What if you don’t get back what you put in?

I am, as you may know, a member of CILIP, the professional body for information professionals. There are two main reasons I’m a member.

  1. I am a Chartered librarian, and I take my commitment to maintaining this visible badge of my professionalism seriously. I have revalidated my Chartership within the previous assessment system, and I have submitted my Revalidation within the new system. To continue being a Chartered librarian, I must be a member of CILIP (although currently the commitment to continue to revalidate my Chartership is voluntary, and has been so for the length of my membership since approximately 2001). So I continue to be a member.
  2. I am a registered CILIP Mentor, and I help to guide those information professionals who are keen to be professionally qualified through the Chartership/professional qualifications process. I could not abandon midway through that process the people who are looking to me for guidance in their professional development. So I continue to be a member.

In fact – those two reasons I’ve outlined above are the only reasons I’m a CILIP member. As I demonstrated last year, I am perfectly capable of finding or creating my own CPD opportunities, whether I am supported in this by an employer or not, so I do not need to be a member of CILIP in order to develop my professional skills. As I am not a public or academic librarian, and as I am not based in London, any potential benefits CILIP may offer are pretty much non-existent for me, as I am based in Scotland, and a special librarian.*

I volunteer a lot of my own time to support the Chartership process through mentoring candidates – I give up evenings and weekends to read the portfolio materials of my mentees, I give feedback on their materials, I meet them in person if possible, and recently, in order to get to grips with the new professional qualifications structure, I have attended events (during the working day, which my employers generously allowed me to attend without taking annual leave), and I have spent time reading about and discussing with others the new professional qualifications structure. Last year, I estimate I spent between 30-40 hours on these types of mentoring activities alone. Others are likely to be giving a similar amount of time to the same type of activities, and others are involved in other areas, such as working on committees and acting as Candidate Support officers.

I pay £200 per year to be a member of CILIP, and in return…I work for them for free.

I am not trying to claim that I am alone in giving my own time to CILIP at all – I know there are a lot of people involved at Group level: running events and giving training to members, and sacrificing their own free time to do so. I can only speak from my own experiences of “working” for CILIP, but I really don’t know how the Branches or Groups or the Qualifications Board would work without this donation of their time by CILIPs members.

For the whole time that I’ve been a member of CILIP, whenever I have seen or engaged in discussions about what benefits it offers to members, the popular response to any complaint that CILIP doesn’t give enough back to its members is “you get back what you put in”, i.e. you have to give more to CILIP in order to get more back. But what happens if what you put in isn’t getting a comparable benefit value back? Is 30-40 hours of an annual time donation (or effectively a full working week) to my professional body worth me giving them £200 a year for? Why am I paying my professional body a substantial sum annually, for the privilege of them allowing me to work on their behalf? There also doesn’t seem to be a centralised policy on reimbursing the costs of volunteers on Committees and Groups (e.g travel expenses), so in effect some people could actually be paying over £200 a year, to volunteer for the benefit of their fellow professionals!

Therefore, this is my thought – if you are a membership body, and your members work to support you in the aims of your body by giving up their own free time, surely there must be some way of recognising and rewarding that? And isn’t the simplest way of doing this to offer a discount to those members working on your behalf?

So, my question now is – why doesn’t CILIP offer such a discount as standard to those members who work on its behalf? They know centrally from their systems who is a registered mentor, who is a Committee member etc – why can discounts not be offered to these members automatically?

Now, this isn’t (altogether) about money, although money is obviously a big factor, especially when CILIPs membership fees are so high (of the 4 professional bodies I’m a member of, CILIP is almost £100 more than the next most expensive annual fee), it is about recognising what your members are doing for you, and rewarding it. Could the Chartership system run if mentors, Candidate Support Officers and the Professional Qualifications assessors didn’t give up their time to do it, voluntarily? And what about the professional events that are run by the Groups – if those Committees didn’t organise events, what would CILIP be able to say were its benefits?

I do wonder too do other professional bodies rely on members volunteering to do some of their core functions, while charging high membership fees and not recognising those volunteers in any way? Do architects, accountants, pharmacists and surveyors rely on their members to give up their time for free in order for those bodies to run?

*Disclaimer – last year I won an award from CILIP, which came with a cash prize. This award was related to my mentoring activities, and was based on a written nomination from my mentee, judged by a panel. I did not expect this award, nor has it affected how I view my engagement with CILIP.

CPD overload

Last year, I accumulated almost 230 hours of Continuing Professional Development, or CPD, hours.

This total includes:

  • The time spent attending professional events
  • The time spent managing the development of the Informed website
  • The time spent creating content for Informed, my blog, and other locations
  • The time spent providing professional training to others
  • Time spent mentoring Chartership candidates

While I was doing this stuff, I also:

  • Lost one job suddenly
  • Started two new jobs
  • Applied for 100 jobs
  • Prepared for and attended multiple interviews
  • Completed the time consuming renovations of my house
  • Read 67 books

This isn’t a humblebrag, it’s just an example of what’s actually achievable in terms of professional activity and involvement, with a bit of motivation and organisation. My total is well in excess of the average professional body CPD requirement of 20 hours annually (prospectively, 20 hours annual CPD will be a requirement for Chartered CILIP members, to Revalidate and maintain a Chartership). If I could fit in that level of professional activity, while my whole life was in chaos, then the lower 20 hours target is likely to be achievable for most. To be engaged with your profession, you don’t have to give up your personal life, you just have to want to develop your professional life

Reluctantly professional

I try and pretend I’m not, and keep it well hidden, but actually, I can be quite Grown Up and Professional. So much so that I’m going to be Revalidating my Chartership this year – ohhh, get me, eh?

But…I am not-so-good at saying why I’m fabulous, or keeping up with collating my evidence of professional activity nice and accessible in a voluntary way, so I’ve got two things that are going to help me with Revalidation. The first is my employers internal appraisal system – as our Library service’s work is entirely internally focussed, it’s important to be able to demonstrate that we’re still maintaining a high standard of professionalism and awareness of activities and developments both in and outside our specialist fields. The appraisal system allows my boss and I to set realistic targets and activities, keep track of them, and update them as progress is achieved. All of which works nicely with the Revalidation process!

And second is teaming up with someone externally, to act as my informal mentor and Glamorous Cheerleader. The lovely Bethan Ruddock and I had been chatting online, and somehow the idea of us having a wiki to work together on to (initially) put our thoughts and writings into some sort of coherent order as good practice developed. We agreed on a wiki provider (PBWiki, my favourite one), and started cobbling together a vague plan for the layout – what were we doing this for / what did we want to get out of it / what had we done up to that point / what were we doing as we went along / what did we need to be doing. Then we started filling it with content (and occasional complaints), and working with each other to refine things.

A month or so into this, it was agreed that Revalidation was now an active appraisal goal for me this year, so suddenly the work on creating and populating the wiki that had just been Quite Useful was now Really Useful, and has continued to be so, as I’ve focussed my attention on Getting Things Done.

As a professional development tool, it’s been working really well for us – I get great feedback on the material I’m producing, help to refine ideas, suggestions on all sorts of stuff, and in return I get to pick on…erm….help Beth to organise her activities, focus on what she’s doing and why she’s doing it, and give feedback on her materials. Also…there may be a system of chocolate gifts for getting things done when they’re meant to be 😉

And, since we’re such nice, sharing gals, and Revalidation seems to be seen by quite a few people as quite a vague and woolly concept, we decided to create a publicly viewable version of our wiki, in the hope that it’ll maybe inspire people, and show that Revalidation’s not a Terrible Thing…especially not if you have a buddy to cheer you on in doing it. Of course, we removed any swear words or attached/sensitive documentation (it’s like Vegas – what happens on the wiki, stays on the wiki…)

So here it is, CPD For Manatees (so named by Beth because I am still firmly of the belief that the Chartering process involves a Manatee being overseen by a Mental).

It will be updated alongside our private wiki, so you can see how things come together…hopefully! And if you’re considering Chartership or Revalidation, I’d definitely recommend this as either a formal or informal mentoring tool – leave a comment or email me directly if you’d like to discuss anything about what Beth and I have been doing.

Thing 5 – mirror, mirror

For Thing 5, we’ve to reflect: on what we did, what we learned, and what we can take forward from it.

So…what have I learned so far?

To be honest…not a huge amount, yet. As an active blogger, Tweeter, and user of RSS feeds, the only thing new to me that the programme has thrown up so far is Pushnote, which I decided not to trial for the reasons I stated before.

Is this a bad thing though?
No – every new activity needs to build up its participants from basics, and I knew when I signed up that the early stages were unlikely to provide anything new for me. It’s the later Things that I expect will be more relevant to me, so this will still develop into an interesting activity to be a part of.

Although I have noticed that I’ve already slipped back into “minimal commenting” mode again – after the second cdps23 post, which encouraged comments on posts, I’ve not really been posting many comments. This is probably because I don’t really have time to do much more than skim through them in my feed reader during breaks – it’s only posts that really catch my eye that make me click through to the actual blog in order to make a comment. But that’s fine with me – I’ve now got more interesting library feeds in my reader than I did before this, and they’re a manageable amount for me.

But, how am I at being reflective anyway?

Although the material from it doesn’t appear here,  I do already take part in my employers appraisal system…this involves identifying me and my service’s development needs, deciding how to meet them, and providing regular updates on my progress towards those goals. This system supported and helped me to manage my activities when compiling my Portfolio for my Chartership submission, and is also helping me as I work towards Revalidation. The need to identify issues, act on them, and produce supporting documentation on the outcome (including any problems) mean I’m constantly assessing where I am, where I should be, and how I’ll get to where I should be .

I’m also working with Bethan Ruddock on a wiki we set up to allow us to informally mentor each other (for Revalidation for me, and eventual-Chartership for her), and help manage our professional activities….and make sure we manage to schedule in time to reflect on what we’re doing professionally (or not doing!), why we’re doing it, and we write up the evidence of the process soon after we do it. Working like this also allows the other wiki participant to give suggestions and feedback, which can be incorporated into further professional activities and materials.

So, I feel like I’ve got both a formal, employer-based system that encourages me to reflect in order to provide evidence of participation in that system, and an informal, voluntary system that does the same.

And with the informal system, I get chocolate when I’ve been a good girl  😉