I’ve recently become Chartered with CILIP, slightly less than a year after I formally started (I backdated some of my portfolio). Having finished the process, I thought I would reflect (I became good at that over the last year) on what being Chartered in the legal sector means (if anything).
The majority of people I know who hold Chartership are from the academic and public sectors. A select few that I know through SLA (Special Libraries Association) are chartered, and I know a few people in BIALL who have also gone through the process, but not many.
Firstly, I think I’ll be frank. Outside of the academic and public sectors, I do not think I have ever seen a job requirement that states you have to be chartered to apply. I think I may have seen one once that stated it as a desirable criteria, but that may have fallen under a broader heading of “interested in professional development” or such like. If a sector doesn’t demand it for promotion opportunities, then of course that will instantly reduce the amount of people who will follow it through.
The other main problem for Chartership outside of the academic and public sectors is that CILIP is seen by many to have little/no benefit in special libraries, despite having Special Interest Groups such as CLSIG. Organisations such as BIALL or SLA are deemed to offer more value/relevance, often for a smaller yearly fee – something that is especially important in budget constricted times (I’m not going to discuss the CILIP in special libraries argument here – there is far too much potential for a Can of Worms to be opened). To Charter requires membership of CILIP, plus two £50 payments, which if you can only afford one membership, puts many in a predicament that often ends with renewing BIALL or SLA membership. This combined with not needing the qualification to advance in your job role will knock off quite a few potential applicants.
Thirdly, in theory, Chartership does not give you access to any more professional development activities than you would otherwise be able to join in with. If you are sufficiently motivated, you could do just as many activities as a Chartership candidate, and save yourself the time from having to reflect/write about them.
So, given the above factors, why did I choose to Charter?
As I have written about before, upon finishing my Masters, I was concerned about a lack of focus for my professional development. Chartership provided me a way to focus on new goals within a manageable framework that I could use to assess myself. It also provided me with a second mentor (in addition to my mentor provided by SLA off the back of my ECCA in 2011), someone who I hope to keep in touch with throughout my professional career. I’ve been very lucky as both mentors have given me valuable advice so far. They are a resource that I value highly.
Undertaking the process also provided me with the chance to formally record activities that I was already undertaking. At no point during the year did I feel that I was simply undertaking an activity for the sake of ticking a box in the portfolio criteria. I enjoy blogging and reflecting on librarianship as a profession, and volunteer in a range of capacities (SLA, #UKLibChat etc). I am also already committed to professional development, and am currently taking the BIALL Legal Foundation Course. The experiences I was recording in my portfolio are all things that I would have done regardless of being enrolled in the Chartership process, but it did allow me to explore a different side to them, and keep a more formal record of what I undertake. Through my portfolio I was able to explore different angles to reasons why I give my time to volunteer, and in turn made me realise how valuable an experience I find volunteering to be. In all honesty, I never would have done this if not forced to by the construction of my portfolio – but I am glad I did.
What has Chartership meant for my career? Well, given that I’ve only been Chartered a few weeks, not very much at the moment. It will not provide me with any kind of immediate promotion or salary increase, although I have received congratulations from my line managers and colleagues. Other than a sense of self fulfilment, I do not perceive any short term benefits. Rather, I expect any worth to be gained long term. The process enabled me to develop a different way of recording my time, and looking at the value I extract, and put back into, the profession. Hopefully, as I continue my career in librarianship, this will develop and provide a strong underpinning for how I conduct myself as a professional.
All things considered, I would recommend Chartership, but it is a bit odd. Other than forcing me to reflect and record my activities, it has not really changed how I engage with the profession. That said, do not underestimate how valuable a skill I have found reflection to be (for instance, it has enabled me to look at similarities between sectors, enabling me to highlight common problems that librarianship as a whole faces). If you are already involved in different activities then it won’t take much extra effort, and if you aren’t, it could act as a jump start to your professional development. It was different to what I was expecting though. I think this is because all my previous qualifications have been academic, and in a University environment. Chartership is practical, and you really do get as much out of it as you put in – far more so than many academic courses where you are spoon fed knowledge and information. Bear this in mind during your Chartership year and you will find it much more rewarding.
As an aside to the end of this post, I recently had a discussion with someone in the LIS recruitment industry. They felt that due to ongoing dilution of the LIS profession through a wide range of job titles and roles, in a number of years the profession will come full circle and value the Chartership badge very highly. I’m not sure what I make on this, but it certainly is something to think about.