Friday, 7 June 2013

Re-Branding Gate vs Reindeer Gate: of CILIP, ABF and ADBS

When beginning to search for ways to find a job in the UK, I stumbled upon LIS Job Net early on but found out about CILIP and its relation to it much later. Finally arriving on the threshold of the CILIP website, I was amazed: everything seemed big and new and shiny. It made the previous professional associations I had met appear quite pale in comparison.

In France, information professionals divide up between two associations: ABF ("Association des Bibliothécaires de France" - literally: association of French librarians) and ADBS (which acronym, after many changes made, can't be developed anymore but is "L'Association des Professionnels de l'Information et de la Documentation" - association of information and documentation professionals). There is a real gap between those identifying as librarians and those that we call "documentalistes" (school librarians, some academic librarians, other information professionals). We don't mix. We're not even in the same category of public servants. So each keeps to its own association.

That's why I was very impressed to see that all of Great-Britain's information professionals seemed to be standing side by side under a single banner. I was impressed by what looked like a gigantic, sprawling association, doing so many things that the French associations, between the two of them, didn't seem to be able to pull out: awarding qualifications, providing career advice, supporting a parliamentary group, providing the mean of international exchanges... It's huge! It's so dynamic! I wanted so badly to get in!

Now that I've had the time to prowl over almost every pages of their website, to read a couple of CILIP Updates and to contact some of its members, my vision of CILIP is more nuanced of course. But it doesn't take away the awe of discovering such a powerful entity, thoughtful of its members and protective of their interests (I mean... a parliamentary group! Who does that?!).

Then the re-branding gate happened and I was floored. Sitting on the bench of my brand new Twitter account, I saw an army of librarians rising as one to take back into their hands the choice of their new identity, of which they seemed to fear they would be spoiled. The first survey and the names proposed were obviously an awkward move from CILIP (though I did like "The Knowledge People", but that's my bad sense of humour showing...). The event stirred the members minds: heated and salutary discussions arose. Even within the more aggressive campaigns, the unity, the care, the support of librarians and information professionals were laid before my eyes, and once again, I was in awe. CILIP is so important to all of you, it's such a part of your professional identity, that you were happily going to war to defend what it meant to you.

I've never witnessed such an uproar within the aforementioned French associations. Well, on a lesser scale, we could talk of ABF's really bad move on their 2011 Christmas card. Let's name it the Reindeer Gate. And here is why:

This is the image that greeted us on the ABF's website during all of December 2011. We didn't know whether to laugh or cry. We decided to laugh and Twitter librarians exchanged reindeer photos during all of 2012. There's even a Tumblr. About reindeers. And librarians. Yep, that's what we do for fun.

But what? Did I just compare the CILIP re-branding issues to our silly holiday card conundrum? Well, if I did, it's because I hope that CILIP can get by as well as ABF finally did. And I do think that they will, one step at a time.

In the end, here was ABF's Christmas card for 2012:

(Yep. If you click on the image, you can see that there's a tiny reindeer at the bottom. And it was made by a nice librarian blogger. Everyone loved it and the reindeer-gate ended in champagne.)

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