Tuesday, 27 November 2012

CILIP Governance and CILIP Cymru Wales

Does the structure and organisation of governance within CILIP have relevance in Wales, and how should it be reformed in order to be more streamlined, readily understood and effective? This was the subject of the most recent CILIP Cymru Wales Committee Meeting on 8th November. Through their discussion Committee members recognised: the need for change, noting that representation from the UK Nations, including CILIP Cymru Wales, is essential in future governance structures. Committee members also welcomed the recognition that Wales and the other UK Nations are more than CILIP Branches. The Governance Review consultation continues and this blog is provided to encourage you to have your say!

It hopefully hasn’t escaped your notice that CILIP is undertaking a range of review projects   in order to make it an organisation fit for the future. Some of these may have more of a direct impact on you than others. Hopefully the Professional Knowledge & Skills Base, part of the Future Skills project, will support you in planning your career development, assessing your strengths, or in planning a career move. Your Special Interest Group membership may change as a result of the Branch and Group Review (e.g. CoFHE and UC&R now form the Academic & Research Libraries Group; and there is the recently merged Community, Diversity & Equalities Group) or through the creation of new groups. But you may wonder if reforms of CILIP’s governance arrangements have any direct impact on you. It would be all too easy to think not!

Let’s face it, organisational governance fills very few people with excitement. It’s akin to those household tasks that must be done, but that no one enjoys doing: cleaning the oven; organising the boiler service; renewing the insurance; or moving the mortgage. As unpleasant as these may be, they are essential and there are reassurances that result from their successful completion. 

Currently CILIP has an elected Council of 12 members. These are usually experienced professionals coming from a wide range of organisations and experience. Many Council Members stand for election wishing to use their skills, knowledge, experience and strategic thinking in order to shape the future of our profession. Fighting to maintain and promote our code of professional ethics and standards. Working to champion the profession, our services and our colleagues; to raise the profile of the profession and lobby for the appropriate recognition that our roles in our communities and society justly deserve. 

The reality for Council Members is, however, far from this. Members are also Trustees of the Charity, and in this role  they spend much time pondering finances, budget plans, organisational compliance and the state of the pension fund. 

In order for CILIP to face the future with confidence, it needs to change, devising and implementing efficient but appropriate decision making structures. Several other charitable and membership organisations have also undertaken governance review, and these are serving as examples and points of comparison. In discussions with John Dolan (Chair of CILIP Council) on Thursday 8 November, your national committee members welcomed this review and emphasised the importance of:

Recognising that Wales is more than a CILIP Branch. We talk in terms of a “National Office” for Wales: we have a paid Policy Officer within CILIP Cymru; liaise with national organisations such as CyMAL, the Society of Chief Librarians in Wales, Welsh High Education Libraries Forum, etc. This distinction is truly justified. Libraries are, of course, a devolved matter in Wales, and we are seeing different policy implemented in Wales, and in some areas Wales excels because of this.

Dedicated representation of Welsh issues on the revised arrangements for CILIP Governance is therefore essential. There is no Welsh representative on the current CILIP Council. This should not be the case in future. How this representation is arrived at was discussed. Elected by the membership, or, appointed by the Committee or Annual General Meeting? The mechanism was not decided, but clearly this would need to result in an appropriately knowledgeable and strong spokesperson for Wales.

Charities Law currently differs between England & Wales and Scotland. In future, separate charities law may also possibly exist for Wales. Welsh representation should therefore also be acknowledged within the Trustees.

Members also noted the confusion between the roles of President, Vice-President and the Chair of Council, further acknowledging the difficulty if a Vice President chooses not to become President. Could a more visible Patron or Figurehead be useful given the increasing advocacy work undertaken by CILIP? Would there be benefits in having several Vice Presidents, each having a different focus, and not all going on to become President?

Perhaps you are now convinced that governance does matter! Do you agree with committee members in their views? Please feel free to continue the discussion here. Or, better still, contribute your views to the CILIP Governance Review directly!

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

"Not made here" - the origins of innovation and resistance to adoption

Are we good at recognising excellence within the Welsh library and information sector? Have we / do we implement experience from outside of Wales, and in doing so have you ever experienced resistance - the "not made here" challenge?

© Copyright Steven Haslington and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
I've been fortunate to attend a couple of events recently where professional energy and enthusiasm have seemed almost palpable.

The CILIP Cymru Wales AGM heard John Dolan (Chair, CILIP Council) talk about valuing librarians and their crucial roles in society. John also reminded us that there may be lots of relevant shared professional experience and learning between Wales and Ireland. We should be keen to open dialogue and to learn from their projects and initiatives.

A few days later I attended the first Digital Wales Forum organised by the Welsh Government. Participants came from a wide range of public, third sector, academic  and commercial organisations. We'd assembled in order to network and provide feedback to the Policy Officials on the Digital Wales Strategy. A theme that arose several times from participants was that Wales should not be fearful of implementing solutions and initiatives not developed on home soil - the "not made here" aversion. This clearly resonates with John's message of identifying organisations / nations with parallels to Wales and learning from them.

Surely a number of  home-grown initiatives should be celebrated and shared! The Welsh Information Literacy Project, the Welsh Public Library Standards and national strategy "Libraries Inspire", vibrant regional training groups, the National Library of Wales, Gathering the Jewels  might be a few of the positives to share. But please let me know of others. I don't think that we're good in publicising our successes!

Conversely, have you experienced resistance to implementing initiatives first developed outside of Wales? Is there more to this than simply trying to create "clear red water" - a political desire  in Wales to have a different set of policies and frameworks, especially when compared with England? Do we, as sharing, collaborative and well-informed professional librarians, buck this paradigm? I will be interested in hearing your experiences!

Stephen Gregory
Policy Officer (Wales) - Maternity Cover

Thursday, 1 November 2012

The future of the Library in the Digital Age

Prof. Sir Deian Hopkin, President of the National Library of Wales, provided the Bevan Foundation Annual Lecture at the South Wales Miners’ Library, Swansea on 12 October 2012 to an enthralled audience of Foundation Members, information professionals and others.  In times of library closures, swathing funding cuts, service deprofessionalisation and the use of volunteers, libraries are under threat. The Digital Age adds to these threats for libraries, but also provides opportunities.
Over 7 million people in the UK have never used the internet. In Wales, 30% of homes don’t have internet access, only 40% of adults have a smart phone and less than 15% have an e-reader. Therefore, Deian’s vision for libraries echoed Aneurin Bevan’s central principles in establishing the NHS: meets the needs of everyone; free at the point of delivery; open to all; based on need and not ability to pay.
Libraries are, and should continue to be, key agents in addressing the digital divide and its resultant social inequality. The London Borough of Tower Hamlet’s Ideas Stores demonstrate how contemporary libraries can be transformative and regenerative. This model works well in metropolitan areas. But what lies ahead for rural services – where the digital divide can be equally prevalent?  
In concluding Deian made five proposals for libraries in Wales:
  •       Work to ensure universal access to information - regardless of format.
  •       There should be a composite and strategic view of libraries in Wales, including establishing a national network of library services. The promises of Libraries Inspire (libraries at the heart of their communities, helping everyone reach their potential, reducing inequality, and improving economic and social well-being) need to be heeded.
  •       Counter “digital imperialism” and ensure public control of digital archives. Commercial cloud storage solutions provide very real threats to the continuing and free access for all.
  •       Treat libraries as educational rather than wholly cultural organisations.  Librarians have a vital role to play in delivering information and digital literacy skills!
  •       Support the training and development of library / information professionals. At a time of declining funding for postgraduate students this support will be crucial.
The lecture was followed by fascinating comments and questions session, including descriptions of existing library service collaboration, especially in areas of primary health care. As a result of this lecture The Foundation will consider organising a conference on this topic in the future. Naturally, CILIP Cymru Wales will keep a close eye on development s and will be key players in the continuing discussions.
Stephen Gregory
Policy Officer (Wales) - Maternity Cover