Is this the first Twitter CILIP election?
The campaign to elect the next Vice-president of CILIP (who will automatically become President the following year) is underway with two candidates - Phil Bradley and Edwina Smart. 5 candidates are also competing for 4 places on CILIP Council.
To my knowledge this is the first time that social media has played an important part in the hustings. Social media - in particular CILIP Communities but also independent blogs and Twitter - have emerged as a forum for members to question the candidates and for candidates to explain their views and plans for CILIP. But there is more to it than that. Social media has become a hot topic of debate in itself. The view has been expressed that CILIP is too London-centric and inward looking. Social media is seen as a way of overcoming this, of taking CILIP out to the wider membership. There is even a suggestion that users of social media are a new generation of library professionals in contrast to the traditional old guard and that the adoption of social media by CILIP will change the way in which the professional body operates.
One of the presidential candidates Phil Bradley, has criticised the fact that the CILIP AGM was not live streamed and that it was not in a venue where people could send tweets. Another blogger has started a lively debate about CILIP being a London clique with an anti-technology bias.
But is this a new wave of connected librarians or simply a different clique. Is it a small gang of techies in an echo chamber talking to themselves and to no one else? How large and representative is this library social media community? One proxy measure is the number of Twitter followers for library organisations and leading librarians. CILIPinfo has 1700 followers. The CILIP Chief Executive Annie Mauger has 333 followers. CILIP President Biddy Fisher has 447. Many of the librarians I follow have around 300-400 followers. I would put the number of library Tweeters at no more than 1000 maximum. Other librarians may use social networking tools other than Twitter but clearly this is a very small percentage of library professionals. Those who argue that CILIP should use these tools to communicate with members and to deliver training are ignoring the fact the vast majority of the profession does not use these tools. Overreliance on social networking at this point in time would not make CILIP more responsive to its membership.
That is not to say that CILIP should turn its back on social networking- far from it. Use of these tools is growing and in particular is popular with new professionals. If CILIP were to make more use of these tools for communicating with members then more members would use them and discover the wider benefits. CILIP has to lead by example and out new Chief Executive and soon to be elected president in waiting are in a strong position to do that.