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I’ve just written a post for the SLA blog (in my role as candidate for board of directors), about what being a member of SLA has done for me, personally and professionally. In, it, I said:

Winning an SLA Europe Early Career Conference Award (ECCA), attending conference, and working with the SLA Europe board made a huge difference to how I viewed professional associations. Before this, I’d thought along the lines of ‘what can my professional association do for me?’. My gratitude for all SLA and its members had done for me in my ECCA experience flipped this to ‘what can I do for my professional association?’.

This made me think of this post by Emily Wheeler. Emily’s main point is about CILIP’s current fee structure, and how unfair it seems that the membership bands stop at £17,501, and that everyone over this pays the same (which I totally agree with – but, with my new ‘thinking about things on an association-level’ hat on, I’d suggest that before any changes are suggested to the current fee band structure, CILIP would need to do a salary survey, and work out how many members they have in various bands over £17,501 (eg £25k+, £30k+), and how much a rise in fees for these bands could sustain a reduction in fees in lower-bands, while not producing a drop in overall membership income. So while I do think it needs to change, I don’t think it’s a particularly quick job).

As part of thinking about the fee structure, the question arises of ‘what do you get for your money?’, and Emily rightly points out:

The saying goes that if you put more in to CILIP, you get more out. But not everyone has the time, transport or money to get involved in committees, special interest groups, conferences and so on, which means that through no fault of their own they’re not benefiting nearly as much from their membership fee – they’re essentially getting a very expensive magazine subscription.

Now, I agree with Emily, and I started nodding in agreement, thinking how lucky I was that I was able to be involved with these things – and then realised that, although my work and personal circumstances would allow me to be, I’m actually not involved in any of these things for CILIP. Serving on the Future Skills project board is my only CILIP committee work. I’ve never been to a CILIP conference that I haven’t been speaking or working at. I’m a Chartership mentor, but this is done remotely, and takes less than an hour a month.

I have got benefits from all of these, it’s true, but none of them are why I’m a CILIP member, though I guess the mentoring comes closest. It’s hard to define, but I guess I’m a CILIP member because it feels like my professional responsibility to be. I’m lucky enough to have the time and the money to afford CILIP membership and involvement. I’m one of those fortunate souls who would be moved into a higher bracket come a fee restructure – and, entirely honestly, I wouldn’t mind, especially if it would mean I was paying the same proportion of my salary as someone on a lower wage.

And what do I want to get for my money? Well, I don’t mind at all if the only concrete return I get for my membership is access to Update and the right to use the postnominals MCLIP. I wouldn’t mind if I didn’t even get that, or anything – as long as I felt that CILIP were using my membership fees for the greater good, to support other professionals and further the cause of library and information provision in the UK.

Let’s just take one small ‘for instance’ from some of the stuff CILIP does to support individual professionals and their development. CILIP often covers the expenses of invited speakers at its events. Do I want my membership fees to be used to enable someone who otherwise couldn’t afford to attend and present? To help them share their knowledge and gain professional experience? Absolutely! Do I want my membership fees to be used by special interest groups to offer bursaries to those who can’t afford to attend events? Yes! Do I want my fees to be used to help underwrite the cost of providing training and events for Chartership candidates? And providing access to free careers advice for those who need it? And access to journals and databases for those who don’t have access through their employer? Yes, yes, yes! I can’t reach out and help each of those members who need it individually – but I can help CILIP provide services which support them all.

In short, I’m a CILIP member for the same reasons I’m a member of my union: because I believe in (most of) what they do, and how they help people who need it. I don’t (and may never) need that help myself, but I’m very happy to help those who do, and help to provide a strong voice to say ‘We stand for this. We care.’

Of course, you may disagree that CILIP adequately supports and promotes the profession. That’s absolutely your right to believe so. And I know that I am very lucky to be able to make this kind of idealogical investment, and I’m not out to chastise or castigate anyone for not doing so. But I do believe that we are, at heart, a profession which is about providing support where it is needed, and membership of professional associations is one way for me to do that.

I’m delighted to be involved with the project board for the CILIP Future Skills project. It’s a really important project: to make sure that CILIP’s qualifications, Body of Professional Knowledge, and Accreditation and Seal of Recognition schemes are meeting and reflecting the needs of CILIP members from all sectors, and at all stages of their career.

The project board’s role is to advise on the project at high-level, while the project team at CILIP will be doing the really hard work – research, talking to members, implementing suggestions etc. That’s not to say the project board aren’t working hard, too! I’ve now been to two meetings, and found them both to be interesting and productive.

I knew that getting involved with this project would be great for my professional development, as well as a brilliant opportunity to help guide the future of CILIP: a chance to get to know the CILIP framework inside out; learn about areas and sectors I didn’t know much about; represent new professionals, people who’ve recently chartered, and those in non-traditional roles; meet and work with some lovely and fascinating people. What I didn’t realise was that it would also be a crash course in project management!

Most of the project work I’ve done so far has either been with no defined methodology (such as working with Voices for the Library), or projects at Mimas where I’ve been doing the work, but haven’t been involved in high-level strategy or planning. But I’ve just started managing a project for the Archives Hub, so I’m really keen to get some tips and see a great project in action.

And I’ve been really impressed by the way the project is being run. Project Manager Simon Edwards obviously has a lot of experience making things run smoothly, and other project board members seem to know their way around PRINCE 2, too! It’s odd to see things that I’d only ever read about in theory in action, such as the time: resources: quality triangle. When someone says ‘well, we can’t increase resources, and we’re not willing to compromise on quality, so we’ll need to extend the time axis if we can’ it suddenly all makes sense! (well, (in theory) it made sense in theory too, but it’s much more real when it’s, umm, real)

So, for project management noobs like me, here’s some of what I’ve learned so far:

1) Gantt charts don’t have to start on Mondays. This is one of those things that seem blindingly obvious once you’ve seen it, but that I’d just never have thought of for myself. The Gantt charts for this project have the week end date in the date columns, meaning the focus is on deadlines. I also find it useful this way – as the project board is meeting on Fridays, it means I can easily associate activities and deadlines with project board meetings. I’m sure you could use any interval or period you liked – meetings on a Weds? Start your weeks then! Meetings every 10 days? Make your date periods 10 days instead of 7. I don’t know to what extent these latter tweaks would be considered good practice, but I think it’s something I’d find useful.

2) The time you block out on a Gantt chart doesn’t have to be solid. The Gantt charts I’ve always seen/produced have had sections of time blocked out in solid lumps, like this:

Now, this is fine if each of those tasks really is going to take the whole week, but that’s often not the case! It might be that there’s just a single day’s work to be done, or nothing can be done until the second half of the week. How to indicate that? Here’s Simon’s method:

Simple and effective! And if you start using different colours, your Gantt chart could become a thing of beauty! What colours might you use?

3) RAG everything. No, that doesn’t mean wild and wacky fundraising activities – it stands for ‘Red, Amber, Green’, and is a way to visually represent progress and status of a project. Green means everything’s ok; amber is an activity at risk; and red means that something has gone wrong – a target not met, or a resource not available.

I’ve used similar colour-coding systems in the past, but I’ve never come across a project where basically everything has a RAG status. It means that it’s easy for us to see at a glance where the potential problems are – and (hopefully!) to deal with them before they become actual problems. And all of this is recorded in the…

4) Project Journal. Again, not an entirely new concept – various school/college/uni projects have involved keeping a diary of progress – but one I’ve never actually used before. (I used to make all of my project diaries up. I’m sure everyone did. And for those of us who were schooled before the ubiquity of word processing – remember writing some entries in different pens so it looked less like you’d written it all the night before it was due in? Fun times.)

But when you’re working in a group, on a large-scale project, suddenly you realise that your teachers might actually have been right: there is a need to keep a record of what’s been done, when and by who. It’s a place where all project members can be kept up-to-date with what’s going on in various areas of the project, and everyone has a chance to learn from everything that’s been done.

Combined with the Lessons Learned Log (the space for reflective practice about the project) it will also help with the planning of future projects, recording not only the methodology but the reasons for that methodology and how successful it was. Simon describes the reasoning for the documentation: ‘using a combination of the Project Journal (the story), the Highlight report, (the latest headlines) and the Project Plan (the map) literally anyone should be able to come in and pick up from where I left off’

There’s still a long way to go on the project, and I’m sure I’ll be learning loads more as it goes along!

If you’d like to know more about the Future Skills project, or get involved, you can contact the project team.

I’m about to head off for a meeting with Research by Design, to discuss my thoughts in ‘The Conversation‘ stage of the CILIP ‘Defining our professional future‘ programme.

Like Joeyanne, I thought it would be useful to blog some of my ideas about the 3 questions. These are basically the notes I’ve made for the interview, prettied-up a bit for public consumption. Don’t expect deathless prose!

What will the knowledge and information sector look like in 2020?

To a large extent this depends on what technology will look like in 2020, and none of us can predict that – if we could, we’d be making a fortune somewhere else! It also depends on the political situation, and as, we’ve seen over the past week, that can be extremely volatile and unpredictable.

I think adaptability, flexibility, and the willingness to learn will become increasingly important. I know one of the goals of this programme is to help CILIP prepare for the future, but we do have to be willing to accept that we can’t know – we need to be prepared for unexpected changes.

And there’s no doubt that there will be changes. It may be a stereotype, that librarians guard books, and guard them closely, because once the books are gone, so is their power, but it – unfortunately – has some basis in truth.

Well, now, if ever, the books are going. they’re out there, on the internet, with no need for registers or white cotton gloves. No order slips, and queues for the catalogues, no respectful hushed silence. And we need to change to adapt to this.

What we do may change, why we do it won’t. I strongly hope that many of the changes that come about between now and 2020 are as a result of information professionals proactively pushing for positive change, and not merely reacting to circumstances.

I think one major change will be more sectoral convergence – we’ve already seen a merger of the Society of Archivists, the NCA and the ACALG, to produce the Archives and Records Association (UK and Ireland). While this is more of an in-sector merger, and I don’t predict that CILIP will merge with anyone in the near future, I think it’s indicative of a trend, and we’ll see a lot of roles that overlap. CILIP already offers Society of Archivists members discounts on courses (the same discount as CILIP members).

Linked to this, I think we’ll also see an increase in solo professionals – possibly doing the work of a librarian, an archivist, a record manager, a knowledge manager, an information officer – probably not all at once, but yes, I think there’ll be a rise in these hybrid roles. The professional association will need to support this – solo professionals need a different kind of support.

Where will a professional association fit into this sector?

They need to support their members through these changes. Risk management & change management training and strategies.

Knowledge management: as information professionals, we know that people are valid – and valuable! – resources. A professional association will need to manage their members’ knowledge and expertise, make sure it’s being made the best use of. This will involve encouraging member participation – ultimately, I feel, the association’s real value lies in its members.

As training budgets continue to shrink, I think the professional associations will need to find innovative ways to provide free/cheap training. A lot of this will come from members/activists. I heard a talk on the SHARE project recently, and think it’s a great model for moving forward. Museums in the East of England are sharing training and expertise by setting up a ‘skills bank’, into which each museum deposits as much professional time as it can afford – say 3 hours of conservator time. This is then used to provide free training and development activities, as well as practical help. I think there’s a lot of potential for a similar scheme in the library sector.

How will you engage with this professional association?

Virtually/remotely – travel will become much less feasible. This means they have to be at cutting edge of remote communications technology.

In many ways, the role of the association would be to facilitate my networking – put me in touch with other members who can help me. So I’d expect it to be very much a 2-way interaction – not just me wanting to see what the association can do for me, but the association engaging with me, and finding out what I can do for the profession. And then encouraging me to do so!

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