Those long suffering readers of this blog will know that I have had a word or two to say about CILIP over the years, so it was serendipitous that the day I decide to make my (don’t call it a) comeback, that they announced their proposed choice of new name for the organisation: – Information & Library Professionals UK [ILPUK] http://www.cilip.org.uk/cilip/news/new-name-library-and-information-professional-body-proposed
CILIP members will get to vote on whether or not this becomes the new name at the AGM on 21 September 2013.
According to CILIP, the new name and strapline ‘ The Chartered Institute for the knowledge professions’ has been developed following focus groups and surveys with members and potential members as part of a broader change process instigated by CILIP Council, the governing body. These may be the very same people who also suggested the Knowledge People as a possible name just a couple of months ago.
Watching my timeline on Twitter this morning seems to indicate that not many people are being won over by this suggested new name. Not liking the acronym, the UK at the end, saying it is not exciting, or is lacking gravitas etc. It is not very often I feel sorry for CILIP (indeed, this may actually be the first time – see what happens when I leave blogging for a year) but, as with any body/organisation that decides or proposes to change their name, they are on a hiding to nothing. You never get a name everyone is happy with, or one that all members and prospective members think represents them. For starters there is always the elephant in the room – do you use Library/Librarians in any name. My own view is that if a new name is about visibility and understandability to those not in the knowledge professions then the L word has to be part of the name, as the public at least have some idea what a Librarian is. If you ask them what an Information Officer is they would probably presume you were in charge of handling press enquires about your business. Information professionals and Knowledge workers mean nothing to the proverbial ‘ (wo)Man in the street’. When asked what I do, I always have to resort very quickly to saying (glorified) librarian (with perhaps adding – come researcher).
The new name is inoffensive, and isn’t really much of a change. All they have essentially done is jettison the Chartered Institute from the start and add UK to the end. So, ok, they have also flipped Information and Library, but, really, it is not the Knowledge People! If the vote went in its favour the new name doesn’t upset me, it doesn’t make me angry.
The bigger question, however, remains – does the name need to change at all? People don’t know what CILIP stands for some say. Ok, and they are going to know what ILPUK stands for??
The problem with the proposed new name is that it doesn’t address the issue. The CILIP president Phil Bradley (someone I have always had a lot of time for) said in a blog about the idea of changing the organisations name ” If we have to explain what CILIP is by saying things like ‘It’s a bit like the Library Association’ or ‘It’s a professional membership organisation for librarians and other similar professionals’ then we’re starting off on a very poor footing.” Surely if you accept that point of view, I don’t see how explaining what ILPUK is, is any improvement. Indeed as Phil says in responding to a comment in his blog post ” I’m looking on it as ‘CILIP’ is what we refer to as the organisation, by itself. We then expand that out into the explanation of the acronym. As such, ‘CILIP’ by itself is meaningless and requires people to say ‘that means…’.
So, there you have it from the President himself. By Phil’s own logic ILPUK will, in no way, be an improvement on CILIP, if we are looking for the acronym to speak to what we are. The thing is no acronym has meaning in and of itself until you’ve either explained what it means and what it stands for, or people start to associate it with something (the two are usually connected).
I’m sure most of you know who the ASA and FSA are? But how about who RICS, RTPI, ARLA, FMB, and ABB* ?
It is not a question of acronym, be it CILIP or ILPUK, it is a question of engaging with the media and making sure that any time a library or information related story comes up that the first call isn’t always to Tim Coates. It is about making the existence of the organisation known and briefing media organisations well enough that they KNOW that there is a professional body that they should elicit opinions from when issues to do with Knowledge and Information work and libraries come to the fore.
I should clarify that I am not a CILIP member and haven’t been for around ten years, but if I were I would vote against changing the name, as for me it would be a costly and pointless exercise if those in charge are not doing their job of getting out there and promoting the profession(s) and libraries already. If it takes a name change to miraculously achieve this then the organisation shouldn’t exist at all.
* Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, Royal Town Planning Institute , The Association of Residential Lettings Agents, Federation of Master Builders, and Association of British Bookmakers in case you were wondering .