Renewal

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.

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35 thoughts on “Renewal

      1. The membership fee increase still has to be voted on by members, and even if you can’t attend the AGM you have a vote.

        To request your proxy vote email governance@cilip.org as soon as possible and I’d suggest no later than October 8th to allow them time to get your email and send you the form back. Completed forms must be received by CILIP no later than 3.30pm October 13th. I’m not sure yet whether this can be done electronically, but let’s hope so! I’ll add more details to my blog when I have them.

        I am going to be contacting as many members as possible to advise them of this proxy option and the fact that the fee increase is not yet set in stone – please spread the word and encourage people to vote.

        CILIP membership have a nasty habit of sitting around whining about how terrible CILIP are and not actually taking opportunities to act – let’s not miss this one!

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  1. My first response to this blog was positive, but on reflection I’m not sure that charging a London weighting is viable. What about those living in London who don’t use the full range of services – is it fair to demand extra from them? Plus, I can’t see the Londoners looking positively on this idea.

    Your broader point, however, I more than agree with: CILIP is too expensive and it is putting members off, which, as a recent graduate I more than understand. I rather prefer the idea of CILIP leaving the capital to save costs / improve accessibility. Isn’t Birmingham supposed to be one of the more accessible British cities?

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    1. I agree, it doesn’t quite feel fair to charge Londoners more. But then I think it is far less equitable to charge those living outside the capital a premium for a service they are even less likely to be able to access. But I thought it’d be worth countering CILIP’s likely response of “We can’t cut our budgets any more – but we’re not willing to move, so what’s your solution buster?”!

      Birmingham would be an intelligent location, good road, rail and air links. Not to mention a far more central position in England and Wales, less so for Scotland perhaps but then that would make Nottingham/Sheffield more logical connections – though neither of them are quite as connected as Brum.

      That said I’d rather hand around St Pancras after a CILIP meeting than BNS!

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  2. All good points, and just to add to this that many people these days are on short term contracts, and the current pricing structure of CILIP does not allow for this. I’ve been on rolling short term contracts for all of 2009, and would like to join CILIP, but you can only pay membership yearly, with no assurances that membership can be cancelled if your contract is not renewed. I have contacted CILIP about this, but haven’t got anywhere! I would like to see a pricing structure set in place that enables people on short term contracts, or expecting to stop for maternity leave, to be able to join their professional membership body when employed and paid, and able to leave when not!

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    1. Wonder if you could have a “pay as you go” membership? Works for mobile phones! Or a Ryanair “Pay for what you actually use”? That would slash my membership fee in twain I suspect…

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  3. There is something about critical mass though isn’t there?

    Move CILIP to Brum and you still need to sell the courses and so on that do more to pay for CILIP than the subs do. You have just moved further from a big part of the audience. While people often disparage our great capital (each to their own) most people are quite happy to have the odd trip down to sample some of the pleasures and give them more ammunition for their view that you would have to be made to live here.

    Then there are also all the various group / interest meetings that take place at CILIP – if most people are in London (they are) then we will add to the costs of doing business in what is predominantly a member driven organisation. I know we can meet virtually but there is a need for a certain amount of face to face time.

    I often seem to be in the minority on this but I think CILIP is a reasonable buy. I don’t think £7 makes a big difference to my calculation. Frankly £184 = a shade over £15 a month – less by the time you take out the tax rebate seems OK to me.

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    1. I’m sorry but for a poorly paid profession to have one of the most expensive memberships is pretty outrageous.

      On the other hand I much prefer a trip to London than Brum (sorry Birmingham but BNS is terrible and St Pancras a lovely place).

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  4. I was on Council at the time the flat rate came in and a lot of work had been done looking at comparable organisations. As I recall CILIP was not expensive compared to these.

    BCS has 70,000 members – CILIP considerably fewer. I am not convinced that dropping the membership rate to the level of BCS would suddenly see an additional 50K plus information people sign up.

    Nearly every profession thinks they are poorly paid for their efforts. Medics think they are underpaid and they fork out an awful lot more than library folk for the various memberships they must have to practice.

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  5. Unfortunately, whether individuals feel they can afford the price increase or not, the general opinion seems to be that if prices go up AT ALL people will simply cancel their membership.

    Is it worth loosing a lot of whole membership subscriptions for the sake of a £7 increase in the remaining ones?

    And financially, if it is, then what about the other issues – fewer members, fewer “activists”, poorer relationships between the profession and the professional body, loss of good will, bad publicity, blah blah blah.

    Persuading new people to join is hard, and now persuading existing members to stay is hard too – that’s not how it should be, but CILIP are making it more and more difficult.

    CILIP are going to shoot themselves in the foot if they put up the price by even £7.

    Whether I can personally afford that increase or not is not the issue for me, the issue for me is that CILIP are AGAIN doing something that will turn members off, and we simply can’t afford to keep loosing members.

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    1. I agree – CILIP need to come out with a big fat cherry. “It’s not a 7 quid increase – it’s a chance for everyone to…..”

      Erm, no I can’t put my finger on any service or boon right now that would really win me over. Professional networking? I’ve my own contacts and Web 2.0 resources out there in the cloud for free, I don’t need one tied to a organisation. Conferences and events? Sure – do I get free entry? Oh reduced fees for CILIP members – but the fee is paid by my employer, so I don’t reap a fiscal benefit – they do! Chartership…no wait, I had to pay an EXTRA fee to charter.

      But there must be something new, tasty, exciting and C21 that CILIP could pull out of the hat and make an extra £7 seem really worth it? But all I’m hearing so far are the same old tired 20th Century, organisation 1.0 arguements…

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  6. Hi Katharine,

    Having a quick look at your blog I cannot help but notice this recent post

    http://kwiddows.blogspot.com/2009/09/cilip-b-training-planning-and-running.html

    It sounds like you are experiencing some excellent support from CILIP – two free courses where even your travel expenses were paid. It would seem to me that this is pretty good value for £177 (or indeed £184). Leaving aside all the other stuff that CILIP provide.

    I really think £7 is a storm in a teacup.

    Cheers

    Alan

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    1. Thanks Alan,

      Yep – I get great service from CILIP in some areas – not so great in others. But I also put a LOT in – AND I pay my subscription to be able to do this.

      As a CILIP Branch committee member I give an awful lot back to CILIP in many ways, not just by paying my membership fee.

      But, as I mention above – it’s not really about whether or not I feel I can personally afford another increase – the fact is that members, a LOT of members, are talking very seriously about canceling their membership altogether if there is any increase, even if it’s only £7. And I don’t want members to cancel their subscriptions.

      CILIP needs its members to stay members, and it also needs to be able to recruit more – membership is dropping all over the place, and without members CILIP will cease to exist.

      The timing of this increase, alongside a lot of redundancy and downgrading in the profession, is probably not helping. For those who have lost their jobs, or are working in recently downgraded posts this year, £7 is an issue – ANY additional expenditure when you potentially cannot meet your mortgage payments, is an issue.

      If CILIP considers loosing a lot of members to be a storm in a tea cup then they need to rethink their long term plans for survival.

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      1. I agree that you are clearly putting in to CILIP. People who are active on committees are an essential part of stuff happening. Long may you continue to do so.

        I am aware my last comment could have been construed as a dig – I hope it wasn’t. My apologies in the event that it did cause offence. I used your personal example as a means to illustrate that there is cash value to be extracted from active involvement. What I needed to add was that there is further non cash value from that involvement in terms of learning, networking, experience you mightn’t otherwise have had and so on.

        I am obviously not speaking for CILIP so my views as to the nature of weather conditions in drinks containers are clearly my own. I agree it would not be a good thing for CILIP to lose a lot of members. I am very sorry for anyone who is made redundant or down graded. There is however a drop to £32 membership for those who are unwaged. According to the Gazette article 47.6% of all members pay less than the flat rate as it is.

        It is interesting that your involvement is in the branch structure that another commenter felt was invisible. This has not been my experience in London and it clearly isn’t the case for you.

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  7. Crucially, charging higher fees to London CILIP members is not solving the problem of it being a London-centric organisation.

    CILIP needs to better prove its worth to its members full stop. I have joined as a student, I receive the gazette which makes for an interesting read and will hopefully get an interest free loan to cover my tuition fee (which will save me several hundred pounds over a grad loan, very worthwhile). CILIP needs to promote itself more, which would lead to more members taking up the opportunities and facilities it offers, therefore not feeling aggreived at the price tag. I expect there are many people out there such as myself who pay the fee without really (partially through my own fault due to lack of research…) reaping the benefits of membership.

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    1. I joined as a student – it was £26, what a bargin! I even had some spare money left to join the IIS as well (this was before the Library Association and IIS merged to form CILIP).

      It’s always been a bit of a shock each year to get the funding reminder and watching it go up up up and out into the outer darkness.

      I think CILIP has been making more efforts to promote themselves, I just don’t think there really doing enough to de-London-centricize (?!) themselves. Branches are essentially invisible.

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  8. I totally agree with the point that the membership fee is totally out of step with what librarians are paid. It’s also worth factoring in that many people will also be a member of a trade union and will have this fee coming off their salary too.

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    1. Interestingly I was talking with our dept secretaries about this the other day – who couldn’t believe that a) the fee was so high and b) my employer didn’t pay it.

      Sadly couldn’t convince them to stick it onto an invoice…

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      1. Some people are lucky enough to have their membership paid (I know at least one instance – though it is not me).

        I am amused to be referred to in your tweet as the fan of paying £184.

        Mostly I am an active member of CILIP who feels they get a lot out of their membership and who feels rather depressed when people fail to recognise the good things that come from that membership. I am sure there are things that CILIP could do better – I have been one of many people nagging about better management of member mailing lists for one.

        I would be intrigued as to what form an organisation 2.0 argument would take.

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        1. Hi Alan,

          No offense was taken at your earlier comment – don’t worry about that!

          I also get very down about the lack of member involvement in what is a membership organisation, and as a very active member I find it hard to understand why people who are paying for membership don’t exploit more of the benefits, and then whine about how they are not getting any benefits.

          But I also think CILIP needs to work much harder to publicise the benefits and encourage member involvement. I organised the exhibition stand for CILIP West Mids at the Library Show this year, and in order to help out the volunteers on the stand when people asked the dreaded question “What do I get for my membership fee?” I created 2 posters which were displayed for the whole event.

          One poster was a break down of some of the financial gains to be had (such as discounts on Facet books, free entry to the London Book Fair, insurance discounts, etc.) and the other was on professional benefits (networking, committee involvement, newsletters, etc.)

          In order to create those posters, and check the details I had to seek out information on the CILIP web site – and not on the front page, I had to faff about a bit to find that info.

          Personally I think that if members KNEW about more of the benefits, both professional and financial, we might not have such issues with declining membership and upset over £7 fee increases, but until they do – and only CILIP can fix it – I think members need to be kept happy in other ways – or at least not made more unhappy.

          I think there is a lot that could be done at Ridgmount Street to improve the situation, but I also think there is some fantastic work going on there (Kathy and Lyndsey’s Branch and Group training sessions are just one example) and it is getting better.

          For the moment CILIP are evidently not proving their worth to large numbers of their members, and until they do they cannot expect people to be happy about increased fees.

          As for Branch activity being invisible, this is not a comment I take offense at either – I have done a lot of work this year since I took on the role as West Mids Marketing Officer in January, to try to raise the profile of not only the branch, but the regions SIGs as well, and it is hard work, and I can see the need for LOADS more of it.

          Branch and group committees are made of volunteers – and not just any volunteers – but people who have paid a subscription fee for the right to be volunteers. Any work they do must be applauded and if they dont have the time or energy to do heaps of marketing that’s not their fault. But it is an area where we are lacking, and an area CILIP HQ need to support us in – and are getting better at.

          CILIP is a professional body worth being a member of, I personally get massive benefits from it and want it to survive and develop. But in order for it to survive and develop it needs to keep its members, and attract new ones.

          A raise in membership fees in a recession, when so far CILIP has not managed to convince its members it was worth the fees they paid LAST year, is a bad idea.

          It’s not that I personally feel £7 is too much to pay – it’s that I personally want CILIP to survive – that is why I want people to vote – CILIP needs to be acting on the wants and needs of it’s members – if they don’t vote this can’t happen. And if they turn out in their thousands to vote in favour of the fee increase well so be it – I will still be paying my subscription next year either way.

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  9. LL, nice post with some good comments. I wonder however whether this is actually quite a sensible move by CILIP, given that there may be a few redundancies in the Library community over the next few months/year isn’t it important for them to try and protect/guarantee some revenue for the year ahead?

    London weighting for memberships I don’t think so – there’s a reason CILIP members in London get London weighting it’s the most expensive place in the whole of the UK to live!

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    1. Ta James – yeah, I could see London weighting falling down a deep dark hole; although i’d hope CILIP wouldn’t go tumbling after.

      I like the cunning “charge ’em now as they won’t be able to pay up next year” plan you suggest for CILIP. Thing is, they don’t strike me as that sneaky. Or maybe that’s it – they ARE that sneaky and have well and truely fished me in…

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  10. I live in America and I’ve been a member of CILIP for over 10 years. Needless to say, I don’t get to attend the workshops for which I am supposedly paying. One time I was visiting London and trudged through the rain to attend an event, only to be told, when I arrived, that it was cancelled.

    These London workshops, etc., should be charged at cost so that those that attend them pay for them, and the rest of us aren’t subsidising activities we can’t attend. Also they should offer more professional development opportunities online.

    I have to admit though that the cost of CILIP membership is similar to the American Library Association and the Medical Library Association. Those organizations also struggle to keep members, due to their high prices and the low salaries in the profession.

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    1. I’m impressed – we often hear about CILIPs overseas membership but I always thought they were a touch mythical! Makes me very local to London in contrast.

      Gotta agree though, the workshops should be priced to own for us poorly paid library types! Interesting though that in the US the subs cost is similer. Wonder if it’d be cheaper for me to be a member of the ALA rather than CILIP? Might be a broadening experience at least, if only I could afford it too.

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  11. As Treasurer of CILIP I have follwed the debate here and can sympathise with many of the comments. I hope you can all equally sympathise with the lot of the Treasurer! The reason for going for an increase this year is the fall in income generated by CILIP Enterprises and our investments. Job adverts are down substantially from last year, and there is less take up for the other services, as you would expect. I expect Enterprises’ surplus to be a 25% down on the estimate for this year. At the same time, we need money to spend on challenging library authorities who are cutting jobs, de-professionalising staff and closing branches (also on the agenda for universities, I fear). There are several other initiatives which require support including areas such as diversity in LIS employment, supporting research to develop evidence on the value of our services.

    Several posters have commented on apparent cost of the HQ being in London. In fact, the building was paid for many years ago by the old Library Association. So there are no costs other than heating, lighting, rates. Indeed, the top 2 floors are rented out and bring in a third of a million a year. We did cost moving to Sheffield (purely as an example) a couple of years back; the results showed that operational costs would go up as a result of the loss in rent. Please also note that CILIP has reduced its staffing by 16% in the last few years and the staff have agreed to a pay freeze and major reductions to their pension scheme.

    There are one or two good ideas in the various posts; I think, for instance, it would be worth exploring the idea of a refundable element in a subscription where members are on short contracts or lose their job; this is a personal view and it would need to be supported by Council, but I will pursue it.

    I would finish by suggesting that people, before they vote, read the Subscription Strategy in Gazette and bear in mind the fact that we will all need our professional body MORE in 2010 rather than less. In that case it really does need the extra few pounds next year. Regards to all. Nigel Macartney

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    1. Hi Nigel – thanks for the comments, I think that opens the debate up a lot more. Certainly couldn’t claim to have been aware of all these various issues. Nice to have this discussion and points out in the open as well, rather than limited to those able to make the AGM (I’ll leave off the London-centric argument since CILIP aren’t the worst culprits at cleaving to our overpriced, overcrowded capital – and I’m saying that as someone who is quite fond of the place as a city!).

      Can’t say that I’ve been swayed from my vote, but really heartened to see you taking some of the ideas that wiser minds than mine have floated on this extensive discussion! Hope the AGM proves just as an elightened debate!

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    2. It is true that CILIP own outright what is in effect a very big asset in their building. Renting out two floors of it raises a lot more money for CILIP in London than it would in Sheffield, Birmingham or indeed anywhere else outside of the capital. Moving CILIP outside of London is a retrograde step in my opinion, and this is from someone who lives and works in Yorkshire!
      I’m not sure London weightings are the solution either. CILIP have paid staff who work in their office, hence more activity in London. If we had more activists within the profession running events courses seminars etc outside of London, then there’d be more activity for everyone to enjoy. The problem is, not to put too fine a point on it, most members are NOT active and so they get what they give i.e. not a lot. If you want to make a reduction, give it to people who are serving a useful purpose in special interest groups or regional branches, or to people mentoring librarians of the future – that should reward these people and encourage more members to BE like them.

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      1. The idea of a reduced rate for activists is interesting. Might make collection a bit complex however?

        From what I recall of past discussions the membership of CILIP is a fairly active one – though I forget how the comparison was made.

        CILIP does run courses away from London but my recollection (again this is very fallible) is that these are harder to sell. From my experience in HLG we certainly found it harder to get a good attendance for training away from London (though health libraries are heavily concentrated in the capital).

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  12. CILIP’s problem is not that it is in London; it’s problem is lack of support, and consequently lack of income.

    Membership is small – so the subscriptions don’t generate much income. CILIP can’t do much about that other than the regular exhortations about the benefits of membership – and they clearly have not worked. So, some fresh thinking is needed.

    Attendance at the main conference is tiny – so the income from the exhibition is small. Anyone who has been to the ALA Conference and seen how many of the book and journal publishers are represented there will have noted a very obvious difference in the scale of representation. Those companies know that the Conference exhibition is where the people who can spend money on their products will be found in large numbers. CILIP does need to think about how it can address this challenge.

    Commercial sponsorship income is also negligible. Another challenge that needs some fresh thought.

    CILIP has no endowment fund to see it through the bad times. Such bequests as have been received (and any unexpected surpluses) have largely been spent rather than invested. Again, some fresh thought is needed about how to encourage gifts and bequests, and how to manage these funds.

    Finally, do we need a fresh approach to what we expect of CILIP’S paid officials? Would it help if annual performance targets were set for income generation by the Chief Executive and maybe one or two others?

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  13. Ian Johnson has raised some interesting points and I hope he doesn’t mind if I put the record staight where necessary.

    Firstly, membership is not small; at over 18,000 it is a medium-sized professional body; many professions are smaller. Next, while there are ethical difficulties for a body like CILIP to be sponsored, there are good levels of sponsorship for Umbrella and other activities. Unfortunately, this recession is not a good time to be seeking advertising or sponsorship.

    CILIP DOES in fact have substantial reserves, though they would not described technically as an “endowment fund”. The problem is that they are in a wide range of investments, which were worth £3.5m 2 years ago, after which they reduced in value in line with the falls in the stock market and interest rates. While the FTSE has climbed back encouragingly in the last few months, it is still not a good time to cash in any of our investments at such low values as we are seeing now. So we are trying to live off income as far as we can.

    Finally, the Chief Executive and Head of Enterprises are indeed already tasked with generating agreed income targets. But at a time of lack of confidence in the economy, these will prove extraordinarily difficult to achieve. CILIP is developing a range of additional income generating activities (e.g. Executive Briefings, which have proved very successful), but we are having to call on members for extra help in 2010.

    Nigel Macartney

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