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This blog post was published under the 2015-2024 Conservative Administration

Progress implementing the Public Libraries Skills Strategy

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The Public Library Skills Strategy (PLSS) was developed jointly by the Society of Chief Librarians (now Libraries Connected) and CILIP. It was published in July 2017 and contained 9 aims, and a series of recommendations.

At an event run by CILIP’s Public and Mobile Libraries group in October 2018, Carol Stump - Chief Librarian at Kirklees council, and a trustee of Libraries Connected (LC), gave a presentation on the PLSS, and outlined progress made against the recommendations.

The post which follows is derived from that presentation.

The strategy aims to guide the development of information and library skills, knowledge and qualifications in the public library sector in England between now and 2030.

The vision which drives this strategy is of a future for public libraries in England as digital, creative and cultural centres of excellence (virtual and physical) offering freely-accessible services that support reading and literacy, develop skills, foster creativity, promote and support health and wellbeing, and provide a platform for community participation. This vision puts information and library skills and values at the heart of public service delivery. The expertise of the profession should be recognised and valued by local authorities for its ability to develop and deliver quality services that meet community needs.

The strategy contains 9 aims to guide the future development of the workforce:

  1. Attracting, retaining and developing talent
  2. Targeting inclusion, diversity, representation and equality
  3. Investing in professional skills and ethics
  4. Promoting leadership at every level
  5. An open, inclusive approach to professionalism
  6. Lowering the barriers to entry
  7. A commitment to Continuing Professional Development
  8. Valuing transferable skills
  9. Looking beyond the sector

It also makes a series of recommendations, and the sections which follow lay these out, and report progress against each.

Recommendation 1.1: a national advocacy campaign celebrating the workforce

To advocate the skills of the sector to a wider audience, creating recognition and greater understanding of the role played by information and library experts; and to attract the interest of a new generation of people who have grown up in a digital world to aspire to join the workforce.

CILIP and LC are moving towards a joined up approach to advocacy.

Recommendation 1.2: Develop an employer engagement plan

To highlight and demonstrate the benefit of continuing professional development (CPD) programmes.

There is work ongoing to agree engagement activities, including an agreed approach to celebrate the achievements of the sector, and develop strategies to address the challenges faced by the sector. CILIP have created an Employer Partnership scheme, which aims to bring together and recognise employers that are industry leaders in data, information, knowledge and libraries and are committed to developing a workforce with the skills and capabilities to steer them to success. GLL was announced as the first organisation to sign up.

Recommendation 2.1: A diversity and equality plan for the sector

CILIP Ethics Committee has developed a diversity and equality plan for the library and information profession celebrating diversity, inclusion, equalities and representation. The plan was launched along with a declaration from the board and presidential team. In this, they declare their commitment to promote equalities, diversity and inclusion as part of:

  • fulfilling the terms of our Royal Charter “to work for the benefit of the public to promote education and knowledge through the establishment and development of libraries and information services and to advance information science”
  • achieving our goal “to put information and library skills and professional values at the heart of a democratic, equal and prosperous society”
  • upholding the Ethical Principles of their profession, including “concern for the public good in all professional matters, including respect for diversity within society, and the promoting of equal opportunities and human rights”

Recommendation 3.1: Revisit the role of professional ethics in public libraries

CILIP conducted an 18 month review of their ethical principles, and the revised ethical framework was launched at the CILIP Annual General Meeting, in October 2018. The new Ethical Framework includes seven Ethical Principles and a Code of Professional Conduct for members. A new section of the Code of Professional Conduct outlines the commitments that CILIP has made to support members and the profession.

7 icons which illustrate the new ethical framework
Icons illustrating the new ethical framework - from the CILIP ethics website

Recommendation 4.1: Develop a public libraries leadership programme

The aim is for a programme that will help talented staff grow into roles of influence. LC will take the lead on initiating a programme of sector development to stimulate and encourage leadership at every level. CILIP and LC will work together to create a means of identifying and developing future leaders.

CILIP and LC worked with a Clore graduate to develop a pilot short course. This took place during April-May 2018, and was formed of 2 parts. The first was a 2 day residential, and the second, a couple of weeks later, was a day of consolidation and reflection. Library heads of service were asked to nominate staff and 15 people were selected to take part.

The course encouraged participants to look at different styles of leadership. It was formed around areas such as inspiration, confidence (how might people identify and utilise their strengths to develop their ideas and teams), creativity, and thinking about how they contributed to the profession. It included practical steps and encouraged participants to network and support each other.

As a pilot, there was a strong emphasis on evaluation, and the feedback given by this initial group of participants will shape how the course is developed. These pieces of feedback summed us the views of many:

“I have found the course to be a refreshing change from the standard, corporate training that tends to be delivered. Its positive, reflection-focussed content has been invaluable. Quite often courses ask you to ‘think of an issue you can solve’. I am very pleased that this course didn’t make us think of issues, rather it celebrated our strengths.”

“This course has made me bold and re-focussed me!”

CILIP and LC are themselves now reflecting on the course evaluation and intend to make some changes based on feedback, and run the course again. Funding options are being discussed

Recommendation 5.1: Change the way we think about ‘professionalism’

All agreed to adopt a new, more open and inclusive approach, recognising and celebrating ‘professionalism’ as an attitude, which can be reflected in professional registration and Chartership.

Recommendation 6.1: Review existing pathways into the profession

A working group has been set up to review existing pathways and qualifications; make recommendations for the development of occupational standards (including apprenticeships), with supporting qualifications and pathways.

Recommendation 7.1: Share approaches to CPD for public library staff and volunteers

CILIP and LC will explore a shared approach to learning and development opportunities for all who work in libraries, via a shared learning platform. First steps are to develop a digital skills portfolio, and funding has been secured from Arts Council England to work on this. Register for this on CILIP's website (with access for both CILIP members and non-members).

Recommendation 8.1: Create a UK-wide job shadowing scheme

The recommendation outlines the idea of exploring the potential and logistics of a UK wide job shadowing scheme which would support the movement of library and information experts between sectors, and exploit transferable skills.

Discussions are underway between CILIP, LC and the British library to explore expanding the mentoring scheme that was created as part of the development of the Living Knowledge Network. It was felt that a mentoring relationship should encompass is a more structured process than simply shadowing another role, and would enable the participant to gain individualised development and support - broadening their horizon and experience. Mentoring can also offer a positive experience for the mentor.

Recommendation 8.2: Celebrate and profile diverse career paths

Another area that CILIP and LC plan to work together to explore. They will use social media, training events and conferences to highlight and celebrate the breadth of knowledge and experience of information professionals.


Please note, this is a guest blog. Views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of DCMS or the Libraries Taskforce.

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