After Wednesday’s post on CILIP’s membership fees, Richard Hawkins of the CILIP Information and Advice team very kindly offered to scan me the relevant pages from old editions of the Gazette, showing the last few years subscription rates and bands (I just have to say here that although I haven’t had occasion to use the CILIP Information Centre very often, on the few occasions I have they’ve always been tremendously helpful. That’s definitely a good member benefit!). I’ve now had a look through these and just wanted to write a quick update on my last post, incorporating the new information.
In 2007, the last year before the flat rate was introduced, the salary bands were as follows:
- Salary < £5001: Fees = £30
- £5001 – £8000: £41
- £8001 – £10000: £65
- £10001 – £12000: £88
- £12001 – £14000: £110
- £14001 – £17000: £136
- £17001 – £22000: £159
- £22001 – £27000: £163
- £27000 – £32000: £169
- £32001 – £37000: £173
- £37001 – £42000: £178
- £42001 – £47000: £183
- £47001 – £52000: £189
- £52001 – £57000: £194
- > £57001: £199
On the surface of it, that looks to me like a fairer charging model. However, it is worth noting that when the fees went up the following year, to a flat rate of £172 for everyone earning over £17001, the people on the lower end of that scale saw their fees go up by £13 – an increase, certainly, but not a massive one.
I have mixed feelings about the fee structure now. It still seems unfair to me that people on £18k pay the same as people on £60k. However, as has been pointed out, this change was voted in by members. The Gazette scans Richard provided include minutes of the AGM, which provide a bit of background to why the decision was taken. The reasons for the change were listed as follows: “many members saw the salary-based fees as a “tax”… renewal forms were complicated to understand and fill in… members felt that as their salaries increased so this scheme penalised success, the administration of the system was costly and inefficient and automatic renewal was not feasible”.
The points about the scheme “penalising success” and being a “tax” – apart from being essentially two ways of stating the same point – seem like weak arguments to me. I don’t really think that being asked to pay a few quid more a year as your salary increases is unreasonable – surely it’s not about penalising success, but subsidising lower paid members.
The points about the system being “costly and inefficient”, and the difficulties in filling in the forms are a little easier to understand, although I would question whether having an over-complicated form to fill out really justifies ditching half of the salary bands. Also, as Neil Ford has pointed out, raising the fees for CILIP’s lowest-paid members and lowering them for it’s highest-paid isn’t really consistent with our professional values. How is it fair that, as Neil puts it, “those who most need a professional body to protect their interests…can no longer afford to be members”?
The vote on introducing the new fee structure was in 2004, several years before I started working in libraries. I think if I had been involved in libraries/CILIP at the time, I probably would have voted against the flat rate. But I wasn’t, so I didn’t, and obviously enough CILIP members agreed with it for it to be introduced. Thewikiman left a comment on my last post to the effect that this could be an example of making changes that most people appeared to be in favour of, only for all the people who’d been silent up until that point to suddenly speak out against the change! Who knows.
On the whole, I do think CILIP membership is worth paying for. It would be interesting to see CILIP taking up some of the suggestions from Neil’s post (same link as in the previous paragraph – if you didn’t click it then I urge you to do so now! It’s part of a series of very interesting blog posts on CILIP, well worth a read) – as it’s pretty clear that an awful lot of members don’t think their membership is good value for money. Neil suggests some things CILIP could do to prove its value to members, such as looking at how much other, comparable professional bodies charge for membership; or trying to determine what the actual, monetary benefit of CILIP membership is (e.g. increased job prospects, higher pay for chartered members, etc). Interestingly, in the minutes of the 2007 AGM, it is noted that the annual cost of supporting a CILIP member was £225 – with that in mind, the £184 fee doesn’t seem so high.