In the interest of taking part in some face-to-face networking for Thing 7, this week I attended the CILIP East of England networking event in Cambridge. It was a very successful event and there were quite a lot of people there, some of whom I already knew from other Cambridge libraries, but also a fair number of unfamiliar faces. Also present at the event were some representatives from CILIP, so I took the opportunity of quizzing them about the benefits of membership.
As I mentioned in my previous post, I am not yet a member of CILIP – although CILIP would be my first choice if I ever decided to join a professional organisation. I’m aware of the potential benefits that CILIP membership offers, but I have also found that many of these benefits can be obtained in other ways, and without the need to pay a subscription fee. In addition, I feel that some of the benefits offered by CILIP membership are not ones which are useful to me at this stage in my career. I’ll try to explain what I mean below.
Benefit 1: Professional organisations provide opportunities for networking.
It is definitely true that professional organisations can put you in touch with other people within your profession. However, I feel that social networking tools such as Twitter already provide me with lots of networking opportunities. In addition to Twitter, I have also just joined the CILIP group on LinkedIn, which appears to be a very active group of people who are having interesting and in-depth discussions. This online group allows me to connect with CILIP members without having to pay to be a member myself, which is really useful. Not being a member of CILIP also does not preclude me from attending networking events, such as the New Professionals Conference or New Professionals Information Days, so in this respect I don’t really feel that non-membership is a barrier to face-to-face networking.
Benefit 2: Professional organisations provide opportunities for training and development.
I’ve heard that the training courses offered by CILIP are excellent and I would definitely choose to attend them if I could. However, I’ve found that these courses are also open to non-members, and although you do get a discount on the courses if you belong to CILIP, for me this isn’t really a benefit because the course fees are still far beyond my budget even with the discount. I have heard that some of the CILIP Special Interest Groups offer courses which are more affordable and this is something which I am planning to look into. In the mean time, free online courses such as CPD23, as well as free training sessions offered by my current institution, are enabling me to continue to develop new knowledge and skills.
Benefit 3: Professional organisations provide structured professional development and qualifications.
CILIP wins this round – I will need to become a member if I want to become a chartered librarian. I don’t have a problem with this though, because here CILIP genuinely has something to offer me – something which gives me a worthwhile reason to pay my membership fees. However, as I am only due to begin studying for my MA qualification in September, chartership is something I won’t be considering for quite a while yet! As such, I’m not certain what CILIP membership has to offer me at the present time.
Benefit 4: Professional organisations have formal publications.
CILIP does publish a monthly newsletter for members only and I have also read that membership gives you access to some online databases of library and information science journals, which could potentially be very useful for librarians who are interested in research. However, CILIP does also publish a great deal of information that is open access, which is a definitely positive thing despite it being another disincentive for me to part with any membership money. For the next year I also expect to have access to library journals as part of my MA programme, so I probably won’t need to subscribe to CILIP for these just yet.
Benefit 5: Membership of a professional organisation looks good on your CV.
One reason that people often give me when I ask about the value of being a member of CILIP is that it looks good to potential employers. In other words, employers see CILIP membership as symbolic of the fact that you are serious about your profession. However, I don’t think that the status of ‘being serious about your profession’ is something you can necessarily buy. If that were true, I could pay my CILIP membership fees and that would be enough. I prefer to think that my seriousness about my profession is communicated by what I do to get involved – such as blogging, attending conferences and networking events, keeping up to date with current issues, and taking part in continuing professional development programmes. I can do all of these things without necessarily being a member of CILIP and I definitely don’t think that non-membership should suggest that you aren’t fully engaged with your profession.
So, these are all the reasons why I haven’t yet decided to become a member of CILIP. However, despite all of this, the conversation which I had with the CILIP representatives at the Cambridge networking event has made me reconsider whether CILIP has anything to offer me at this stage in my career.
We discussed the opportunities that membership provides for getting involved in voluntary activities such as committee work. I have to admit that this initially didn’t sound like a very thrilling opportunity to me – I have been secretary to various committees in the past and am not overly fond of writing minutes. However, the enthusiastic CILIP reps explained that I wouldn’t have to take minutes if that role didn’t appeal to me (phew), but that as a committee member I could participate in discussions and decision-making. I learned that CILIP committees discuss issues relevant to libraries and librarians within their regional areas, as well as planning events such as the New Professionals Conference, which was organised by the Career Development Group, a sub-group of CILIP.
This all sounds potentially very interesting to me, and I think that involvement in one of CILIP’s committees could definitely add something valuable to my existing work experience. As such, I may yet decide to take advantage of the cheap student membership rates and become a member of CILIP when I start my course in September. However, whether I will have enough time for committee work in addition to my full-time MA is another matter entirely! I think that we will just have to wait and see…