17 Sep 2012

Librarians out in force for CILIP Big Day 2012

The new magnificent Newcastle City Library played host to this year's CILIP Big Day on Thursday, 13th September. Over 180 librarians, all members of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, attended the special day which included the Annual General Meeting (AGM).

These are some personal notes on a day that gave me plenty of food for thought...
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The day kicked off with Counillor Ged Bell, Deputy Cabinet Member for Culture and Leisure, welcoming all. Ged outlined how proud he was of the library network in Newcastle and lined up the challenges they were facing now with reduced budgets. He created a stir by suggesting that volunteering in libraries should be considered in times of big cuts and that non-professionals should work alongside LIS workers in order to maintain high quality frontline services. Unfortunately there was no time to ask him questions, but I am sure that a number of colleagues cornered him at the lunch break:)

Penny Wilkinson, Chief Executive of the Northern Rock Foundation, provided us with an overview of her career to date. She showed how her experiences let to her current role. The Foundation is part of the "Big Society" and aims at helping people to come together to change their own lives and communities. Penny noted that 24% of children and young people in the North East of England live in poverty and that her organisation is trying to support them by offering grants. She stressed the importance of professionals across different disciplines working together in order to achieve these goals.

Mark Taylor of the Society of Chief Librarians reported on some preliminary results of a digital services survey conducted earlier this year in order to gauge the effectiveness of the SCL Digital Promise. This initiative sets a minimum standard for all public libraries across the UK with regard to digital resources. 80% of users felt that the support provided by their local library improved their level of understanding of online information. Mark estimated that libraries will have helped more than 3.5 million people over the lifetime of the challenge!

Ann Rossiter, Executive Director of SCONUL, gave us "three reasons to be cheerful". She felt that we as information professionals lived in exciting times. Ann introduced three different fundamental changes in the field of Open Access which will impact on our work. She shared an example of a digital library in the form of the DPLA (Digital Public Library of America), which plans to make the cultural and scientific heritage of humanity available, free of charge, to all. Meta data is key to this project for librarians to decide what is currently available in which institution. Furthermore, a complete review of copyright will be necessary which will lead to new models of access. Ann foresaw a virtual marketplace where copyright for one digital resource can be "swapped" for another. She also advocated opening up the current model of peer-reviewed academic journals to one where the author pays a fee instead of the customer. Research Councils, for example, are funding projects with taxpayer's money, therefore the results should be accessible to all people within a couple of months.  Ann finally called for the establishment of a National Digital Library for the UK and cited Scotland as a place where this is already happening. Her point was that with this transformation of power (away from LIS professionals towards the customers) our role as gatekeepers was no longer needed, but that we should embrace Open Access.

The next point on the agenda was the AGM. This went smoothly - minutes from the last meeting and the treasurer's report were approved. A lot of work is going on behind the scenes with regard to the financial side of things, but membership subscription rates will be left untouched for the moment.

After lunch Lord John Shipley, who is a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Libraries and a former leader of Newcastle City Council, welcomed us back. He was behind the new library building and had a huge personal interest in getting children to read. He felt that libraries were key to that and advocated strongly a policy of access for all. To great applause he stated that "libraries are a sign of a civilised society".

Phil Bradley then gave his presidential address - and this was probably the most powerful and inspiring speech I have ever heard! He started off by stating where CILIP was now highlighting its Professional Knowledge and Skills Base (PKSB) scheme and the fundamental changes the profession is undergoing at the moment. He then went on to defend librarians by saying that "volunteers can never replace professionals!" He emphasised our strong ethics and moral values which are at the heart of everything we do and which sets us apart from volunteers. We are trusted by our customers. Phil argued for a new campaign - not to "Save Our Libraries", but to improve and develop them. He noted that politicians do not care about libraries and librarians,and that we need to make sure that we are at the core of the communities we serve. He quoted R. D. Lankes who said that "Bad Libraries Build Collections, Good Libraries Build Services, Great Libraries Build Communities" (love that one!).

My favourite part of his speech was when Phil claimed that we worked in a dangerous environment as we dealt with "scary information". People come to the library to question things, which is a very powerful tool for change. And not something those in power relish... He ended by underlining the importance of our shared values and ethics.

After this tour de force we moved on to the "celebration of achievements" hosted by Annie Mauger, Chief Executive of CILIP. Information professionals, who recently gained CILIP qualifications, such as Certification, Chartership, Revalidation, Fellowship and Honorary Fellowships, were honoured. Some of these 210 individuals were present to receive their certificate from the President, including four of the five Fellows and two of the four Honorary Fellows.

A reception and tours of the library followed which allowed us to mingle and network. It really was "a great day out"!

For the full programme please visit the website.

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