Had a really interesting conversation on Twitter today about CILIP membership fees. I just wanted to jot down a few thoughts here, as I really think that there’s more to say about this than can be accommodated in 140 characters…
The Twitter talk kicked off because the renewals for my various professional body memberships are all coming up, and I was rather shocked to see the disparity between SLA and CILIP. It’s going to cost me somewhere in the region of £75 to renew my SLA membership (subject to exchange rates – being an American organisation, their prices are quoted in US dollars), compared to £184 for CILIP.
Now, I understand that SLA is a much larger organisation than CILIP, so they can afford to charge less for membership. After all, the fewer members you have, the more each of them will need to pay before the organisation will break even. I just think that the fee structure for CILIP is a little… odd. CILIP and SLA both have different categories for membership, depending on how much you earn – so if you earn less, you pay less. That’s fair. However, the top CILIP band is for members earning £17501 and above. I appreciate that this will vary depending on location and sector, but I’m pretty sure that band would cover most people in any kind of professional post. In fact, I was earning more than that as a graduate trainee (granted, this was in a law library in London – I know not all grad trainees earn that much!). As James Mullan pointed out on Twitter, the CILIP fee structure means that someone earning £60000 earns the same as someone on £18000. This is not fair.
Compare the SLA fee structure. According to the SLA website (and a currency converter – I thought I’d put the fees in £ rather than $, for clarity), their bands run like this:
- Student/unwaged/salary < £11600: £25
- Salary = £11600 – £22600: £73
- Salary = £22600 – £48500: £120
- Salary > £48500: £130
That, to me, looks like a fairer way to do it. Again, I appreciate that SLA can afford to charge less. I also appreciate that, having a focus on corporate libraries, SLA is likely to have more members on high salaries than CILIP. Conversely, CILIP’s focus on public libraries most likely means that it will have more members on low salaries than SLA. However, I still think that making everyone earning more than £17500 pay £184 for membership (and that is a lot of money) is unfair.
I was informed earlier that the flat fee was voted on by members, although I couldn’t quite get to the bottom of when this was or what the fee structure was before then (I got a few conflicting answers from the Twittersphere – a lot of people seemed to be confusing the vote on the flat rate, which according to @CILIPinfo was in 2004, with the vote on fee increases last Autumn). I’d be interested to know what the fee structure was before the flat fee was voted in – if anyone knows, please do speak up in the comments.
One further point I wanted to make was just to confirm that I do actually think CILIP membership is worth paying for. I know a lot of my colleagues in the legal/corporate sector don’t see any value in being CILIP members, and fair enough – there are more relevant professional bodies to join if you work in this sector. I still do find CILIP useful, and want to remain a member. I think that, in general, membership of and involvement with a professional body is important – as I’ve blogged previously – and I like the opportunities for cross-sector networking that I get from CILIP, but probably wouldn’t from, say BIALL. I’m also aware that I may not stay in law libraries forever – I’m right at the start of my career, not yet in a professional post, and while I enjoy legal information work I’m not at the point where it’s all I can see doing throughout my career. There is also the chance that with the current job market as it is, I may not even have the choice to stay in law libraries forever – there are depressingly few law librarian vacancies advertised these days! CILIP membership is a good way for me to stay in touch with what’s happening in the wider library world. Not to mention the excellent work that the special interest groups do – I’m a member of CDG and CLSIG, who both regularly put on really interesting, useful events.
So, I am renewing my CILIP membership for this year. I should point out that this is mainly because my employer is paying for it, along with my SLA membership – they’re good like that! If that wasn’t the case, I certainly wouldn’t be able to stay a member of both. I would have had a tough choice to make over which membership to pay for, and I think I would have gone for SLA. SLA are cheaper, and I actually think that SLA membership is better value for money. They may be based overseas, but (probably because of that) they put a lot of effort into arranging ways for their members to network which don’t rely on face-to-face meetings. They also make an awful lot of resources available to members online. I think that’s something CILIP could learn from – as I’m sure anyone who’s ever complained about the lack of CILIP resources outside of London would agree!
I’d be interested to hear what others make of all this – anyone already let their CILIP membership lapse, due to cost or lack of membership benefits?