First off, I am, as ever, pro CILIP. I’ve written one post before which criticises (constructively) the organisation, but have defended it on far more occasions. Second off, I know Annie Mauger is not responsible for these changes, so I hope nobody blames her.
So. MSU is to close, and a few people will lose their jobs. Among these people are Kathy Ennis and Lyndsay Rees-Jones – two of the most familiar faces in the organisation for a lot of us. I don’t know how many employees CILIP has in total – it has so many roles, so many units and sections – but I do know that I can count the number of them I’ve met, or could identify on sight, on my fingers. These people, the ones we actually KNOW, are so important to an organisation whose role, purpose, intentions and procedures are often ambiguous to a lot of people, or hard to define and communicate. They literally put a face to a corporation. They are the first human contact many people have with CILIP. And they are enthusiastic, kind, forward-thinking, generous with their time, and incredibly positive. Because of that, I know THEY will be fine. But it is a huge, huge loss to the organisation that they are going.
I know that very difficult decisions have to be made in tough times. I just don’t think this will save CILIP money in the long term. Because people will let their membership lapse, or not join in the first place, without MSU as a ‘way in’ to a sometimes intangible organisation. For New Professionals in particular, we get a lot of contact with CILIP through the events MSU organise. That will be gone now. Also, MSU generally dealt with positive, uplifting things, such as organising the New Professionals Information Days. (Don’t worry, the Newcastle one will still go ahead, by hook or by crook.) Whereas other parts of CILIP aren’t so lucky to be always dealing with positive stuff – my impression of the training and development section, for example, is that it is seen as stupendously expensive per course. Others share that impression, and now MSU won’t be around to take your mind off that, or counteract it.
I’ve written before that I think CILIP has its flaws but that everyone I’ve actually met who works there is really great. If they get rid of those people, you’re just left with a bitter taste. Also, they seem to be getting rid of the people who actually use social media. Not the best message to send out when the organisation seeks to move into the future and to be seen as modern, tweeting away, and in-touch. Talking of messages – what does it say about CILIP’s view of us, the members, that our support unit isn’t worth bothering with? Sad times.
On a personal note, I will be really, really sad to see Kathy and Lyndsay go. CILIP HQ will be a less welcoming place without them. They have both given me lots of encouragement, and had a big influence on my professional activities. The fact that they are interested in what we as New Profs have to say, and encourage our ideas – for me, that validates the confidence I have in myself. We New Profs have a great community, full of energy, we build momentum and feed off each other. But personally, I feel more confident, more emboldened, to try and make things happen, when my ideas are also respected by more senior professionals too. Kathy has invested in me, got me involved in almost all the really exciting things I’ve done – and the other things I’ve done which haven’t stemmed directly from her, such as setting up a Network for New Professionals, I probably only had the confidence to do because of catalysts that came from her (and Lyndsay, and other senior professionals who have given me their time, such as Elspeth and Debby at CILIP, and Phil Bradley, and Andy Priestner).
New Professionals are vital for CILIP ‘s continued relevance, and even existence. CILIP have mentioned recently that advertising revenues are down, so membership fees are a vital source of income. They need us. I really hope that this change, and the people it removes, doesn’t result in a lack of engagement from the New Professional sector.