CILIP 2014 Hustings: membership fees #cilip2014

I thought I would do a quick blog post about last night’s CILIP 2014 Election Hustings rather than try to pick it apart on Twitter as 140 characters can only provide so much.

I had a question answered that I had posted on Twitter about the current fees tiers and if they were linked to low membership levels.

All the candidates had a range of things to say, some of which I agreed with and some of which was rather disheartening and verging on frustrating. I will try to break these points out a little bit and explain what I mean because  I think that this is a discussion that needs to continue. As a disclaimer, I am not a member of CILIP. The fees are a big sticking point for me. Hence this post.

Being a professional

David M opened his response with the statement that being a professional means that you should want to be a member of a professional body (i.e. CILIP). I found this response to be rather offensive. I do want to be a member of CILIP. I do want to be professional, hence why I just forked out the best part of £7000 to do a professional Masters. However, I simply cannot afford £200 a year for what doesn’t seem to be a lot in return. I do want to be a part of what is going on but if I can’t afford it, how is this going to happen? David also described people “moaning” about financial matters and that this shouldn’t dominate the conversation. I think the description of people moaning is rather unfair. While I haven’t seen all of the comments to which he was referring, people are obviously raising this on a frequent basis because it is a major concern and issue. If CILIP is to represent and support its members, and attract new members, surely making the actual joining process as easy and as accessible as possible should be the main priority, otherwise what is the point of it all?

David M also mentioned that the ALA is cheaper than CILIP to join and I think that this should be looked at more because, from an outsider’s perspective, the ALA is doing a lot more with its time.

Value for money

Many of the candidates mentioned that people need to be able to measure the value that they are getting for their money. I couldn’t agree more. One of my main gripes about the £200 price tag for CILIP membership is that, from what I can see, you mostly get a magazine and some occasional discounts. I realise that I’m probably being quite flippant here but as a non-member, what is there to attract me? As I have already said, I actually do want to be a member because I want to get involved in supporting my profession and developing as a professional librarian, but a lot of that is my input. What do I get for my money aside from (or in addition to) what I would get from me putting in a lot of time and effort?

“You get out what you put in”

This is something that I have heard a lot about CILIP and yes, I can understand this approach. I do want to put a lot in. I do want to take part. However, with the financial barrier, how can I do that? Also, where is the £200 of my membership money going if all of us are volunteering our professional time to run groups and chair meetings? There may well be a good answer to this but I haven’t seen an easily accessible way of assessing this value for money. Where was CILIP when the public library closures were taking place? I didn’t hear that much from them but I heard a lot from volunteer groups supporting their local branch library. If I am paying £200, surely that should be going towards representation on a national level to defend libraries, ensure that professionals are being paid properly, promoting librarianship as a career, doing outreach and many many other things as a body, rather than relying on members to do all of the legwork.

I realise that I might sound a bit like I want something for nothing, but this isn’t the case. We are putting in a large sum of money. We are expected to put in a good chunk of time as well. What is the actual measurable return on this?

Tier system

Something that really bothers me is that due to my pay spine, I pay exactly the same membership fee as (for example) the head of the British Library. I pay the same as my boss, I pay the same as many many people who are earning a lot more than me. I am also working in a job that isn’t a professional one due to the fact that the job market is rather limited for new professional roles. How is this fair? Now, I recognise that many of the candidates did agree that the tier system did need to be addressed, with several mentioning that it should be raised at the next AGM which gave me some hope. However, one candidate did say that we shouldn’t “agonise” over this issue. I couldn’t disagree more. As already mentioned, if enough people are raising this as a concern and on what seems to be a regular basis, we should be agonising over it. For the sake of balance, another candidate said that it made him feel uncomfortable that he was paying the same membership fee as someone who had just qualified.

Exit interviews indicate that some members left due to financial constraints. It should never be the case that our colleagues can’t get support and be part of a professional body because of something as relatively simple as money. Everyone is getting pay cuts, being made redundant, facing higher household bills, struggling to pay mortgages. It simply isn’t acceptable that those of us who do not have the fee amount spare are effectively cancelled out of the professional library CILIP world.

It was also mentioned that some work could be done to encourage employers to provide some assistance to covering professional membership fees if they want qualified staff. While a good point, this again means that those of us who are not earning large salaries from being in managerial roles are limited in what support we can get to pay CILIP fees.

The future

I was reassured that some of the candidates are taking this issue seriously but there was also a lot of talk about what will happen in the future, and that people will start to see the benefit of what CILIP is trying to do once it has all been worked out. That is all well and good but what are these changes? How are they being promoted to attract new members? Forgive my scepticism, but will these changes actually happen?

CILIP was described as being a charity. I donate a small amount to two charities and to be honest, I get a lot more information, emails, magazines and opportunities for involvement from them than I can measurably see from CILIP. Promotion and listening to that its members want is critical for the future of CILIP. Some of the candidates mentioned that they were concerned about how few younger professionals were going for council positions and I found this to be an interesting point. Are these young members being put off because of the fact that other council members are often individuals who are high up in their careers and they therefore feel that they can’t contribute due to their lack of experience? Are they individuals who can’t afford the time to get involved? Are they people like me who struggle to pay the membership fee and are disillusioned that they then get asked to do more, with little in return? I’d be interested to see how the discussion pans out over time and if there are ways in which CILIP can support those who are nervous about getting involved but who could contribute a great deal.

Final thoughts

A lot of what I have said may come across as antagonistic but I actually do care about my profession. I have always wanted to be a librarian and I am dedicated to being the best that I can be at it and to support colleagues, help others realise their librarian potential and raise the profile of the profession as a whole. I think that CILIP can have a massive role to play in this but I am also frustrated at how restrictive it can be at times. I want to be a member of CILIP. I want to be a part of making it a great professional body that can help transform lives, the public perception of what we do and much much more. But I can’t afford to join which makes me sad.

If I have missed anything or have got anything wrong, please tell me. If you can point me in the direction of resources that may answer some of my questions or if you have further questions for me, please get in touch! I would really appreciate it.

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22 thoughts on “CILIP 2014 Hustings: membership fees #cilip2014

  1. Really smashing post! I don’t think, though, that I interpreted David M’s comments about professionals wanting to join the professional body in the same way as you. Perhaps I’m being overgenerous or naive but I took it to mean that he wanted CILIP to be so good and effective and jazz handsy that professionals *did* want to join. I may well be wrong.

    However, your intepretation is reminiscent of another attitude I’ve come across, and it’s one that I think should be addressed (by whom, I don’t know!). It’s the idea that this general apathy from CILIP members (by no means all of them, of course!), or the lack of engagement that leads to low voting figures, and so on, is the members’ fault, collectively. Personally I’d lay a bit of the blame at CILIP’s door for not enticing them in. After all, a bit of cake should do it 🙂

    • Yes, I realise that I may have completely misinterpreted what David M meant but that is sort of how it came across. Apologies if I was wrong as he does seem like a lovely chap.

      Good to hear that the apathy stuff isn’t just something that I’ve dreamed up and is being noticed by others. Cake always wins!

  2. Hi there,

    Although the CILIP website is still very much a work in progress, I hope that the many benefits of CILIP membership are communicated reasonably well here: http://www.cilip.org.uk/cilip/membership/benefits-membership

    Please have a browse around and if you have any queries feel free to @CILIPinfo or email info@cilip.org.uk

    Regards,

    Richard Hawkins
    Online Information Manager
    CILIP

    PS. I like your blog theme – especially down here at the bottom of the lake 🙂

    • Hi Richard,

      Thanks for the link and further info.The benefits bit is useful but sometimes a bit intangible if that makes sense.

      Glad you like being at the bottom of the lake, it’s where all the cool kids are of course 😉

  3. Well said! The fees are my main reason for not joining CILIP too. It seems like a lot of money for not much in return, and I think the idea of dismissing people’s concerns as ‘moaning about finances’ is unacceptable. Librarianship isn’t exactly known for being a highly-paid profession and many of us just can’t afford that kind of money every year for what seems to amount to little more than a magazine subscription and the possibility of some letters after your name if you do chartership.

  4. Thank you for such a good post! It sums up nicely how I’ve been feeling about CILIP. I am currently a member, but am very much in the position of reconsidering this – I have to pay for my own membership (work do not contribute), and the cost, coupled with the perceived lack of benefits (especially if you don’t live in a major conurbation) and the brouhaha regarding the name change have soured my view of the professional body. It simply doesn’t feel like value for money any more, and I’m not getting anything out of it. It’s a shame, as I’ve been a member for years, but I can think of better things to do with my subscription cost.

  5. Many of your comments are those that go through my head. I’ve been a member of CILIP since I qualified, but if I’m honest, the benefits of the membership mostly seem to be getting people to look at your application form when you apply for jobs, rather than anything more substantial. As such I agree with your comments about “You get what you put in” – if we’re putting things in for free, why do we need CILIP and why does CILIP need so much of our money (and it has to be said most of my professional development of late has come from volunteer groups not connected to CILIP, so the discounts have not helped at all)? I’d also agree with yours and Lemurph’s comment that a big part of the problem is not that people aren’t involved, but rather that CILIP often doesn’t do enough to engage with the community but rather takes an admonishing tone to anyone who critcises it, without doing anything to earn the respect it thinks it’s due.

  6. Mentors do work hard…and for free! Don’t know where I’d have been without mine for Chartership. And actually, when you DO get those letters after your name they mean a LOT!!!

  7. Hello all,

    My comments re moaning about finances were in relation to the debate on LIS-PROFESSION a couple of years back (I administer that list, so was a torrid time), not about any valid issues someone struggling to make ends meet might have with juggling whether or not to join. It’s always been expensive, it was a fair chunk of my salary too when I started out, and believe me you got a LOT less for your membership back then than you do now.

    If there is an issue re affordability then CILIP should do the research to find out exactly the situation and potential solutions. CILIP needs to do more research on lots of things, frankly, and this may well be one of them. If I do become a trustee than I’d be very happy to take concerns on this to council and fight on peoples’ behalf.

    I *do* genuinely think CILIP is value for money though, the access to LISA, JoLIS, JIS and the Proquest service is a package in itself that is worth the fee, let alone the professional qualifications and other benefits. At $25 per article on average for an ejournal article download, access to thousands of them as part of your membership is a major asset.

    Hope that helps clarify somewhat, and apologies if anyone was offended.
    David

  8. Great article.For many of us in an academic context, we get that content via work, so its not quite the sell it should be, although it certainly is an improvement on when I quit. I think most folk would really love to see positive outcomes from advocacy and campaigns to make them feel they were getting something genuine for their 200 quid.

    In terms of comparison to ALA and other mainstream UK professions, the £200 remains woeful value for money in my opinion. See my deconstruction here:

    http://www.lib.cam.ac.uk/CULIB/CULIB67/CULIB_67.pdf

    My current boss quit today, my not being a member was a large part of it apparently. I’ll try to shut up about this, but it is really hard.

    • It drives me nuts. I’m about to post a confessional as I have actually just joined CILIP. The reason: I was asked to be on a committee and I really wanted to give it a go. I’ll see how it goes and I always have the option of stopping my membership if I feel it isn’t working out for me anymore.

  9. Pingback: CILIP membership – update | Cardies and Tweed

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