CILIP branches & groups: some thoughts

I’ve been thinking about the role of CILIP branches for a while and had some informal discussions with a committee member because I’m not on the committee myself and don’t really have time to get involved this year. At the same time, I just attended my first meeting of the Cataloguing & Indexing Group (CIG) which I joined at the start of the year and many connected issues came up. After a really interesting discussion on Twitter last night, I wanted to blog some random thoughts (I’d love to think I’ll have time to write a well-thought-out and coherent blog post on the issues but the chances of me finding time to do that are pretty slim so this is the next-best option). I’d be happy to hear feedback and more discussion in the comments here. These are all entirely personal opinions (more focused on regional branches than on groups at the moment) though obviously I’m also thinking about how it will affect CIG too, just not speaking on CIG’s behalf.

The Twitter discussion came about because a couple of people were livetweeting the CILIP CDG & London joint AGM, which featured a talk by Annie Mauger and which Nicola Franklin blogged about here. Also the background of all this is the recent Branch and Group discussion and ensuing conversations within individual committees – useful summary provided by Katie and Emma if you want to check those out too.

Here’s a quick summary of the Twitter discussion, which was mainly between me, Tina (@tinamreynolds), Jo (@joeyanne) and Niamh (@cilipEoE) though we managed to attract the marvellous past-President of CILIP Biddy Fisher (@bikerbid) and I note with trepidation that Annie Mauger (@anniemauger) is following me as of last night! Just goes to show you’re never speaking into a vacuum on Twitter.

The coming changes should be summarised in a report from Annie Mauger shortly and the reactions to it ranged from being a bit afraid of what was coming to seeing it as a potentially positive opportunity to develop communication & change.

The role of the regional branches – Tina wanted to see the London group as “an umbrella group organising SIG + advertising events, being a catalyst for ideas”. This tied in perfectly with conversations I had had with both Jo and Niamh privately about the role of the regional branches – I really think that they should have a key role in collating venue information (already underway in CILIPWM) so that they can provide knowledge and possibly contact information about venues in the region, especially free or low-cost venues. This could attract the SIGs but also any other groups (TeachMeet, anyone? anything else?) to that region, particularly when it’s so important to keep costs down. The more people choose to hold events in your region, the more your regional members benefit from having easy access to events, CPD opportunities. This local element is crucial in an environment where people have less and less money available for travel, time off, conference or event fees (either out of their own pockets or through employers, who are probably starting to be more restrictive even where they did once pay).

Tina mentioned that CILIP London had tried to organise a SIG day to help facilitate collaboration but that there hadn’t been much interest, however I think in this new CILIP landscape there should be a lot more interest. I know we at CIG would be thinking along these lines, collaborating and cooperating with regional branches and using their local knowledge and advertising too. Hopefully another SIG day could be held in future? Maybe in more than one region?

There is an obvious need to know what members want, especially with what Annie Mauger was saying about CILIP becoming more focused on members. Everyone was talking about polling or surveying their branch or group membership in some way to get feedback on this, which would obviously be great and hopefully can happen soon. Although everyone was very pro-social media (what else would you expect in a Twitter conversation?), we all really felt that the face-to-face contact of the branches especially was crucial and was indeed where the branches “add value”. The fact of offering affordable activities and opportunities is crucial in the economic climate, as I said, and the branches should be proactive in providing people with ways to build a professional network locally through offering informal gatherings (drinks? lunches where everyone pays their own way?) but also through things like free talks. I know there’s a need to raise revenues but don’t underestimate the value of free in terms of goodwill, attracting members in and giving them something they will really appreciate.

I had already suggested that CILIP EoE might want to try something along the lines of ThinkDrinks (a few different groups hold them but look for example at the Digital Learning Network). Ours is quite a widespread region not known for fantastic public transport links, so I envisage the thinkdrink style event being a cheap (well, no venue costs, people buy their own drinks, so really just advertising which is pretty much free apart from time spent) and distributed model that can be repeated in multiple locations all over the region. I even wondered whether you could have a designated thinkdrink night (or lunchtime?) where people all through the region are encouraged to hold mini-thinkdrinks in each city/locality. Obviously some areas will have more take-up than others but it also means that someone in Suffolk doesn’t have to travel to Cambridgeshire for their “local” event. When I raised this, Jo mentioned that CILIPWM had tried pub networking evenings but that these had not been well attended (mainly committee members turning up) and suggested that this kind of event worked better with a focus/theme than just open-ended networking. This is why I think the thinkdrink model is interesting – it’s not “speed dating for librarians” or anything which I would personally cross the road to avoid. You could pick a very simple, very broad topic (even something like “what do you want from your local branch”) and bill it as a chance to get informal feedback from members while offering a chance to chat and meet up (everyone could do introductions as to where they work).

Finally, we did mention that maybe we need a Group/branch network of contacts, go-to-person. I’ve been happily using personal contacts and informal connections, eg Twitter, but there would be value in having a go-to person clearly advertised on the branch/group website too maybe? We were all agreed on the need to reach beyond Twitter and blogs. There was so much more to say, it was such an interesting discussion but Twitter has its limits so we wondered about moving to a different space to continue the discussions that must be had. Possibilities include a discussion on the CILIP communities forums, posts on our blogs/comments, possibly more formal routes like Update (which is probably already on the cards as CILIP moves through this process over the year ahead), a wiki, mailing lists, even Second Life or Skype for a multi-regional discussion? Jo mentioned the possibility of coordinating /discussion event some time (Biddy said she’d attend!) so there would be a possibility of lots of different mix-and-match discussion venues to encourage this thinking to continue.


6 comments so far

  1. Tina Reynolds on

    Just as a follow up to this, we did arrange a SIG day but didn’t manage a follow up due to lack of interest. I grabbed a few CILIP in London committee members and we’ve arranged to try again.

  2. Niamh on

    Thanks for posting this Celine, great summary of the discussion. I’ll bring the ideas to the committee meeting on the 30th and we’ll see how we go from there!

  3. Céline on

    Thanks for clarifying Tina, I was trying hard not to misrepresent what anyone said and great news that you’re going to try again. Hopefully there’s going to be much more interest this year.

    Great Niamh, let me know how it goes and hope you get some useful feedback after the email to members this week too.

  4. Girl in the Moon on

    Thanks for writing this up, Celine. I think that part of the problem with getting events organised is that successful branches/groups are in a virtuous circle – they organise things and people come, so they have people involved, so when they organise things lots of people come, and suggest other events… Less successful branches/groups don’t do so much so people aren’t very enthused, so when they’re asked what they’d like or if they’d come to something not many of them reply. I think building greater member engagement might require organising stuff in hope, and hopefully building some momentum and enthusiasm.


  5. Céline on

    Thanks Katie, I think you’re right about the virtuous circle. So really it will mean biting the bullet and having the energy to just go for it to build up that engagement then?

  6. […] been many conversations on this topic on Twitter and blogs too, see Katie Birkwood, and Celine Carty's blog posts for more […]

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