Hot topic! CILIP and the Media

14 Jun

There seems to be a discrepancy between what CILIP believe to be its media responsibilities, and what its members believe to be its media responsibilities.

Hearing both sides of any story is so, so important. I can’t think of ANYTHING I’ve got angry about, or railed against, that I haven’t softened my stance on once I’ve learned a little more about the other side of the story. There’s almost always a good reason why people do things that seem inexplicable at first glance. So I am prepared to have all this explained to me and to think to myself at the end of it all – okay, I was being naive, I can see how difficult this must be for CILIP. But either way, there is a problem here that needs to be addressed – whether the problem is one CILIP is contributing to, or is unable to do anything about. There is still a problem – and I get the impression, though only from a small pool of online responses to these issues, that CILIP’s members see it as more of a problem than CILIP itself appears to.

  • In my opinion, CILIP are not prominent enough in the media
  • In my opinion, CILIP do not do enough to mitigate or respond to negative news stories about libraries, or to place positive ones
  • In my opinion, CILIP should be able to escape the echo-chamber and are not currently doing so with sufficient frequency or success (although they are moving in the right direction)
  • In my opinion, CILIP should not have allowed the first BBC Newsnight debacle to happen as it did because a: they should have had someone on Newsnight instead of a children’s author ‘representing’ libraries and b: they should have ensured Newsnight were NOT able to claim library circulation was 314,000 books per annum when in fact it was 314,000,000 – responding to this afterwards simply isn’t enough
  • In my opinion CILIP seem too much like ‘one of us’- ie indignant and often impotent. Our professional body needs to be ‘representing us’ – ie getting someone on the programmes that may cause damage to libraries’ reputation. Various CILIP people have said you can’t just ‘get’ someone on Newsnight (they were saying this off the cuff – it doesn’t represent an official CILIP statement) but that isn’t strong enough, for me. If you can’t, then CILIP needs to take steps to force a change of attitude and increase its influence.
  • In my opinion, that CILIP were unable to accept an invitation on to the second newsnight debacle is an absolute TRAVESTY. They were offered a 1 minute slot at very short notice, and couldn’t get anyone to the BBC studios to fill it – Newsnight were unwilling to settle for a video link. I appreciate those are difficult conditions. But you HAVE TO MAKE IT HAPPEN! By whatever means -surely someone could have taken a cab across London and stepped up? I can imagine that Newsnight thought, right, we got lots of angry corrections from CILIP when we messed up the last feature on libraries, so we know all about them this time and we’ll offer them a slot. Then they say no… So next time, we’ll go back to ignoring them.
    [EDIT: I've learned today - 25th June - that CILIP actually contacted Newsnight, rather than the other way round. So while clearly it's a shame that CILIP were unable to make it happen, it's much, much better that they were chasing the opportunity, rather than passively impotent and unable to respond to it..]
  • In my opinion, and apparently in the opinion of other library bodies too, it is not the members’ responsibility to face the media, it is CILIP’s
  • In my opinion, CILIP should be getting someone on the Dispatches programme, not trying to get its members on it – at least not on their own. I think calling for people to go on that programme, and to produce a 1 minute video explaining the value of libraries, is great. But it should be part of a supporting strategy of member advocacy, with a primary strategy of CILIP appearing in the media itself. To take a presidential analogy: it’s like we’re being asked to be the foot-soldiers in Obama’s famous harnessing of web 2.0, youtube, and the power of grass roots activism - but without Obama himself going out on the campaign trail to lead us.
  • In my opinion, CILIP seem unwilling to step up and assume a prominent role in the media
  • In my opinion, there have been opportunities in recent months for CILIP to step up, and it feels like a crippling sense of inertia is preventing them from doing so.  A change of culture is needed here.  Chief Exec Bob Mckee says:
    “It’s easy to sit back and say “CILIP should have been on Newsnight” or indeed on the Today programme on Tuesday morning. But how many of us could go head-to-head with Jeremy Paxman on live TV and give a clear and compelling justification of libraries and librarians in just one minute or less?”
    God knows, I couldn’t – but it only needs one of us! And that one of us should be employed by CILIP – it should be YOU if necessary. Is there no one in the organisation for whom the challenge of facing Paxman is an exciting opportunity rather than a prohibitively intimidating threat? If none of the current staff feel able to represent the whole industry in the media, appoint someone who is! And if that isn’t possible right now, make plans to do so when it is possible.
  • On the one hand you have someone like Phil Bradley being invited back onto Radio 5Live after a successful appearance, and basically offering to drag the post-Newsnight  response forward on CILIP’s behalf (see the comments section), on the other hand we have CILIP unable to grab Newsnight opportunities. Am I the only one who thinks there’s a problem here?

I really, really want feedback on this. Please tell me in the Comments whether you agree with me, or disagree with me, or know stuff I don’t know. I welcome all comment and debate on this, and I want CILIP to respond to this too. I wouldn’t normally ask this, but please tweet a link – - to this post  to encourage as many people as possible to engage in the conversation.

I have said before that I think we should not be so quick to attack CILIP, and that everyone I’ve met or spoken with who works for them is doing a great job. It’s very easy to criticise from the safety of a blog. I don’t want to belittle their efforts from the easy position of not having to represent an entire profession in the media. But, as I’ve said above, whether the problem is one CILIP is unable to control or is complicit in the perpetuation of, something has to change.


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  • Linda June 25, 2010 at 3:34 PM

    I am also disappointed by CILIP’s response. I have been a professional librarian for 20 odd years and over that time have heard many colleaques speak eloquently and passionately at numerous conferences/seminars/networking events. I don’t feel the problem is with the profession or lack of media savvy. CILIP must take responsibility for being unprepared. Just to take one sector, we all knew that there was a review into public libraries undertaken by the last government. We were all told cuts were coming during the election. Most of us could have taken an educated guess that libraries would be vulnerable. Why does it take one request from Newsnight for CILIP to spring into action. Many of us are busy making the case for our libraries every week as part of our daily jobs. Surely it is not too much to ask that our professional body shoulders the greater part of the burden in co-ordinating media responses and publicity at a national level.

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  • thewikiman June 25, 2010 at 9:48 PM

    Hi Linda – I’ve just edited the post, because I’ve just found out that CILIP contacted Newsnight, rather than had the request and failed to spring into action. So they took the lead, and proactively sought out the request – they couldn’t make it happen but still, that’s much more encouraging. So I’m choosing to be optimistic and think, yes, CILIP are taking the initiative and starting to take on more of the burden…

  • Hazel Roach Greenwood June 27, 2010 at 3:23 PM

    I would like CILIP to be an international organisation, then I think challenges would be addressed.
    Just a thought not a criticism. See my comment on Linked In.

  • Hazel Roach Greenwood June 30, 2010 at 2:25 PM

    I most certainly do not criticise CILIP I am asking this mentoring system to be more flexible.
    As a tutor for the ASA I mentored about 700 candidates unpaid between 1986 and 1998 these were teachers/coaches geographically scattered from Harrogate to Crystal Palace who required papers remarking and help plus my ever open door/telephone access if they were statemented to sit examinations. I am very proud to have given my time.

  • Ned Potter July 22, 2010 at 12:54 PM

    2nd and 3rd examples – the two damning Newsnight reports that were innacurate, but not challenged at the time. #echolib

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