I’ve noticed a recent trend with employers in the education field, when making librarians redundant or downgrading their positions, stating that their degrees are no longer relevant.
Now this is an astonishing thing for any educational establishment to say.
Do they really want to send the message to their students that “doing a degree is worthless” because that’s what this does. It indicates, to me, that those who say this have no idea what a library and information science (LIS) degree actually encompasses but also that they do not have a clue as to the benefits and value that can be obtained from undertaking any sort of degree. Benefits that include:
· Proof of a certain level of educational ability
· Time management skills, including the capability to meet deadlines
· Independent thought and analysis, including problem solving
· Team working, collaboration, leadership abilities
· Effective communication incorporating written and verbal skills
These skills are advantageous to most employers, regardless of their industry. They should also be encouraged amongst students at educational establishments and anyone who has been through an FE process can show good practice and teach others in their use – I delivered a time management module as part of a Higher Project Qualification to Year 9 students who, invariably, would tell me how useful it was when doing their GCSEs and revising.
You don’t become a qualified librarian by learning how to shelve books or by entering bibliographic data into a library management system; you learn a set of skills in an interdisciplinary field that can be used outside of libraries. These include the ability to organise and navigate information as well as ways to preserve, prioritise and manage information on all types of media; not to mention the exploitation of research data, knowledge management, and the planning, marketing and delivery of information services.
LIS degrees cover the fields of informetrics, applying the practices and tools of management, information technology and education, dynamically combining theory and training to produce reflective practitioners – CILIP have highlighted some of the values of trained information professionals. Education has changed and thus libraries have evolved, becoming a complex educational, recreational and information infrastructure supporting a wide range of students with multifaceted needs - in schools, FE and HE establishments. It is also important to recognise that many librarians proactively undertake CPD (often outside contracted hours) to maintain their skills and experience, to remain relevant in today’s world and to provide services needed by their communities. Nurses are required to undertake 35 hours of CPD over 3 years; CILIP advises 20 hours per year for Chartership revalidation.
Furthermore, librarians in education:
· Work in collaboration with academic staff to provide unique and personalised support and thus have an impact on student learning
· Are able to offer training to students, both formally and on an ad hoc basis, providing opportunities for the development of information literacy skills
· Deliver directed CPD to teaching and support staff, helping to reduce training budgets
· Communicate ideas, information and knowledge – the lifeblood of education
· Have an overview of the curriculum and a wide knowledge of resources including literature, periodicals, video and electronic formats enabling them to develop a relevant collection, based on user requirements, that provides value-for-money
· Are able to ensure library resources and services are inclusive and diverse, meeting the needs of a multi-cultural student population
· Manage staff, space, resources – often under tight budgets, and pressing priorities and deadlines
Many businesses recognise the value of LIS professionals and employ them in various roles – in research, law, media, health, the list is endless – so it’s rather ironic that establishments whose role is to educate (usually via the use of information) do not see the value in employing a qualified librarian. And you have to question what sort of library service are they offering their students and staff? Certainly not one that is the best it could be …