Thursday 7th February was my local CILIP Branch’s AGM – and to make it a bit more interesting they usually have a few speakers and a chance to network over lunch. According to the Branch chair, tickets were sold out in two days, so they’re obviously doing something right! (Just to clarify, by ‘sold out’ I mean the allocation of places was filled, it is a free day and lunch is bring/buy your own!)
This year we went to Birmingham City University’s Mary Seacole Library in the Faculty of Health. It is the biggest specialist Health Library in the Country, and was naturally of particular interest to myself as a Health Librarian!
The theme of the day was promoting our selves, and our service – we heard some very interesting Case Studies from BCU Libraries and Warwickshire Library Service and how they are currently promoting themselves. BCU’s talk was particularly interesting; the University is split across 6 faculties and they don’t have one main library, but 8 specialist libraries, spread across the campuses. Past efforts to promote the library as a whole service have fallen flat as they have been too generic to appeal to each specific student group. Each library now deals with it’s own promotion, lead by a Library Marketing Steering Group, and each does there own bit to promote services and products to their own students i.e. Health databases to Faculty of Health students etc, but coming together for things like Freshers’ Fairs. They’re also getting out of the Library itself to promote the library’s services – the Liasion Librarians have been taking laptops to cafes to promote eBooks and can show the students how they can use the library from these places, and from home.
Gill Colbourne from Warwickshire Libraries Service had some useful tips too. The council’s marketing department is used to having people approach them – people know what their County Council offers and know where to go when they have questions. This approach doesn’t work for the library, so they’ve had to learn to be pro-active in advertising their services. You have to tell people why they need the library, and promote the services they want, but don’t know the library offers.
The library tries to advertise in as many places as possible, included notice boards in sports centres, supermarkets (library staff always know good places to put posters) and on the sides of buses. She even replied to an internal staff email from a woman in the council who wanted Driving Test books for her daughter – even other Council staff didn’t know that the Library offers these books as well as access to an online example test. Gill said it was about using every opportunity you could find and believing in your product.
The Keynote was from Barbara Band, the Vice President of CILIP. She said she still sometimes sees herself as ‘just a school librarian’, but she had some very interesting points about how, and why, we should be promoting our profession. Barbara pointed out that the old stereotypes about librarians are still very prominent, but while we are happy to talk amongst ourselves as to how out of date this was, we didn’t do this outside of the profession which meant that it continues. We have to tell people that this is wrong and that libraries (and librarians) have changed; if we won’t do it, no-one else is going to do it for us.
This promotion of our profession is another form of advocacy, and shouldn’t jut be limited to outside of the profession. Barbara said we should be telling other librarians about our work too – when people in different sectors have a better understanding of these other sectors we can work together for a common aim (she gave the example of teachers – when they strike or speak out, they do so as a profession, not just as a group of people with the same job – and this gives them a louder ‘voice’.
Barbara said we need to be proactive – sometimes things as small as commenting on websites, re-tweeting, and passing relevant web links to colleagues all works towards a better understanding of the profession; ‘Every little helps!’ Barbara challenged us to think of one idea or action that we could take away to do our bit to promote the profession.
Simon Edwards, the Director of Professional Services at CILIP, came to give a round up of national projects at CILIP, before Roger Fairman, the incoming Chair for CILIP West Midlands gave a local round up. Simon covered a large range of topics, from an update on the PKSB (Professional Knowledge and Skills Base) which officially launched in September 2012, the Branch and Group review, to the changes coming to the CILIP website and proposed Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). The changes to the Framework of Qualifications are due to be implemented from July this year and they are working to remove barriers, such as minimum experience, and broaden the appeal of the qualifications. They are also making the guidance clearer, as it has been confusing candidates, Mentors and Candidate Support Officers, as well as making the difference between Certification and Chartership clearer.