by the candidates rushing to meet a deadline, he tells me, and if it’s not them to blame it’s the work pressure on members who volunteer to assess the applications, he adds." The delay... is not caused by any inefficiencies in the office here,” he concludes. Did I ever suggest such a thing?

And so to my third attempt:
Dear Bob,
Chartership delays
Some of our members will have conservatively lost upwards of £500 each in salary due to the delays which you acknowledge have happened because of a deadline imposed by CILIP. Taken as a group this represents at least £50,000+ lost by our members. You acknowledge that CILIP was unaware of the likely scale of response to the deadline and I can accept that the workload on volunteers became untenable. However, when the scale of the response became clear CILIP failed over a period of seven months to put in place any system to keep individual members informed of the delays. Given that the responsibility for this debacle lies fairly and squarely with CILIP perhaps I can be so bold as to suggest, once again, that you personally write to each affected member and express a measure of regret that those we seek to encourage have been treated in such a shabby and off-hand manner. A suitable gesture for an organisation worried about its image and reputation might be to offer a token one-year free subscription. At the same time I would also expect CILIP to support its members by writing to employers in the hope that this might mitigate the financial loss to individuals by making clear that responsibility for the delays lay in organisational failure rather than with individual candidates.
A R Johnston, President CILIPS

....and so to other things
I can pick out the word library at 50 paces and my ears pricked up when I heard one Desmond Clarke being interviewed on Radio Scotland. He told us how public libraries were in decline, that librarians had got it all wrong and that public librarians had mis-directed funds away from lending books to such unnecessary things as computers. Who was this guy and what ‘new report’ was being reported upon? It turns out to be yet another diatribe from the somewhat mysterious Libri Trust. From University to Village Hall starts “Perhaps only in this country would anyone think it worthwhile to debate what public libraries are for. They’re for books, stupid.” This report contains some real gems, “...many local authorities seem to have given up... on a well managed book-based library service”; “...many librarians no longer know how to provide an effective book-based service”; “The task this band of inward looking library experts has set itself is to identify a role for public libraries where books are secondary.” You get the idea – public libraries = books. So who are Libri? A bunch of discontented library suppliers, booksellers or publishers? Doesn’t seem so, Libri Trust appears to be amongst a group of charitable trusts spawned by one John Roger Warren Evans and a bunch of kindred spirits pushing for social and political change, check out Changemakers. The purpose of Libri is interesting and I acknowledge the source of this information as John Evans and Libri.

“Libri is registered as a charitable trust for the provision of public library services. The project is planned to operate UK wide, to supplement LA library services... The key to progress will be the identification of local situations where a community library might be developed, in parallel with a local authority system. Libri is also developing ideas for the provision of library management services, where outsourcing is an option.” At a conspiracy theory level, one interpretation of all this could be that Libri’s underlying aim is to control the means of providing information to the public. Worth watching!

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Information Scotland Vol. 3 (4) August 2005

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Last updated:11 October 2005