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Ayub Khan MBE looks forward to his year as CILIP President

I’m incredibly proud to be taking over as CILIP President. It is exciting to be taking on the Presidency at a time of change for the organisation. CILIP’s four-year plan to 2020 is shaped around the central goal of putting ‘library and information skills at the heart of a democratic, equal and prosperous society’. As CILIP’s first black President I want to see the organisation making real progress towards greater diversity, both in terms of membership and policy.

As CILIP is the only organisation in the world which has a Royal Charter to develop all librarians and information professionals in all sectors it made sense for my theme for 2018 to be ‘international’.

My first presidential engagement will be a trip to Aarhus in Denmark where I will explore Scandinavia’s largest library, meet with IT suppliers from across Europe, and deliver a keynote speech. I have wanted to visit the library at Aarhus since it opened in 2015. From what I’ve seen and read it is a shining example of what libraries could – and perhaps should look like in future. I’ve also heard that a giant bell rings every time a baby is born at the local hospital. What a lovely idea.

One of my priorities for the year will be workforce development, particularly in terms of technology. But I’m also very conscious that it’s not just library staff who make libraries work. There is a wider community of support – from book suppliers to IT specialists, those working in facilities management and the wider supply chain. So it’s not just library people we need to be talking to about the future.

I already have strong international connections as a UK representative on the buildings committee of the International Federation of Library Associations, and through my work with the British Council on library development projects in several countries including Russia, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh (co-funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation), and the Library Revolution in South Asia. Whilst it is fascinating to see first-hand how libraries operate in other countries I am always struck by the similarities. Much the same challenges confront us all and – post global recession – funding seems to be a universal problem. However, it’s interesting to see how different countries are responding to that issue.

There are, of course, important matters closer to home.

The British Government appears to be so busy with Brexit it has little time for anything else – so keeping libraries on the agenda will be a challenge. I will focus on libraries’ future potential, as well as their proud traditions. Libraries offer a wider range of services – both physical and digital – than ever before, and are uniquely placed in society.

The problem is we are not always successfully getting the message across. There is also growing evidence of the wider benefits of libraries – for health and wellbeing, literacy levels, education and job prospects, social inclusion and cohesion. I’ll be making their case, at ministerial level, as forcefully as I can. And one of the reasons I chose ‘international’ as my main theme is that, with Brexit on the horizon, we need to show that UK libraries are not retrenching but reaching out.

As a profession we need to grasp the opportunities of a changing world, and make sure the power and importance of libraries is never underestimated. In a nutshell, that’s what I’ll be working towards over the coming year. To support our advocacy and to take your career to the next level make sure you have a look at becoming a CILIP member. With standard membership at £100 a year being a CILIP member is great value for money, open to all and provides a range of benefits to keep your thinking fresh, expand your network, get recognition and future-proof your skills.

Join today at www.cilip.org.uk/join