As I had the time available to me, and I'm reasonably local, I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the CILIP AGM on October 14th. This is the first AGM that I've attended, so I had no idea what to expect, and arrived with a very open mind. Total attendance was in the mid 80s. Err - that's people numbers, not age. (Actually, thinking about it...) I recognised very few, which isn't a surprise, but when I attend events these days (such as ILI2010 which I'll write about in another post) I kind of expect that I will know people, just that I haven't met them face to face before. Didn't have that feeling with the AGM. It felt unfriendly and cliquey; my impression, someone else will tell you that it was great to meet up with old friends etc, and that's fine - both opinions are equally valid. The actual meeting was split into two sections; the interesting people led section and the AGM, and it was held in a SOAS basement. I can't easily tweet from basements. Some people can, but my phone provider didn't like it. (Is this the rant Phil? No.. but it's part of it, stick with the report.)
Annie kicked the afternoon off with a brief introduction, including a remembrance for Bob, which was nice. Biddy then did a 35 minute presentation. The following is my jotted notes, which are brief, so don't rely on them as an accurate reflection of what she said.
We were gathering to celebrate the achievement of our peers, and 'Recognition' was a central theme of her address. Biddy mentioned that there was an ambiguity over the term 'professionalism', and it's not always clear what we mean when we use the term. We don't always have time to stand back and look at who we are and what we do, so she spent some time with the Nolan principles of public life, such as selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership. She also spoke to the subject of CILIP governance at work, with tests of public obligation.
She then asked how CILIP measured up to those tests, and looked at training, awards, professional networking, and she made the point that we're natural communicators.
Biddy also looked at how we're working with Defining our professional future, what we're advocating, how we determine our future, asking if we're prepared to fight for our colleagues.
She looked at the information needs of our changing society, referring to the 2010 Manifesto, a pledge to mention libraries at every opportunity, engage with MPs and champions, networking using Web 2.0 and 3.0, and looking at the future of CILIP.
I really enjoyed her presentation - this is the first opportunity I have had to hear her speak, and she made several points that I'll return to shortly. (In the rant? Yes, in the rant.) Mr Keith Wilson took us through some Charterships, Fellowships and Honorary Awards for the deserving. There was a reading of every name of each CILIP member who had died since the last AGM, and for me this was one of the most important and moving parts of the day, also very upsetting, for my personal obvious reason. We also had a really moving presentation of the CILIP Medal to Edward Dudley, which I also enjoyed since I know him slightly via his column and role in the Poly of North London School of Librarianship (when I was there).
We then, with a dragging inevitability got onto the AGM itself. I'm not entirely sure that some people's understanding of an AGM is the same as mine. I suspect that issues such as the conflicting use of terms such as Trustees/Councillors could be dealt with elsewhere - quite frankly I don't give a toss. Unlike one or two people, I'm perfectly happy that Biddy was doing her best to keep it to time, and actually, addressing this remark to the person who brought it up, the membership DO want it over before midnight. The irony of someone complaining while others were slipping out, leaving the meeting close to unquorate was not lost on me. I thought the Hon. Treasurer did a perfect job in keeping the report simple and straightforward, and I'm not interested in the technical stuff, cos it's technical. Given that one person thought 12-8=8 I think she was right to take the line she did. (Is this the rant Phil? Is it? Is it? No, but we're getting dangerously close to it) For me, this part of the day was CILIP at its worst. Dull beyond belief, rampant pedantry (I like pedantry as much as the next person, but there's a time and a place) and an emphasis on entire irrelevancies which I suspect were often used to give people a platform to stand up and remind us all of their existance.
OK, the rant. If you agree that's cool. If you don't, that's cool as well (and don't vote for me in the CILIP VP election, I'll survive). CILIP should be about being inclusive, and as Biddy pointed out, we're natural communicators. Except that the day was a perfect example of exclusion and a lack of communication. If you couldn't get the afternoon off, if you're elderly, infirm or housebound, the message is that you're not wanted. If you're unable to come to London, you're not wanted. For an organisation that's losing 700 members a year this is as close to criminal neglect as it's possible to get.
The reason that I had to write all of this stuff down is partly because I couldn't tweet. It was great that CILIP had a hashtag and really great that Biddy and Annie were emphasising it, but it's not much use in a friggin' basement! In future can we have a meeting in a room that's going to have a good signal for everyone please? Can we also have it organised so that we've got public wifi available for everyone. This is not for OUR benefit, it's for the benefit of everyone who is unable to attend.
Why was the AGM not livestreamed? The reason I was given (which may or may not be correct) was that it was too expensive. No, it's NOT too expensive, I don't care how much it costs, because it's for the membership - y'know, the people that CILIP is all about, the people who keep CILIP running. The message which is being sent out is not 'it's too expensive' it's 'YOU are not worth it'. That is indefensible and disgraceful. This is the reason that CILIP is dying on its feet. As far as I'm concerned, we need to pay what it takes to livestream, but ok, maybe it wasn't possible for some other reason. So what you do then is you video it. You get a video camera (and I KNOW people at CILIP have them because I saw them used for a talk that I gave there recently) and you video the proceedings and you put them up on YouTube the next day.
I looked at the website this morning. There's a section 'CILIP AGM highlights', which links to 2011 membership subs approved, with non-working links to CILIP honours members with awards, and Bob McKee remembered. Following the link takes you to a page with the bare minimum of data, links to the Agenda, Minutes and so on - which have to be downloaded and opened, they're not available directly on the site. Where is the text of Biddy's speech? Where's the listing of people who got awards, with their citations? (As an aside - here's a hint - if you don't know the person being cited, a spoken listing of their achievements is dull. Really, really dull. Put up a presentation at least - pictures of what they've been doing, a video of what they're up to, and run it in the background if needs be.)
Biddy said - rightly in my opinion - that we're natural communicators. It's a shame that CILIP isn't. It's a shame that the CILIP organisers seem to think it's acceptable to limit involvement to people who turn up. She also said - rightly in my opinion - that CILIP needs to embrace Web 2.0 and 3.0. Can someone therefore explain to me why - on the one time in the year when we really REALLY should do, the only way of getting the message out was by tweeting from a basement with a dodgy connection? Can someone further explain to me why a video recording wasn't made of appropriate parts of the proceedings and put onto the website?
IF (and it's a big 'if', made bigger by this posting I shouldn't wonder), IF this isn't sorted out by the time I have to do it as President (assuming I get the job, and it's another big IF) - if the majority of the membership are unable to participate at any level other than directly attending then there's going to be another person who isn't going to be able to attend. And that'll be me.
We MUST put the membership first. In order to value ourselves, in order to be ethical with a concern for inclusion, in order to be professional, and for members to have freedom of speech, and if CILIP wants to provide leadership it has to start with itself and its members. It fails to do this. Over and over again. This is simply unacceptable. How do we measure up to the 9 principles? It's great to give awards, even better if they're put in context and made available in a way that everyone can share in them. It's great if we can network, but that means so, so much more than chatting to someone in a coffee queue. Are we good communicators? Individually yes - as an organisation it sucked. Are we professionally generous? Only if you're in the room. Are we extending our scope regionally or internationally? We're scarcely able to extend our scope outside of a basement in London.
Unacceptable. End of rant.
[Edited to add a link to Biddy's address]