ASSOCIATES (2006, November, v. 13, no. 2) - associates.ucr.edu
Law Library, University of Exeter
It's that time of year again here in the UK when the days are getting shorter, temperatures are lower, and there is a general feel of autumn in the air --oh -- yes it's also time for the CILIP Annual General Meeting (AGM).
Not that I want to associate gloom with my professional organisation's AGM, but it does seem to match up together at times. Why, you may ask, and why is so important to make the effort to attend? Membership is lower than expected, costs are rising and there’s the call for more money to run the organisation. There’s an added twist to the problem this year in that Affiliated Members like me are being asked to pay increased subscriptions, without any increase in services.
Historically, Affiliated Members were allowed a lower rate because they did not have any voting rights at meetings like the AGM, nor were they professionally qualified. Now that the Framework of Qualifications is in place and working (see http://www.cilip.org.uk/qualificationschartership/FrameworkofQualifications/), Affiliates may have gained Certification status and are thinking of going on to achieve their Chartership award. They are thinking they should have voting rights after having gained such a status. So ‘the new kids on the block’ are getting restless. But with increased qualification and status also comes responsibility. Do you double membership fees in exchange for voting rights and the chance to alter policy, or do you try and develop new ideas and membership benefits to encourage more members to stay and others to join? It is very difficult to know the answers, but you can not ‘have your cake and eat it’ without paying for it! It is likely that subscriptions will rise but not as much as they might. Services are likely to become more web-originated and cost-effective, offering specialised membership benefits.
I attended the AGM in October, which involved taking the day off work and travelling to London. The AGM is not only a meeting; it is a whole member's day ‘experience’. For those able to get there early the day started at 9.30 with a welcome cup of coffee and a pastry, a chance to see displays about the organisations services, and the people who run them. If you belong to the American Library Association, the Australian Library and Information Association, the Canadian Library Association, or others, how closely have you looked at what they offer you, in the way of support, information, qualifications ideas and special offers with various suppliers? It really is a chance to see the face behind the email! At 10.30 there was a choice of workshops on member benefits, the new CILIP community's project (see http://communities.cilip.org.uk/), or a session on job descriptions. Following these meetings was a drinks reception and lunch, where you have a chance to meet old friends and meet new ones. Networking has been around for ages, and called a million things, but it does offer you so much. Take the chance to say to people how you wish this or that would happen, or how you hate this or that, and see how many agree with you. Or perhaps say that I never know you thought that and perhaps we should change it.
The serious business of the day started after lunch with the President's address, this year by Martin Melloy. He gave an outstanding talk on the need to be inclusive and decisive, and that members were the life blood of the organisation and that their contribution was vital. Remembering that Member’s Day “offers all of us the chance in the library and information service a chance to reflect on shared values and to support each other in our efforts to be successful advocates for our profession”. This means joining your local branch and taking part in organising its activities, taking part in them, and just writing a report for the branch newsletter. Following his speech there was an open discussion on the organisation's finances and how these would enhance the running of the organisation. Yes -- Affiliate fees will rise but there has been compromise and agreement that voting rights should be discussed and plans made to include them for those who have gained Certification status. So there was a good reason for attending the AGM, and a lot of the committee work that went on before hand was useful and productive.
After all the serious work there was a lighter moment when awards were presented to various people for special achievements. One I have to pick out was the Honorary Fellowship award to Margaret Watson, who wrote for Associates recently. Her award was based on her work on the Framework of Qualifications and in particular for the work she has done for the Certification award. The joke of the day was when she was introduced to the audience as ‘Dame Margaret of ACLIP’, and a huge roar of approval came from me and my fellow associates for this award. Tea and biscuits and a chat followed and a further chance to chat to people. For those who had the energy there was an evening reception and lecture by a well known politician, Mr. Tony Benn MP. I have to confess that I had to leave at this point and make my way back to the railway station and a journey home. It had been a long day but a worthwhile one.
I would encourage all library staff to attend your group's AGM, or failing that, a local meeting whenever possible. You can make a difference, and that difference might be bigger than you think, or dreamed of.