It might have escaped your notice, but in the latest Gazette from CILIP the 2010 subscription fees have been announced and once again they’re on the rise. Given the lack of inflation we’re currently enjoying in the UK (and with the knock on pay freezes, reductions or token increases) that most of us will be receiving this year, I think that once again we’ll be seeing the annual conniptions and debates over paying the fee or not.
CILIP’s flat rate for anyone earring more than £17.5k in 2009 was £177, and proposed for 2010 £184 (that’s a 4% increase if you’re counting). By any accounts this is a whacking great big fee. Many academic professional societies are less than £100, and even the British Computer Society is only at £135 for chartered members (fellows pay a little less than CILIP’s top rate). In the past CILIP have defended their stonking charges by explaining the member benefits they offer, not to mention the need to maintain their London HQ and core staff. But given that governmental and other public sector bodies are now moving out of London this argument holds less water than ever. Capping the fees itself was brought in to keep more top flight librarians (managers and the like) on side, but I’d be hard pressed to day to name more than a handful of heads of service who remain members, and I imagine over time their numbers will dwindle. After all, SCONUL neatly takes care of their professional body needs and that doesn’t personally cost them anything.
And let’s unpick some of those member benefits. Most CILIP events (which in themselves are priced on the high side of affordable) take place…in London. Their new careers workshops and evening drop in sessions take place…in London. Indeed if you are a librarian in London you’re able to take ready advantage of a vast range of low priced and frequent events. For those of us lucky enough not to live in the cramped capital, we face the massive UK rail fees and a substantial period out of the office (at least a day) to make even an event lasting a couple of hours.
It seems to me that there is a distinct inequality of membership benefits. Those of us outside London are in effect subsiding a system that benefits by and large librarians in London far and above the ordinary membership. What can be done about it? Well I see three options.
The London weighting – members in London pay the full fees, those of us who live outside the capital can access less so we should pay less. However, CILIP might argue that with their perilous financial situation (let’s leave aside the reasons for that here) they can’t take a reduction in payments. Which brings us to…
Option 2 – the London premium. Outside the capital we keep paying the large rates, while those in the capital pay a premium for their ease of access to facilities, events and face to face support. This way CILIP will actually be able to increase their coffers and maybe their services to all. Otherwise there’s
Option 3 – the way they’re doing it now, where most junior and newly appointed staff are not likely to be able to afford membership. When I was a fresh faced professional I was on about this kind of wage and given my repayments for my scholastic loans, setting up in a new job and the like barely could make ends meet. Nearly 200 quid extra paid out for something I could ill afford (and being based in the North of England) could not easily access would have been cut from my budget without a second thought.
Despite all this I think I’ll probably be renewing my membership for one more year, but I expect real change to be demonstrated at CILIP HQ. When I consider that more and more of my networking and professional development needs are met outside of CILIP, come Spring 2011 unless CILIP has made some real strides to address their spiralling costs, I can see this being the last year I fork out for membership.