Library Studies in the UK

17/09/2013 § 4 Comments

Editor’s note:  This is a guest post by Natasha S. Chowdory

Hi! I’m Natasha. At the moment I’m working as an assistant librarian in a small technical library in the UK. I’ve been in the role for a little over a year and loved it so much that I decided to become a librarian. Today I wanted to share information about what it’s like to be a library student in the UK.

First and foremost, in order to become a librarian or rather ‘information management professional’ in the UK you have to make sure that you choose a course that has been accredited by CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals). CILIP has branches for each region of England as well as hosting conferences and serving as a platform for new ideas related to information management (the most current being the issues surrounding metadata and the crisis of libraries closing across the UK). If your course is accredited by CILIP you increase your employability – not just in the UK but also all over the world. So that’s step 1. They have reduced membership rates for students which include incredible benefits – magazines, job notifications, etc.

Thankfully (or not?!) there are 14 institutions in the UK that offer some form of the Library and Information Studies qualification either full time, part time, or part time distance learner. (I’m doing the final option as I didn’t want to give up my job as Library Assistant). There are also vocational qualifications that you can pursue while working – but they don’t quite net you the MSc after your name. In fact, at the moment in the UK the MSc carries more weight, as it indicates a higher technical factor within the course. This could mean anything from learning (in depth) about MARC records or creating research projects around library usage.

In order to do most courses you need to have had some experience in a library/information management environment; you don’t need any prior qualifications but the experience counts for a lot. A lot of courses don’t even mind if you haven’t done an undergraduate degree.

On completing my first term and feeling hopelessly inadequate in some of the forums, experience does count for a lot. Some people are doing the degree to further their own careers (as they are already in the industry). Others are doing it as a job change and some (like me) have fallen into it, and realize that actually, this works for them! I enjoy librarianship mainly because I like dealing with people and I take a small measure of pride in being able to match people up with the resources that they need. Balancing full-time work with studying (to a decent level) is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do and it’s not something I would advise anyone to do without a proper support network.

If you do a course full time – if it’s a BA, it’ll be 3 years, an MA/MSc 1 year. If you decide to do it part time double those times. And if you’re me, you’re looking at 3 years. Term starts in September or January; depending on the university it could be September or April. And you get a few months off between each term. 4 terms and a dissertation is how you reach MA/MSc level. I’m not sure how the full time course works but the distance learning course has been intense! From starting with basic classification and finishing with assessments of RDA v. AACR2 and creating wireframes for Knowledge Organization my first term flew by in a haze!

Do you have any questions about being a library student in the UK? If so, I’m happy to answer them!

Natasha is currently an Assistant Librarian in a specialist technical library in a very large corporation. She studies part-time as a distance learner to be a Real Librarian. She’s a very typical twenty-something in that she’s an aspiring writer and really enjoys instagramming various inane parts of her existence. She’s a big fan of fantasy books especially ones where women are the main character and don’t fall in love at the drop of a hat. She has a propensity for collecting postcards (and has done since she was 10) as well as taking pictures of clouds. Plush toys and red thai sweet chilli crisps are her Archilles heel and her boyfriend cheerfully abets both habits with gleeful abandon.

You can find her at girlinthelibrary, which is peppered with opinions about books and films as well as general ramblings. She’s known as @LibraryTasha on Twitter which is filled with *stuff* that she picks up from all over web that generally will involve more about books and films and random bits in the news (not necessarily in that order).

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§ 4 Responses to Library Studies in the UK

  • Michelle B says:

    Hello! I’m looking into applying to grad school in the UK (I’m from the US), but I’ve heard that American libraries are less likely to hire grads from non ALA accredited universities (even if they are accredited by institutions like CILIP) Do you know anything about this?

    • I’m so sorry to reply so late! I didn’t have notifications for replies to this post!

      I think the key is to pick an institution that has an internationally recognised Information Sciences degree – that way you’re good to work in most countries. I know that CILIP accredited courses – at the Masters level will satisfy the ALA but it does come down to what may be the preference of your employer.

      I hope that helps a little bit :)

  • Hi, thank you for the informative look at UK Library schools. I am in the same boat as previous blogger Michelle B: from the USA, considering applying to a CILIP accredited program in Singapore and wondering about the chances of this being recognized by future employers in the USA. Any ideas? Thanks.

    • May be worth getting in touch with the ALA and actually asking them what the viable prospects of a CILIP accreditations in the States. Also check out job specs – I’m not sure what it likes in the States but a lot of places value experience over the piece of paper that denotes your degree…

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