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Katie Fraser's blog and website

I'm an academic librarian, working in the UK Higher Educational sector, supporting academics and students. Prior to this, I was a researcher, working with social and learning technologies.

My interests include the application of emerging and traditional technologies, research support in libraries, learning spaces, evidence-based practice and the professional development of library and information workers.

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East Midlands Members’ Day: CILIP’s future, the WI and information literacy

March 28th, 2011

Crab apple blossom

Springtime blossoming in the East Midlands

Last Tuesday I attended the Members’ Day and Annual General Meeting of the East Midlands Branch of CILIP, the regional wing of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals. It was held in Derby this year, and featured the Annual General Meeting of the branch, alongside talks from Annie Mauger, CILIP’s new Chief Executive on ‘The future structure and role of CILIP’ and Biddy Fisher, CILIP’s Immediate past President on information literacy.

As one of the project board who worked on the Conversation section of CILIP’s Defining Our Professional Future (DOPF) programme I was interested to hear Annie talk about the institution’s new approach to advocacy, identified in the DOPF Conversation Report as an area of future focus for CILIP. I’m not the only one who’s noticed that CILIP’s presence in the media has grown hugely in the last few months, and I’ll confess that I’m just a teeny bit proud that my work on DOPF contributed to this change.

The part of CILIP’s future which generated most interest around my table at Members’ Day was how advocacy for public libraries could grow to include other sectors in which information professionals work (academic, government, corporate etc.) and it was nice that Annie explicitly asked us to feed back on what we’d like to see in those areas (while reassuring us that they’re next on the agenda). Discussion around our table also focused on CILIP’s qualifications (primarily chartership), which I believe are currently under review. It was interesting to me that because of my work with CILIP I’m pretty well clued up on how such procedures work in comparison to the average member, which suggests that communication about what’s available does need to improve.

One thing I didn’t know about was that on the 8th June the National Federation of Women’s Institutes are voting on whether to make local libraries a focus of their nationwide campaigning and there were many calls for information professionals to engage with our local branches to promote the cause where possible – do check out the link for more details.

The Annual General Meeting was the usual fare, with the exception of a change in committee, from outgoing president Joan Bray to incoming president Mary Bryceland. I know there’s also a review of branches and groups going on at the moment, and there was some discussion of impending changes, but mainly of a ‘watch this space’ nature.

Finally, Biddy Fisher spoke about information literacy and its potential as a central uniting issue for CILIP members. In redistributed groups we discussed some of the issues, and agreed that information literacy was definitely a uniting concern for information professionals, no matter where we worked. We found our group task – unpacking CILIP’s definition of information literacy in simple language – quite hard. The consensus was that it was something we did so naturally ourselves that it was often hard to make explicit what we did. This contrasts with what I’ve found in universities – that librarians can be better at describing what being information literate involves than the (often highly information literate) academics we support, especially when it comes to teaching skills to students. I guess it’s a challenge for anyone! Our major conclusion was that the concept was better explained by example than by description.

I had an absolutely fabulous day – kudos to the East Midlands Branch committee for arranging it, and Annie and Biddy for making their presentations highly engaging, and giving us the opportunity to feed back on what we discussed. I’ve often been unsure what the exact role of regional branches of CILIP is, and this seemed an excellent exemplar of what they can do: bring discussion about the purpose and future of CILIP to the region, and allow engagement with profession-wide issues in a scalable way.

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