Training for librarianship

EDIT I still believe in librarianship as a profession, an organised body of knowledge and practice, with a body representing and developing that body of knowledge. For posts in leadership positions, for sole librarians, for posts with serious technical or managerial aspects, a rigorous and demanding qualification structure is needed. And any qualification structure needs to be differentiated. Not to pepetuate hierarchy, but to recognise the different roles in libraries AND the different needs and interests of those who work in them. Now read on…

Leaving aside the vexed issue of professional/non-professional divides

Too many Masters programs lack rigour. Too many fail to prepare for actual work. Few if any involve placements or other practice.

Librarianship is above all vocational. This does not in any way rule out reflective practice, research etc- indeed it makes them more important.

Training for work in libraries needs to mix a core of ‘academic’ disciplines- research, information organisation, technological awareness and management, including budgeting- with a flexible range of sector training- curriculum studies, local studies, business information etc etc.

The Library Schools seem unable to deliver this, as there is not a wide enough coverage of these areas.

What to do?

Perhaps all library training should be job based, with the academic side handled by distance learning and the practical side by accredited units relevant to the work done. This would enable people to train in a specific area, but not limit them as they could develop a range of skills in each job should they so wish.

The outcome of this training regime may not be a Masters- or any form of degree. It would be open to all, but all who wanted to work in libraries would need to undertake it. It could be differentiated to allow for progression into management, and for specialisms such as cataloguing, elearning, school librarianship etc.

The need is for a flexible system which does not merely train people to serve the system as it is, but does equip them to work within the systems. One which would open librarianship to people, without abandoning a structure of training and CPD. Perhaps Chartership could thus become the gold standard, where people doing appropriate level work can attain that qualification.

For we still need qualifications- to reward and foster commitment and as part of ensuring standards of service.


6 Responses to Training for librarianship

  1. Miriam Palfrey says:

    I think a better solution might be to have work experience built into the training schedule in a similar way to teacher training.

    Job based training, whilst better in some ways for those of us who had to support ourselves through library school, leaves a lot of power in the hands of the employer. What happens if your boss doesn’t think that you should pursue certain course modules or you work in one sector and would like to train for a different one?

    I’d disagree with the statement that Library Schools are unable to deliver the training provided. It’s a lot to cram into a one-year course but as long as we are given an introduction to the variety of tools we might need then I don’t think it’s unfair to expect individuals to do some further research of their own.

    Incidentally, a year of work experience in a library or information post was required before application to my Library School and to nearly all of the others I considered applying to. Is this no longer in practice or are you suggesting that it isn’t enough?

  2. Pete says:


    I went through teacher training. I am not convinced, even now, that a one year program provides enough experience in that area, and the same may be true for librarianship.

    Some lib schools have dropped the experience requirement. A year is better than nothing. If I had done my course full time it would have been without any prior experience, and I am glad I was working whilst doing the course.

    I think lib schools by themselves can’t do all that is required.

    The academic/professional core should allow for flexibility in what you do, and the units for sectors need not be delivered in work. Bu too many ppl go into lib jobs without any real library experience- most are great, but politically it causes resentment and leads to questioning. Some would argue we need to come up with a better argument for the current system, but I am not sure there is one.

    I think there is a real need for reform in library training. Lib schools are part of that, but not the whole.

  3. Miriam Palfrey says:

    I went to a university which was known for it’s teacher training and I’m not convinced that a 4 year QTS course provides enough experience 🙂

    I agree with you about the importance of experience (although resentment is not a good enough reason to question the worth of anyone who is already performing well). If nothing else, previous work experience is bound to look good to employers and it helps to hit the ground running in a new post if you already have some idea of the ropes.

    My worry about training “from the shop floor” is that there is a lot more standing in the way of individuals who want to progress beyond entry level jobs than there is at the moment.

  4. Pete says:

    Well, yes- people’s feelings need to be taken into account but not made paramount. And people then have to prove themselves.

    I think some would see the proposals as lowering barriers. Equivalent experience would enable some progression with training on the job building on that.

  5. Kevin says:

    One of the problems with public librarianship is that the only career progression for most librarians involves their abandoning their library skills in favour of generic HR and buildings management. Sadly, being an excellent librarian is not necessarily the key to being even a half-decent generic manager.

  6. John says:

    Thanks, useful material. Has added your blog in bookmarks.

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