Phil Bradley and Edwina Smart are contesting the upcoming CILIP Vice Presidential Elections. You can read more about Phil here, and read more about Edwina here - for now though, let's get straight on with the exclusive LISNPN interview...
Let’s start with the obvious one – what it is about the current library landscape that made you want to run for the Vice Presidency now?
Phil Bradley: It’s in part the old curse ‘May you live in interesting times’. Libraries are under threat, not only from budget cuts, but from the ill thought out but pervasive theory of ‘it’s all on Google, why do we need libraries/librarians?’ and of course because the traditional storage medium of the book is also beginning to look unstable as e-books and magazines begin to take hold. Now, we can perceive these as threats, or we can view the situation we’re in as opportunities to review everything – what we do as a profession, how we do it, and which tools we use. Defining our professional future has helped with that of course, but we need to do more. I want librarians to be as proactive as possible ‘the librarian militant’ as Dewey said; we have a great opportunity to point out just how much information (good bad and indifferent) is flooding onto the internet every second and that we’re in the best position to make sense out of it, to organise, arrange and make it available for client groups. We also have to point out that sometimes the best answer can still be found from books!
Edwina Smart: Because I have been an activist for Cilip in a variety of roles from Chartership Support Officer, Chair of a CDG Region, Chartership Board Member and Trustee for many years .The current library and information landscape is a challenging one with the profession under great threat and destruction from the perception that you can Google everything, why visit or use a library information service when you can Google? I feel that as someone working at the frontline with wide cross sectoral experience through my teaching and mentoring I can offer the role of Vice President a great deal of knowledge, experience and commitment.
I’ve heard differing reports as to just how much responsibility the President has. What’s your view on the amount of power you’d expect to be able to wield?
Edwina: Although the question uses the phrase power, I don’t see it as such because as President the amount of power is limited to the responsibilities of the Office linked to the laws of the Institute. Currently the President has responsibility for the Audit Panel for financial matters and governance. The Elections Panel for election process to CILIP Council from the call for nominations to the declaration of results. The Equal Opportunities and Diversity Panel, and the Ethics Panel. The President represents the Institute at functions, co-ordinates the work of each of the Panels reporting to the Office of the President and sits ex-officio on each of these Panels. The power of the President is not to be confused with that of the role of Leader of Council and that of the Chief Executive of Cilip. It is a partnership. It is not a case of power but accepting responsibility and using my experience of working with the variety of groups within the organisation to benefit all members.
Phil: It’s important to emphasis the difference between power and influence. In terms of voting, there is no power; that’s what the Trustees are for. However, in terms of influence and encouragement, that’s a rather different matter. I think that it’s important to emphasis the value of libraries, librarians and indeed the roles of anyone who works with information, and to enthuse them. It’s also important to be able to do a certain amount of visionary work, and to empower people to look beyond the here and now, and to prepare for careers that in some cases will be stretching into the middle of the century. The role of the Presidential team should be to assist in this – to help provide ideas, to listen to the things that CILIP members have to say, to put them into context and feed them back – not only to the Trustees but also to the membership at large via Update, other printed materials, talking at conferences, blogging and tweeting. I think it’s the role of the President to ask questions as often as it is to try and answer them.
One other point about this over which I feel very strongly – whatever power or influence the President has can only come from the membership, and the more that the membership gets involved – in this instance by voting – the louder the voice of the President. I think it’s absolutely vital that as many CILIP members as possible vote; not only to show CILIP staff, the Trustees, the President, but also each other – how important this role actually is.
What do you hope to achieve over the three years, and in the Presidential role in particular?
Phil: CILIP is often criticised for being old fashioned, backwards and out of touch, and I’d like to do my best to change that perception. It’s time for new ideas, approaches and methods. I would want to spend time looking at good examples of what librarians and libraries are doing and help to make others aware of their innovations. I think that it’s important that CILIP provides a lead in the use of new technologies and social media by involving staff and the membership in their use. I’d also like to see CILIP encourage the use of technologies by adopting them whenever possible and supporting members who are trying to get their organisation to adopt them. I’d like to see CILIP looking at innovative ways of increasing the use of the library – becoming involved in National Comic book day for example, or a national gaming in libraries event. I also want to see CILIP appeal more to those who are doing non-traditional information jobs, such as consultants and trainers (not of course forgetting that I am one!) I’d like to explore ways of increasing the CILIP presence outside of London, and to be able to counter the understandable criticism that it’s London-centric.
Libraries are in the news a lot at the moment, but all too often CILIP isn’t included in those conversations, and has no direct representation. This is something that I’d like to change as soon as possible, either by providing the media with a CILIP representative, or by pointing them to librarians who are actively involved in protecting their library services – not just within the public sector but in any setting where libraries are being threatened.
People who have read my books or read my columns know that I’m very much of a practical mind; I like making things work, teaching people how to do things and providing them with the knowledge and information to go off and create great resources for themselves. CILIP needs to support people to do more with less, to stand up for colleagues by providing practical advice and information and to be a loud voice saying that we all have a right to information, and we all have a right to libraries.
Edwina: Over the three years I would hope to act as a positive role model for members and act as an ambassador for the Institute across the Library and Information world. The Presidential year would be my opportunity to visit in person as many branches, groups and external organisations that invite me to advocate strongly the value of professionally qualified Librarians and Information specialists and their value to society. Over the three years I would like to see the organisation become financially secure, able to respond to the ever changing challenges and new technologies without forgetting our past.
CILIP is going through something of a difficult time – what do you see as the positives about the organisation, and what do you think needs to change?
Edwina: Positives we are diverse and welcoming to all areas and levels of librarianship and information workers.
We have a world class raft of qualifications, recognised to be of a high quality and value.
We have a wide range of activities from training to publishing that raises a great deal of money.
We need to have quicker and stronger methods of counteracting negative media stories
We need to use political advocacy, all parties should speak to us
We need to change the perception of what library and information workers do in society and what values we offer to all sectors of society
Phil: The organisation is well positioned within the range of other organisations that work in this area to stand up for librarians and information workers. It has a recognised, authoritative and respected voice (although one that needs to be rather louder than it has been), and is staffed by enthusiastic and hard working people. The staff need to be encouraged to interact more with the membership using social media. I’d like to see CILIP act like a ‘drop in’ centre for librarians who happen to be visiting London, and I would also like to see them providing access to new technology, such as an iPad, for members to play with.
CILIP needs to worry less about ‘getting it right first time’ and more about getting the message out there. It needs to widen its appeal and to become much more involved with advocacy, across all sectors. To be fair, it is starting to do this already and the consultation exercise earlier this year has given us a really clear idea of where the membership wants us to go, and it’s vitally important that CILIP heeds that message. I intend to do everything that I possibly can to ensure that it does that, regardless of elections.
This is an interview for the New Professionals Network so we have to ask this one… In terms of your impact on us and engagement with us, what can we New Professionals expect from your tenure if elected?
Phil: Although it’s perhaps a trite comment, newly and recently qualified professionals are the lifeblood of the profession. When I first qualified I always felt that the Library Association (as CILIP was then) was very much a closed shop, and unless you had years of experience working in libraries your voice wasn’t heard because it wasn’t seen as important. Thankfully that’s changing, and I’m really enthused by watching what new professionals are doing. It’s why I’m keen and happy to freely give as much of my time as possible to events such as the New Professionals Information Day that was recently held here in London, and next month in Newcastle. I want to see new professionals getting involved with CILIP, both at the local level, but also at the national level by standing as Trustees and also future Presidents; I think it would be great to have someone in that role who was closer to the start of their career than to the end of it.
Edwina: Recognition that we are not perfect, we are willing and able to change, we need you to be inside the organisation and value what you bring without losing those things that made us what we are.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Edwina: Feel free to contact me by
Phone 01443 402804
Follow me on Twitter @sillymidoff1
In person Pontypridd Library Library Road Pontypridd
Phil: I am not a traditional librarian, by any stretch of the imagination. However, I have worked with the profession for my entire career, and within the last 15 years or so have spent all my time teaching librarians the length and breadth of the country. I have spent time with public librarians, academic librarians, corporate librarians, school and government librarians. I’ve spent time abroad teaching at the European Parliament, and I’ve run courses for librarians and library staff in Africa, the Middle East, the Far East and Latin America. I talk to search engine providers such as Microsoft and enjoy new technology as much as traditional print and paper resources. I believe that asking questions is as important as answering them. I am continually in awe of what librarians can achieve, and what they do on a regular day to day basis; it’s a profession I’m extremely proud to be involved with.
If anyone has particular questions for me which I’ve not already answered, you’re more than welcome to get involved with the e-hustings that CILIP is arranging, or you can email me directly at email@example.com if I can give you an answer I would be most happy to do so.
Thank you both very much! LISNPN members - if you're a member of CILIP, please vote in the elections...