At the New Professionals Conference I presented at last week, I spoke to CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) representatives who mentioned the CILIP Network of Expertise and Interests. Seeing as I was talking about online networking, they seemed surprised (and I was fairly embarrassed) that I hadn’t heard of it before. I asked others on Twitter last week and was relieved to find that it wasn’t just me who wasn’t aware of the network. I decided to register, and thought I’d share a brief review of the service.

The network is not part of the Communities area of the CILIP website, and is not attached to the CILIP Communities login. This surprised me, and I was a little disappointed to have to wait a day to be verified before I could take a look at the network, despite being a CILIP member and already registered on the CILIP Communities website. Having said that, one thing I was pleased about was that registration is open to anyone, even if they are not a CILIP member (although obviously it must be approved before being accepted). On the flip side I see the argument that there needs to be incentives to CILIP membership, but for this particular purpose I feel the network offers more value if it is open to all (UPDATE: unfortunately, this is no longer the case – the network is only open to CILIP members, which is a shame but I can see the reasoning.).

It wasn’t completely clear to me before being verified (which took about 24hrs) what the network was for or how it worked – CILIP referred to it as a sort of LinkedIn but it doesn’t have many of the same features that LinkedIn does. On the initial registration email it mentions matching members so I did wonder if it recommended other members with similar interests to yourself (like online dating might do but obviously for a different purpose!) but it doesn’t seem to do that.

Now I’m logged in I have found the aim of the network:

The CILIP membership is rich in skill and experience. This site is for members to make connections, share experiences and learn from each other.

Here’s a screenshot of the service once you have registered and logged in (I have just used my own profile as I appreciate it is a private area, when you log in there is an alphabetical list of entries similar to mine):

CILIP Network of Expertise and Interests

CILIP Network of Expertise and Interests

You can browse all members alphabetically (at present there are 119 members), or you can use the search functionality to find people. One feature which I really feel it’s crying out for is the ability to list people with a certain interest (these are selected from a list when you apply for membership so there should be consistency). These interests are included in the main entry on the home page, and are listed on each profile (see mine below for an example):

CILIP Network of Expertise and Interests - my profile

CILIP Network of Expertise and Interests - my profile

I wish these were links to take you to a list of everyone who has included that interest, it’s certainly what I was expecting (maybe I’m too used to tagging technologies!). I couldn’t find an easy way to list people by their interests and this is something fairly basic which I really think the network should be able to do.

There doesn’t seem to be any way to create groups either, and it seems the only way to contact people is by email, there is no way to send a message within the network.

It has potential to be a useful service and is good to be able to find other members with similar interests, but it is fairly long winded to use and the information is minimal. It’s more like a directory listing than a network really as it doesn’t encourage communication on the network platform.

I know I’m coming across a little critical, and I do think there are a lot of enhancements which are necessary before it is a viable alternative for LinkedIn (and as Owen Stephens pointed out on Twitter, one of the great advantages of LinkedIn is that different professions are all represented therefore providing links outside the library profession as well as within it). However, it’s great to see CILIP trying these new ideas, and acting on developing new networking methods as they mentioned mention in their recent Draft Council Paper on the use of Web 2.0.

One thing I am confused by however is the lack of publicity about this service. I don’t know if it’s a deliberate thing to soft launch to try the service with small numbers, but it seems to have been around for a while, and I wonder why it wasn’t mentioned amongst the #cilip2 discussions earlier this year. The CILIP representative I spoke to last week wanted to promote the service, so hopefully I’ve helped raise the profile a little (I know quite a few others on Twitter have joined since I mentioned it last week).

If you’re interested in finding out more, why not apply online and let me know what you think – do you see yourself using the network?

UPDATE: I wrote most of this post last week, but since then the page has been updated. Discussion forums have been activated along with a note that the network is hoped to be incorporated into CILIP Communities shortly. I’ll keep the blog updated with any new developments.

  • Ah, so it’s like a Linked-In directory…I get it now! A couple of the people I follow on Twitter (David McMenemy & Jeanette Castle) were talking about joining this last week but I wasn’t sure what it was all about.

    Like you, I think it’s great that CILIP are trying out new things online, and this particular service does seem like it could provide some added value in terms of networking. However, the introduction of this new service seems to go against the recommendations made by many (via Twitter discussions, at conferences, on forums) that CILIP should reach out to existing and potential users to communicate with them β€˜on their terms’, in a space that they are already frequenting; rather than trying to pull people into ‘gated’ communities.

    That said, I think I’ll submit my application to join later today and try it out for myself before making any final judgements. The application process does seem a bit formal though..I’ll let you know in 24 hours if I’ve been accepted! πŸ™‚

  • Yes, it is sold as a LinkedIn type community, but it’s more like an online directory really. There seems to be more flexibility with the profile you get on CILIP Communities.

    I agree that it may be better for CILIP to move to existing communities, I’m a big believer in “going to where the users are”, so it is a bit of a shame CILIP are going for this approach rather than establishing a presence on LinkedIn itself.

  • Well I was approved in 3 hours, rather than 24 so I’ve had a nosey around the Directory already. It’s great to see so many people already registered. Have you figured out how to ‘friend’ people, or can we not do that yet?

    It’s sort of like having access to the contacts directory on an Intranet page. Certainly interesting , but I’m not sure I’ll remember to login regularly to see what people are chatting about. I’ll add it to My Delicious and see if that helps! πŸ™‚

  • They obviously trusted your application far more than mine! πŸ˜‰

    I don’t think you can make links with people, no, yet you can in CILIP Communities. Now that only CILIP members can join I think the only real advantage I can see is standardised topics of interests, although as mentioned you can’t list by these anyway. Hopefully, it will merge with CILIP Communities to enhance the features of that – it would perhaps be good if you could recommend people and make links like in LinkedIn?

  • Lyndsay (Rees-Jones)

    Hi there – thanks for the feedback on the Network. Your reactions reflect the slight confusion I’ve had since launching it with Gwenda Sippings (our Member instigator) on Members Day November 2008.

    We were really keen to embed this for members in the most efficient way, and the ambition was (as someone has seuggested here) to merge it with Communities post-upgrade. So it was a conscious decision to soft-launch it and let it grow gradually. Since the recent Communities upgrade it has become apparent that it is not an easy transfer as we need to link with the members database and so will wait beyond the website migration (and membership database integration) taking place later this year.

    So – the big challenge now is how to develop this tool so that is works effectively for members?

    The platform we are using is WildApricot, and I need to commit time to delving into additional functionality since a recent upgrade. I am with you all on wanting it to be a really useful tool for connecting.

    Ok maybe Facebook was too optimisitic of me, but if it enables members to find people with similar interests etc then it should have some value.

    Lyndsay (from MSU at CILIP)

  • Kathy Ennis

    Hi Jo, thanks for highlighting the Network. The functionality is minimum at the moment because it was always intended that the Network would be subsumed into the CILIP Communities during the upgrade of CILIP web services that is taking place at the moment. Unfortunately time and cost mean that this is not possible for a while yet so Lyndsay Rees-Jones (who leads on Communities at CILIP) is looking at enhancing the functionality that the Network sits on at the moment.

  • Thanks for posting this Jo – I never would have known it was there! I’m off to register now. . .

  • Thanks for your comments Lyndsay and Kathy, it’s helpful to know the background and I appreciate choosing a soft launch to help it grow gradually. I think quite a few people have joined since this blog post and conversations on Twitter have highlighted the service, and hopefully they will also have views on how to develop the network.

    Unfortunately I am unable to attend the session which has been organised to discuss these issues but am happy to continue to give feedback virtually.