Recruitment, standards and CILIP

In the comments to Tim Coates’ post on CILIP/MLA, Verity Penglais argues that no-one would notice if CILIP went, except insofar as money from dues would go back into frontline services.

Leaving aside the charming assumption that councils would use money they currently spend on CILIP fees to boost frontline services, there is the issue of recrutiment.

Penglais notes that many libraries are employing people who don’t have CILIP accredited qualifications, and that people don’t notice. Maybe they don’t, but in itself that’s not a good argument for primarily employing people with no library experience or study background. I’ve nothing against employing shop workers ( I was one myself, and the experience was helpful) it’s the assumptions underlying this practice and the calls for deprofessionalisation that concern me.

I have said in the past that I don’t want a ‘closed shop’, but I am concerned when it’s assumed that ‘life experience’ or analogous experience can be used as an argument against any sort of qualification structure. It’s of a piece with ‘how hard can it be to be a librarian?’ I mean, if you’ve got retail experience you can do it, cos it’s sort of like a shop eh? Or, if you’ve worked with children you’re bound to be great! Don’t fancy CPD in librarianship? Why worry, it’s not rocket science is it? Soon there’ll be no librarianship anyway; just lots of lovely books and computers and smily staff who’ll soon be off to HMV or a bookshop or some other Temple of the Cheap and Bland…

You can see the effects of this thinking in school libraries. It’s assumed that pretty much anyone can do it, so no quals are demanded by many schools.

Now, this does not mean there are no good unqualified school librarians; but what it often means is that the people in post are there for the other benefits rather than a desire to develop really good libraries. And what respect can librarians command in a school when they do not hold a qualification in their field as the teachers do?

And simply channeling money to ‘the frontline’ will ultimately have the paradoxical effect of making services worse. You’ll have a few more people on the desk, but what of the people who do the service planning, the networking and the firefighting? Or will your new, cheaper desk staff do that too?

I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask that a structure be in place for training and CPD. CILIP could do a good job of this, if it were slimmed down radically. Getting rid of it is just of a piece with an ‘all must have prizes’ model of a lovely flat organisation where we all mean the same and (oh so coincidentally) can be paid a lot less. No need for qualifications or librarians indeed. Or librarianship.

Other people have accepted this sort of thing, we are told, so why can’t we dinosaur librarians do so? Because it wasn’t always right then, for one…

There has to be some realistic replacement for CILIP, not just giving it a kicking then claiming the money saved will make services better.

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2 Responses to Recruitment, standards and CILIP

  1. The telling phrase for me was “Now, this does not mean there are no good unqualified school librarians”. Although I may be stretching the point a bit, this surely admits that a qualification is not really necessary. There is a sore need for library skills, not library qualifications.

    Also, respect is not a good enough reason for a qualification. Qualifications show you can do something ; respect has to earned by doing.

  2. Pete says:

    Thanks for commenting 🙂
    I think both quals and skills are necessary tbh. We need to reform library education somewhat, so that the two come into line.
    As for respect, I agree. To a point. But there is a baseline respect issue; the respect you start off with. And that is often (not always)low in schools if you don’t have a qual. I speak as a former teacher and the partner of a school librarian.
    It is not simply that you need quals to be a good librarian. Rather that backing up those skills with quals and a CPD framework keeps those skills relevant and gives you some kudos.

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