2 Past Presidents express fears over CILIP leadership proposals

Tom Featherstone and Bob Usherwood, both Past Presidents of The Library Association, sent this piece to me expressing concern about the proposals for changing the way CILIP is governed Being these proposals will be voted on this Saturday, I am giving them their own post below.  In addition to being Past Presidents, Tom Featherstone is Chair of CILIP’s Retired Members Guild and Bob Usherwood edits its journal Post-Lib.

Democratic governance for professional organisations

“For the second year running CILIP’s AGM promises to be an unpredictable affair. This time it is its governance that will come under scrutiny and once again there is the suggestion that our professional membership organisation may be out of touch with its members. The differences between CILIP’s report on members’ views on its Governance proposals and those expressed on many discussion fora, especially perhaps LIS-PUB-LIBS have been stark and revealing. The centre of the argument has been around the concept of democracy.  This topic making headlines in the professional press and beyond when Tom Roper resigned from CILIP Council because he believed that the Governance Review contains two “profoundly undemocratic” proposals.  He identified these as “the proposal that a third of Council seats should be appointed, rather than elected from the membership, and the proposal that Council, rather than the members, should elect the President.” Much more detail can be found on his blog.

“The centre of the argument has been around the concept of democracy”

Similar concerns had been raised earlier in the year by CILIP’s Retired Members Guild when, in June, it hosted a consultation session with the Chair of Council and CILIP’s CEO. Members, many of whom had many years service on the Council, felt very strongly that that our Governing body should consist entirely of CILIP members nominated and elected by the membership at large. Concern was also expressed at the proposal that the President should be elected by the Council and that in addition to Presidential duties, should also serve as the Chair of Council.  Apart from being undemocratic it was felt this confused two distinct roles leading to a loss of identity of our professional association in the outside world.

In his presentation, the Chair of Council said that CILIP had looked at the governance of charities, commercial organisation and professional bodies and revealed that the chosen model was more often to be found in the commercial world although he was unable to give precise figures. On the available evidence, the CILIP format appears to have much in common with a model of governance described as a ‘corporate hegemony model’. For example CILIP’s “claim that professional bodies often have non-members on their Councils has been questioned.  Charles Oppenheim observing that it “is not true in my experience of membership of dozens of professional bodies, but even if it were true, three out of twelve is too high a %…”

“On the available evidence, the CILIP format appears to have much in common with a model of governance described as a ‘corporate hegemony model’.”

The British Dental Association recently reviewed its governance and its website states “the governing body of the BDA must be directly elected by its wider membership” BDA members therefore “directly elect the 15 strong Principal Executive Committee (PEC), which has overall responsibility for the control and direction of the policy and affairs of the Association.” Its members also elect committees that focus on the interests of constituent parts of the profession, such as the General Dental Practice Committee and the councils established for each country of the United Kingdom.

A recent report on University Governance stated, [“The] traditional mode of governance (and that used in many institutions internationally) is a hybrid of the stewardship, stakeholder and democratic model.” It further argued that, “universities must not have governance arrangements that preclude real democratic consideration of their future direction or of the impact on the wide body of people who make up the university community.” (Murray et al).

“The use of governance models from the private sector shifts power from the membership to management leading to “crude ‘financialisation’ of the institution and there is little sense of how that ‘executive’ is held to account”

The same must surely be true of professional bodies such as CILIP which like universities need to ensure that the wider community (i.e. the membership) has meaningful involvement in decision making. There are also issues of short term and long term accountability. The use of governance models from the private sector shifts power from the membership to management leading to “crude ‘financialisation’ of the institution and there is little sense of how that ‘executive’ is held to account …” Long term accountability asks, “Who owns the professional association?  It needs to be remembered that many CILIP members will have a much longer association with the organisation than the CEO or the management team.  Again the report on University Governance is relevant to CILIP when it notes that such members “see institutions they have dedicated their working lives to go through cyclical periods where a new principal arrives … and seeks to change strategy, emphasis and direction. …This raises questions about who actually ‘owns’ the university and how they are held accountable.” It concludes, “The overall impact of this is a lack of confidence that the ‘core values’ of these institutions are in safe hands or that their fundamental role in society is being put first by those running the institution.”

This raises important questions about purpose, vision and values.  We  acknowledge that that most of those contributing to the Governance debate want our professional body to prosper but recent professional disputes, or what the President has called “in-fighting and bickering”, ( Band 2014) are evidence of serious  professional disagreements and  maybe divergent values. Dissatisfaction with CILIP has grown following the proposed name change, the Governance Review and what many, especially in the public sector perceive as its ineffective defence of the value and values of public libraries. There have been accusations of arrogance, secrecy and unwillingness to listen to the views of the. membership. In a recent interview with The Bookseller. (Farrington 2014) the President indicates that she wants “to bridge the gap between the council and the members, and show we all come from the same place, and have the same goals.” It is to be hoped that lessons have been learnt from the rebranding fiasco but worrying that another event at last year’s AGM, the overwhelming vote of no confidence in Ed Vaizey, was not supported by Council and criticised by the President in the Bookseller article.

“There have been accusations of arrogance, secrecy and unwillingness to listen to the views of the membership”

Those able to attend the AGM on Saturday will be able to vote on the governance proposals in person but there is still time to use a proxy by downloading the form from the CILIP website address  but Proxy vote forms must be received at CILIP by 1.15 pm on Thursday 18 September 2014. At the RMG meeting in June, we heard that CILIP had consulted widely and looked at other organisations in an attempt to get things right, but then much the same was said about the rebranding exercise. CILIP members are rightly proud of the part they play in maintaining democracy and want their professional body to reflect democratic principles. For many members, the governance proposals under discussion do not do that. Council may have tried to do things the right way but as Herman and Renz (2004) observe, “finding the right fit among [effective] practices is more important than doing things the ‘right way’”. The proposals discussed above, in the view of the RMG Committee and members attending the consultation meeting, Tom Roper and numerous others, are simply not the right fit.

“we heard that CILIP had consulted widely and looked at other organisations in an attempt to get things right, but then much the same was said about the rebranding exercise”


Our thanks to staff at Nottingham Central Library for helping us locate source material.

Big library trends: three tier services and Trusts


Two bits of big library news today has got me thinking about longer term national trends.  Number one is bad news from Hertfordshire as it announces plans to lose all staff from 17 out of 46 of its libraries. This is in keeping with the trend notable from other English and Welsh authorities where the council aims for all of the smallest branches to be either volunteered or closed.  The general scheme is:

  • The largest library/ies have an unaffected or even improved service.
  • Middle sized libraries (towns, major suburbs) have slightly reduced services, but with some paid staff replaced with volunteers.
  • Smallest libraries are passed to volunteers, parish councils or closed.

Someone asked me the other day what future I saw for public libraries if current trends continue.  I’ve been thinking about this for a short while and my guess is something like the above pattern but taken a bit further.  So, if you work in or use a central library, congratulations, you have comparatively nothing to worry about in the next three years.  You’ll notice less books and less staff but the odds are the place is going to be the least affected by the inevitable cuts in your authority. If you work in a suburb, small town or village, on the other hand (less than 20,000 population? Not sure) then, sorry, you’re probably going to see your library close down or more likely pass to volunteers. The grey area is those larger non-central libraries.  It’s very hard to see how a sizeable busy branch can be volunteer run or be closed down.  My guess is that will be where non-profit enterprises (or even profits) will be making an appearance and you’ll notice that the branch gets more and more non-book stuff in it.

The other big bit of news in today (although it has been suggested for a long while) is confirmation that Kent is planning to move to be a charitable trust.  It will join York and Suffolk as a non-Leisure non-profit .  Now, there seems to be a little confusion with Library/Leisure Trusts at the moment with Wigan’s libraries being returned to the local authority.  I’ve heard rumours that it’s not just Wigan either that is having problems with combined library/leisure trusts.  So, the trend here seems to be that library-service trusts are in the ascendant but the growth in library/leisure trusts is stalling.  Set against this, of course, is the leisure-library trust GLL which is currently trying to add Lincolnshire to its list.  We’ll see whether GLL can buck the trend – or even if I’m right that there is a trend at all – over the next year or two.  Oddly, what we’re not seeing, after the excitement of the Tri Borough amalgamation, are more library services combining with eachother.  Presumably this is because of political difficulties … and I’ll be very surprised I anyone is going to make a decision of that nature until the General Election.



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Some great national stuff, some depressing local stuff


I, like staff in 200 other libraries in the UK will be giving out Diary of a Wimpy Kid books this Saturday.  Of course, libraries loan these as a matter of course but it’s not often we give them away.  Well done to a partnership including the Reading Agency, Puffin and ITV Good Morning Britain have made this possible, showing the strength of national promotion.  Another couple of national things also caught my eye.  I’ve not had much to do with Digital War Memorial but it looks good and let’s hope it fulfils the promise that the Society of Chief Librarians think it has.  Also, Scotland are developing a national libraries strategy.  It’s surprising they didn’t have one already, frankly, especially as there is a chance they’re going to be independent soon.  It’s going to be odd reporting Scottish libraries in the International section if so.

In terms of local changes, the main hot spots are continued moves by Liverpool to withdraw from, or close, the majority of its libraries; the determination of Lincolnshire to keep staffing levels low and abide by the letter of the judicial review against them and what may be even deeper cuts in Leicestershire than what has already been announced and, finally, cuts on the radar in Harrow.  Whoopee doo. You know, public libraries news can be a little depressing at times but I was given real boost by visiting Manchester Central Library this week.  That is a building that shows how great libraries can be (but, guys, please … bigger children’s libraries!) and I wholeheartedly recommend it to you. My review of the place is on a separate page here.


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Read On. Get On. Library On.


Main news this post is the formation of the “Read On. Get On” coalition of several agencies (including the Reading Agency but sadly no other public library related groups) to help boost literacy in England. Being the country apparently is second only to Romania (ouch) in the EU in terms of unequal reading levels and that such problems may cost us £32 billion by 2025, this sounds important.  Public libraries are mentioned a couple of times in the report and it is hoped that the importance of the sector (dudes, literacy is what we do) will become better recognised.   Things like the Six Book Challenge, which has just announced that it is aiming for 50,000 users next year, should be a key component in all of this.

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An interesting AGM? CILIP may do the double


CILIP related things catch my eye today.  There’s three excellent examples of best practice in the Libraries Change Lives Awards, with the emphasis being on partnership with others.  The winner will be announced at the CILIP AGM on 20th September by none other than William Sieghart, whose report and recommendations on public libraries in England is eagerly anticipated. CILIP has done very well in getting these awards together and by getting Mr Sieghart as well.  They’ve also done well recently in  organising the Public Librarian of the Year Awards.

Also AGM related is an article in the BookSeller by CILIP President Barbara Band which is, sadly, still behind a paywall. Barbars has, though, kindly sent me a copy and so I can report slightly on it (but I can’t link to it as I don’t want the BookSeller upset). The article emphasises the advocacy work that the organisation does and the return it gives to its members for their subscription fees. It also looks hopefully to the AGM, wishing it to be different to the one last year that both voted down the rebranding suggestions (remember Information and Library Professionals UK or, as me and others possibly unkindly labelled it, ILPUK?) and also passed a vote of no confidence in Ed Vaizey.

That last may be a problem.  It is clear that many within the leadership of CILIP see that vote as a big mistake, meaning that they have been frozen out of conversations with Government.  The problem is now selling that view to the membership who view the libraries minister as presiding over the destruction of the public library sector by, at best, benign neglect.  That’s a tough sell and, by trying to get back into the good books of Vaizey, the CILIP leadership may be running the risk of being seen by members as ignoring their express will.  This would not do well for the perceived democratic nature of the organisation, especially at the time when that is being scrutinised as never before because of the new governance proposals that would increase the number of non-elected council members. Barbara, though, does make clear that campaigning for libraries is a key part of the organisation and, to me at least, they are indeed doing better in this regard. Whether this will be enough to avoid a re-run of the AGMus Horribilis of 2013 we will know soon enough. More >

Library champion runner up has 1960s moment

Get them all library cards: rural library service report, automatic membership and the Summer Reading Challenge


The report “Rural library services in England: exploring recent changes and possible futures” has just become publicly available.  Commissioned by Defra and Arts Council England.  It’s a major bit of research that will be of use not just for those library authorities with countryside but also for others looking at direction for travel, what’s happening elsewhere and best practice, which I guess is what most of you read Public Libraries News for.  The report is especially useful in looking at volunteers and sharing buildings with other services.  There is also a new phrase that I suspect will become common parlance soon: co-locating with other service provide “economies of scope” rather than “economies of scale.”.  That’s a useful way of looking at things. Have  a read of the report if you’re interested in what is happening elsewhere and for ideas.  It’s not going to be easy reading for you if you hate the idea of volunteers or love the old traditional idea of libraries (whatever that was) though … but then I guess not much is at the moment.

Speaking of reports, I’d not seen the Arts Council England report Automatic library membership before: I’ve not read it yet but, to me, it’s a no-brainer.  I always groan inwardly when a parent says “oh, I didn’t realise young Johnny could join the library: he’s only five” or, even worse, those who never join who I don’t meet.  That’s the worst.  And that library card will be a positive reinforcement of libraries, of literacy and the love of reading each time they see it. Get it done.

Finally, thanks again to Jo Norris for some good ideas that many us may find familiar but others won’t.  Ladies and gentleman, it’s Summer Reading Challenge award ceremony season! My authority has been inviting parents and children in to special certificate giving evenings for years and it works well.  Another option is to present them in school assemblies.  Make a big thing of it.  Make those children proud of going to the library.  Make their parents proud of them going to the library.  And get them all library cards.


Ideas from Jo Norris, runner up to the Library Champion of the Year

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Cutting Cornwall, Lingering Lincolnshire and Horrible Havering


More information is coming in at proposed cuts to the Cornish budget.  If calculations are correct, this comes in at 44% of the total libraries budget over two years (2015/17) with the hope being that volunteers and smaller councils take the strain.  There’s also more on Lincolnshire where it is clear that the council is wishing to continue with cutting its library service despite the recent successful legal challenge.  There’s some interesting implications about the suggestion there that the Community Right to Challenge may open up the service to competing bids from private companies and other entities.  Thirdly, it looks like the Havering Libraries twitter account was used to express criticism at the deep cuts proposed for libraries there.  This is the first time I can recall an official account being used this way.

Continuing the mini series from award-winning public librarians, I am pleased to include some great stuff from Jo Norris of Essex on organising events and ideas anyone can try.  Enjoy.


Cornwall - £1.8 million cut proposed over 2 years 2015/17.


An interview with Jo Norris, runner up to the Library Champion of the Year, Deputy Library Supervisor at Sible Hedingham Library in Essex Libraries More >

The Public Library Champion of the Year at work

Havering cuts, LibraryLab and the Public Library Champion of the Year


Some majorly bad news has come in from Havering where it has been announced that over a third of the library budget will be cut.  This looks set to be achieved via cuts to services (such as the ending of the reader development scheme and children’s programmes), job losses and a deep cut into opening hours at six branches.

Moving away from this sad news, the 1st September is the first day for applications to the Carnegie UK LibraryLab project. This looks to be a very good partnering/funding/training programme for the successful candidates who must put forward an innovative idea (not necessarily digital) for public libraries.  It’s the sort of thing that a national libraries development agency should be providing but, being we don’t have one of those, let’s make sure to make full use of this instead.

Finally, I’m pleased to say that Gareth Hatton, the Public Library Champion of the Year, has agreed to let the readers of Public Libraries News have an insight into the wonderful work he does, the benefits that public libraries can bring to businesses and the tools that he uses. There’s some good hints and tips in there.



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Jacqueline Cooper, Public Librarian of the Year

So what does it take to be Public Librarian of the Year?



An interview with Jacqueline Cooper, Librarian, West Berkshire Libraries and Public Librarian of the Year 2014  More >

jenny peachey

Fit for the future: five things to take away from IFLA Birmingham

I was unable to get to the satellite IFLA conference in Birmingham but I heard many good things about it. I was therefore delighted when Dr Jenny Peachey, Policy Officer at the Carnegie UK Trust agree to write something for Public Libraries News on the main points she took away from it.  Have a read of it below, it’s worth it.

Fit for the Future: five things to take away from IFLA Birmingham

jenny peachey

Dr Jenny Peachey, Policy Officer, Carnegie UK Trust

Written by Jenny Peachey, Policy Officer, Carnegie UK Trust

The IFLA 2014 satellite conference sparkled: from high-tech mobile libraries that serve as spaces where senior citizens reminisce and teens receive sex ed, to displays and book clubs that bridge the physical and digital divide, to the first all-digital library. It bubbled with examples of how to engage communities, fizzed with ideas of how to support learning, literacy, social relationships and access to information – but most of all, it effervesced with a passion for public libraries and with positivity. Here are five things I took away from the conference.

1. Innovation is only fresh for a moment 

Providing a contrast to an overarching concern with digital and high-tech, Corinne Hill from Chattanooga Public Library informed us that 3D printers have been moved from the ‘test zone’ to the ‘regular’ section of Chattanooga library. Meanwhile, gigantic hand operated weaving looms have been brought in. When asked how she made innovative ideas come to fruition, Corinne’s (paraphrased) response was: ‘be proactive, build a network, be comfortable with losing control, and keep moving – innovation has a shelf-life!’

2. How to integrate digital and physical 

A presentation on ZLB Topic rooms in Berlin revealed how to blend librarianship with ‘creative civic engagement.’ These rooms combine elaborate book displays with films and online resources (twitter and the news) displayed on screen. These curated displays bring together in-depth and up-to-speed information around themes – Israel after the election, poor and rich, the Eurozone. Meanwhile, book clubs can bring people together physically and, via skype, across a country or an international border. These online book clubs can help the socially excluded and rurally isolated feel part of a community.

3. People and a sense of ownership are key to successful change

Time and time again, presenters emphasised the value of ‘their amazing staff’. Staff define the culture of the library, transform a service into an experience and imbue a building with spirit and heart. The message to individuals having to change the nature of their library service was to engage their staff in this journey as far as possible and not forget ‘the hearts and minds’. Equally, conference attendees were reminded not to relegate their communities to mere guests, but treat them as key stakeholders with whom libraries should work with rather than for. Ownership, we were reminded, is a process.

4. Skills

Some presentations and conversations touched upon the skills and qualities required to deliver the public library of the future. Skills identified included working in partnership, business management, and digital knowledge and literacy. The opposing abilities of collaborating versus competing, and controlling versus creating, were also lauded as important capacities to be identified and nurtured in (different!) members of staff.

5. General trends but specific solutions

An Independent Senior Adviser and Consultant from Denmark observed that though it is possible to identify general trends in how public libraries are developing, the solution for each library must always be specific: there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Just as assets, needs, wants and communities differ, so too must the specificities or form of libraries’ offers.



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