Wednesday 11 December 2013

Advocacy: Let’s shout about Libraries!

For November’s Cilip in the Thames Valley event, we had Barbara Band, CILIP Vice-President, to talk to us about advocacy in the library profession.

To start off the talk, Barbara updated us all with changes going on in CILIP. To start off with, CILIP are keeping with their original name, despite the big re-branding project that saw us vote for a range of new names for the organisation. A new website has been made, and new changes made to the chartership and certification processes. Barbara was keen to note that chartership does differ from an academic qualification in Librarianship – the idea being that through certification and chartership, everyone can be at a certain level, regardless of whether they have degrees of postgraduate qualifications.  The revalidation process has also been updated – it’s free, and involves 20hrs of recorded CPD, and a 250 word statement. Finally, Barbara emphasised the need for members of CILIP to vote in presidential teams and councils, and to take an active role in organisation.

Next is on to the main topic of the evening – advocacy. Barbara spoke about the different interpretations as to what this mean, and its relative terms – petitioning, arguing, promoting, and defending. This can mean speaking out on behalf or someone or something, but also to argue for a cause, policy or idea. It should not always be a one-off thing, but a continual process. Barbara noted that library professionals are not always good at self-advocacy, but it is important for us to speak out about our jobs, and support the profession as a whole.

But why is this so important? Well, Barbara noted that the image we present affects how other people view us (we all know the stereotype of the woman in a twin-set shushing people). It is important for us to inform and educate people about libraries and the benefits of having good library services, and broaden our profile as a profession.

So, what is the best way to advocate the library profession?

An important and obvious way is through social media, particularly Twitter. Barbara spoke about the best times to tweet to get particular messages out (send the message out 4 times in a day – in the morning, lunchtime, after work, and late at night before bed).  We all know how quickly messages can spread through Twitter, and you never know where your Tweet will end up! Although not everyone on your followers list will be a librarian, sending library-related messages out will be advocating to people who aren’t in the profession. Also – the simplest message is often the most powerful!

Barbara also noted that it is important to think about target audience when advocating – for example, your approach to speaking to students will be often be very different when speaking and advocating to governors.

It is equally important to advocate yourself in the workplace as well, especially if you are part of a larger organisation, e.g. a school or college. It is important to keep others in the workplace updated as to what the library staff have achieved, targets that have been met, new projects introduced etc.  Don’t let the library be overlooked!

Finally, Barbara spoke about how advocacy is a two way process – CILIP can advocate for all sectors and need to do their bit – likewise, librarians and information professionals need to get involved in CILIP, through branches and groups, and play an active role.

At the end of Barbara’s talk, we had a brief chat from Sarah, from the Federation of Children’s Books Group – a national charity that holds a book prize every year, in which children are the only judges! They aim to support and encourage reading for children of all ages, through local reading groups, author visits to school, the Red House book award, and local events. Sarah brought some of the winning books from this year’s awards event, all of which engrossed the group! To find out more about the FCBG, visit

Overall, a good event was had by all, with inspiring talks by Barbara and Sarah. Thanks to both speakers for a great evening!

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