Has CILIP got an ulterior motive?

So over the last week I’ve had a number of emails and phone calls in support of my post around Cilip’s idea of a Kitemark. In my post I highlight some of reasons that I worry it is not only a idea born out of a short sighted view of school libraries but that actually it also highlights CILIP and SLG’s distance from the main issues surrounding schools and their libraries and also with the education sector itself.
However, more I think about it the more wonder if CILIP has an ulterior motive behind this idea. It comes as no surprise to say that the world of school libraries is in dire straights and so are the the bodies that used to support and take care of them in their local areas. Too many school library services over the last few years have been closed unceremoniously leaving school libraries and school librarians in a unprecedented situation where not only do they not have the exporters and ‘bigger picture’ view a service has but also the advocacy and support that a service can provide. For instance when I worked in Herts we worked with and campaigned the head teachers to make sure that in our secondary schools a quality (not necessarily qualified!!!) librarian was employed.
Therefore my worries and concerns are that CILIP are trying to put themselves in a position where they feel they can greedily fill this need in schools. I wouldn’t be surprised if Cilip’s idea of a Kitemark allows CILIP to visit schools in a critical friend type way and charge them (handsomely no doubt) for the priveledge of providing a report on their quality and the offering further services to ‘bring them up to scratch’. 
Now this may also be quite controversial (but if you can’t express your opinions then what’s the point of freedom of press) but there are certain school librarians who have favour with CILIP and also find themselves in a position of being able to offer services as they will no longer be working in schools. It would not surprise me if these two points also linked together. There are definitely some people that are trying to create a little niche for themselves and with this there will always come a great sense of personal gain coming before anything else.

Ther are also many reasons why I feel those people that no longer work in schools let alone school libraries should not offer advice to those still working in schools. Mainly as soon as you leave a school you become out of touch with education no matter how many blogs or journals you read, but also if you never really understood it in the first place you’re only ever going to provide services based on your own, biased, opinions and of course if you were any good in the first place you’d probably still be working in a school?!? 
Whether or not this is the case though I certainly would feel disgusted if CILIP ever tried to do anything anything like this. They are an organisation that we pay our fees to to support us on a bigger stage to take the time to understand us and show us that not only do they ‘get us’ but they are on our side. Never have I felt this as a school librarian and at the moment I feel it even less than ever. They are devoid of any original ideas, of any understanding of the education sector and what is truly needed. They seem to rely too heavily on the views of a few school librarians who themselves work from such a narrow, out dated view that we end up with ideas such a Kitemark!!
On the outside, to just a normal member, CILIP seems to not only have lost its way but also its integrity as an organisation. Outside of school libraries they are so many things that highlight this. Have you looked at their great idea of their impact model?? One system that supposedly works for all sectors and allows a librarian to show the worth of what they do, it’s them same as their PKSB or whatever it’s called. You cannot create a model that works for everyone! In doing so you create an unwieldy document/view that is so watered down (to meet everyone’s differing needs) that it becomes useless or even worse ignores those specific sector’s needs that are just a little outside of the norm, school libraries being a great example!!
Back to Cilip’s Kitemark, which by all accounts seems to have an extremely short timeframe in its consultation stage and stinks again of CILIP just wanting to follow through their own agenda no matter what people think. From what I’ve heard this consultation relies on a couple of people asking their head teachers what they think (no doubt these are headteachers that already support their libraries, otherwise CILIP wouldn’t know about the librarians) and their very leading survey. There’s already been a lot of support on SLN for it, again from ‘those librarians’ with a narrow, out-dated view of school libraries but from those librarians, whose views I actually agree with, I’ve also had a lot of correspondence about their dismay towards such an idea.
We can only hope that CILIP see sense and abandon such a foolhardy idea but also in the long run that they abandon those ‘school librarians’ or former school librarians who are feeding them with a diatribe of utter rubbish that CILIP comes up with such a poor idea. It’s time they actually started to listen to people that know what they’re talking about start to do what we all hope and importantly pay for, i.e provide an organisation that actually has our best interests at heart.


Why Cilip’s ‘kite mark’ will crash and burn

Another day another CILIP survey. It seems they spend more money on surveys that are aimed at leading the questionee than actually doing anything of any worth.
Anyway, today’s survey was around Cilip’s ‘groundbreaking’ idea of introducing a ‘Kitemark’ for schools to aim towards to show that they value their school library.
This is clearly part of the CILIP strategy to reinvigorate support in school libraries or something rather?!? Yet to anyone that actually knows the education sector it is actually another example of how out of touch they are with this particular sector and how they are scrambling around for ‘any old idea’ rather than doing something that might have value and worth.
I have a number of issues with the idea of a ‘Kitemark’ of such but I will name below the ones I feel most important here. With my concerns I’m not just talking from a school Librarian’s perspective but also a member of the senior leadership team and a school leader.
1. ‘Kitemarks’ are so last season. 

Around 5-10 years ago the idea of Kitemarks were quite big in schools and schools collected them to look pretty in their foyers and on their headed letter paper to outsiders. Heads of departments or those staff wishing to make a step up into middle leadership took them on as projects to show that they had the ability to organise whole school priorities. We pretty much had one of these marks for everything. The problem is now they actually mean very little and lost a lot of favour with schools mainly due to the fact they never made a difference to anything (see point 2). In fact the take up of these marks in recent years has dropped so dramatically, especially with their being so many bigger priorities in schools, that some of the bigger ‘marks’ no longer exist. Case in point the Governor mark which filled a number of Ofsted priorities no longer exists and this was one mark that actually showed some value!! 

So with CILIP thinking that this is going to solve all the problems of school libraries is really showing more about their lack of understanding of the sector (and more worryingly SLG’s if they have been involved in this) rather than a proactive statement for improvement.
2. They have no lasting impact. Due to the fact that schools took these marks on to fill an area highlighted by SIPs or Ofsted as weaknesses or areas of development or taken on by wannabe middle leaders they were only ever short term projects. The international schools award, which many schools went for, had a very wide remit where realistically you just had to put together a couple of things that may have some international link with some school maybe in Kenya to be awarded it. But it never had to have any legacy, anything that made any true difference or added value. Many schools who had been told to broaden their community cohesion or their widen their students understanding of different cultures took this, and a hat full of other ones, to prove that actually they were. However, they were only one off projects and once completed made no difference to the fundamentals of a school or more importantly of students’ learning and their thoughts and opinions. If you asked a student about a schools international award they’d probably tell you about a letter they wrote to school in Africa but not why or how it’s widened their horizons on a daily basis.

So with a school library the exact same would occur. It would only ever be a short term thing, if any schools actually took it on in the first place, and certainly not anything that would have any long lasting impact on the school or in particular the school library or librarian.

3. You can’t pigeon hole success. The thing about school libraries, which is known to those of us that visit them across the width and breadth of the country, is that there is no formula for a successful school library. What makes one school library a success won’t necessarily make another one. The only common factor is that each school library that is successful is reflective and in touch with the specific needs of their individual school and their intake and even this means that processes and projects change as often as the intake does. Therefore, in creating a mark for school libraries who is to say what the criteria is going to be? How can you come up with a set of criteria when realistically one doesn’t and cannot exist. You would have to make your points so generic that by their very nature they become open to all sorts of interpretations that they blend into a mess of meaningless words. 

In trying to create a mark all you would end up succeeding in is foisting someone else’s opinions on what a school library should be and alienating all the school libraries and librarians that do things differently or outside the norm so they fit into the needs of their school and their students. What you could end up doing is rewarding the basic and ignoring the truly innovative successful ones.

4. Only those schools who already support their library will do it.

What is the hook for a school taking on the mark? Surely the point is to change those schools’ perceptions of a school library and librarian where one or both doesn’t exist. If we want to get those schools who don’t invest in their libraries to see the positive impact that a library has then a mark like this is certainly not the way. The only schools that will take them on will be ones that already back their library and already value their librarian. Someone who doesn’t isn’t suddenly going to change their minds about their school’s values and ethos just because some Kitemark exists! So if that’s the case then why bother spending time, money and resources that will look lovely but have no impact on changing anything. 

5. I don’t think the CILIP guidelines or SLG represent or understand all school libraries. Now I may be a little contraversial here however I do not think that the CILIP guidelines, which the Kitemark will be based upon, by any stretch of the imagination reflect successful school libraries that exist in schools now. They are incredibly dry and in my opinion give a view of libraries that is stuck in the past. Having visited thousands of libraries across the country and world these guidelines in no way reflect all the excellent practice that exist in some schools and importantly it is these schools that are doing things differently, outside the box, that make them a success. They are ripping up the old models of school libraries and listening instead to what their schools and students need and they are adapting their spaces, their practice and their own mindsets to be the place their school needs them to be. No where is this reflected in a document that is going to purportedly be the basis for this excellence in school libraries, this Kitemark.

Worryingly I’d even go as far to say that I do not feel that the organisations that ‘speak’ for school libraries understand what actually makes a successful one. I have very little faith in them providing a picture of everyone to work towards and more than this I fear that if the people involved with CILIP get the opportunity to create any kind of guidelines then school libraries are doomed.