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10 Things You Should Know Before Working In UK Libraries (Although Some Points Include More Than One Piece Of Information ;) )

If you are a bright-eyed and fresh-faced North American MLIS graduate, with hopes and dreams of working in the United Kingdom, you may want to take a look at this list of things you should know before you start looking for work across the pond.

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1. Will my ALA accredited degree be good enough?

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When you start looking for a position in the United Kingdom, you will quickly realize that no one is asking for that ALA accredited degree you worked so hard for. Instead, the accrediting body in the UK is the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP).

Don't get scared off though, because "CILIP has a reciprocal agreement with the American Library Association (ALA)", which ensures that UK employers will accept ALA accredited degrees (and vice versa (although this is somewhat contested)).

In a survey conducted in 2011, on the transferability of LIS credentials, one researcher found that of the 19 ALA accredited respondents who applied for jobs in the UK, 16 were successful. Those who were unsuccessful did not cite their education as the reason why they were not offered the position.

To sum up: You are academically qualified to work in the United Kingdom!

2. Okay, so I can legally work over there. Will my education stack up?

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Both you and your graduate program likely worked hard to engage with the ALA's core competences, which serve to inform the building of curricula and programs.

CILIP has a similar set of competences, knows as the Professional Knowledge and Skills Base (PKSB). They too are used to build the curricula and programs for accredited degrees.

If you take a look at the two sets of competences, while the two associations use different language and break things down in their own way, the lists are markedly similar. The only glaring difference is that the ALA includes a focus on Foundations of the Profession, meaning that students will be introduced to the history and background of librarianship. This competence will surely not be detrimental, but when preparing CVs, resumes, and cover letters (also known as covering letters in the UK), it would be a good idea to ensure that the PKSB items are reflected.

3. Well that is reassuring! Anything else I should know?

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While many North American LIS programs give students the opportunity to write a thesis or dissertation, very few make it a requirement. A 2011 study found that 20% of ALA accredited programs required a thesis, compared to 100% of CILIP accredited programs. The same study also noted that while 66% of CILIP programs included work experience as a requirement, it was only mandatory in 10% of ALA programs. In addition to this, some CILIP (but not all) CILIP programs have previous library or information work as an entrance requirement.

With this knowledge, you may decide to choose the dissertation route in your program, or at the very least work to develop your skills and knowledge in a few specific areas. In fact, developing areas of specialization is important no matter which country you want to work in. You will also certainly want to gain experience whether it be through getting jobs in your community, completing practicums/work experience programs, and even volunteering, as most of your competitors will have practical experience.

4. I am prepared to work hard! Are there any more hurdles I may need to overcome, educationally?

I'm glad you asked! One key piece of information is that the CILIP accredited programs are more like the programs found in North American iSchools. This means that many of your competitors (and possible future co-workers!) will have degrees like a MSc in Information Science, MSc in Information and Library Studies, or even an MSc in Digital Library Management.

If you feel intimidated - don't! As we've learned, your degree is certainly transferable. It is nevertheless a good idea to look at a few program requirements for CILIP accredited degrees; that way you can know what you are up against, and maybe get a few ideas for areas of specialization.

5. I'm still a bit nervous - what can I do to help find direction and develop a plan for my own education?

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One UK student published an article about her education; she took the distance learning program offered by the University of Sheffield, in Library and Information Services Management. She noted a few key things about her education, such as lamenting the lack of courses teaching practical skills like cataloguing or classification, as well as the lack of courses directed at special libraries. As she wants to be a law librarian, she found out that gaining experience in this type of library was essential, and would thus have to work to gain this on her own.

One place that offers specialist training in this area is the British and Irish Association of Law Libraries. They offer training courses as well and they have developed their own Professional Skills Framework to supplement CILIP's PKSB.

It is a good idea to look into the professional associations that align with your interests. That way, you can begin doing things like reaching out to people to learn more, and researching their resources in order to see what skills and knowledge you may want to include in your education. You may also want to look at regional associations, if you want to work in specific places like Scotland, Ireland, or Wales.

6. In the last point, you mentioned that some people feel there is a lack of practical knowledge included in the curriculum. Can you elaborate on that?

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In an article entitled "What to Study", in CILIP's February 2013 edition of Update, we hear from program instructors of CILIP accredited programs. The consensus seems to be that traditional knowledge like cataloguing and classification are still important, but the libraries and employers they talk to are just as interested in skills like management and critical analysis.

Part of the problem is that since the programs are Master's programs, the courses need to be academic in nature. Given this requirement, it is difficult to devote sufficient time to the instruction and development of practical skills. In addition, since the instructors are mostly academics, they may not be well versed in this practical knowledge. City University London has taken to offering training workshops over breaks, in an attempt to bridge this gap.

Cataloguing and classification is still considered important, so if your North American school offers courses in these areas, it may be useful to take them. But again, keep in mind the specific roles you are interested in, and see what they require!

7. Cool! I am feeling pretty informed about the education side of things now. Can you tell me a little bit about what is going on in UK libraries?

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There are many things to talk about here, so I am just going to focus on a few.

One of the key concerns in the United Kingdom's public libraries right now has to do with the continued de-funding and closing of libraries. For the last few years, budget cuts and library closures have been making headlines in the UK. In light of this, the Libraries Taskforce (a governmental committee) wrote a document entitled Libraries Deliver: Ambition for Public Libraries in England 2016-2021. In this work they outline their plans for England's libraries, focusing on things like improving literacy (both digital and traditional), creating stronger communities with higher qualities of life, and enriching culture. This work was published recently (December 2016), so keep an eye on library websites for programs and plans that work toward these goals! If you are serious about working in the UK, you should consider reading this document in full.

Both public and academic libraries are focusing on information literacy; this is also happening in North America. In a post-Brexit, post-Trump world, there is a lot of misinformation. The increasing ubiquity of the Internet and easy access to (mis)information has led to a call for more information literacy instruction. One of the first statements made by Nick Poole, in his role as Chief Executive of CILIP, noted that CILIP would work to support professionals "working to promote information literacy"!

8. That sounds great! I love promoting information literacy, especially after learning about the ACRL Framework for Literacy!

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I'm glad to hear you are familiar with the ACRL Framework for Literacy. Now, forget all about it!

I am totally kidding. It is definitely an excellent resource. But if you want to work in the UK, you will want to familiarize yourself with a few more frameworks. There is the ANCIL (A New Curriculum for Information Literacy), the SCONUL (Society of College, National and University Libraries) 7 Pillars of Information Literacy, the National Information Literacy Framework Scotland (currently suspended due to lack of updates), and the Information Literacy Framework for Wales. There is more than one way to build a framework!

9. I can definitely take a look at those. So, let's get down to business: what kinds of libraries are there in the UK? What kinds of positions might be available to an Information Professional?

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In this, you will have a lot of variety. It will be similar to North America, in that you will find school libraries, university libraries, government libraries, law libraries, health science libraries, and more. One place that the UK may have more of are positions for librarians and information professionals at cultural institutions like museums and galleries. Most of these institutions will have libraries, or at least need people for records management. Also, as the world becomes more digital, more and more digitization projects come up.

A lecturer at the University of Sheffield's iSchool noted that they are seeing more demand from energy industries like oil and gas - industries which are producing mass amounts of data and need people to help keep it organized and make the data useful.

10. Wow, I am so informed now! Well, have a good day, I'll see you later!

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Wait, don't go just yet!

I just want to tell you a little bit about what to expect in the years to come. First of all, a close eye should be kept on what changes come to pass due to the Brexit vote. The EU is working toward broad Open Access policies, such as making all scientific research OA by 2020. This goal will probably not be affected by Brexit, but it is a good idea to see if the UK will work to implement similar measures.

There is a shift occurring in academic libraries, wherein there is an emphasis on partnering and collaborating with academic staff "on the creation and dissemination of knowledge and the curation and exploitation of information resources created within the institution." There is a need for strong communication, management, and relationship building skills...i.e., business skills. You are in information professional first and foremost, but it is important to develop these soft skills.

The most important thing you need to do to prepare yourself to work in the UK is research: institutions, networks, professional associations, government publications, news articles...there is a lot of knowledge out there! Put that LIS degree to good work, and find it :)

I hope this has been a little bit useful! Good luck!!!

11. In case you are still here, feel free to check out these sources!

“ALA’s Core Competencies of Librarianship.” ALA Executive Board. 27 Jan. 2009. Web.

“Your Professional Knowledge and Skills Base.” CILIP. n.d. Web.

Bailey, Josephine. “Back to School: a Student Insight into LIS Qualifications, the LIS Sector, and What it can Offer to New Professionals.” Legal Information Management, vol. 16, 2016, pp. 49-53.

Eshleman, Joe, and Slutzky, Howard. “The Association of College and Research Framework for Information Literacy: Connecting to Mindfulness.” The Mindful Librarian: Connecting the Practice of Mindfulness to Librarianship, edited by Moniz, Richard, et al., Chandos Publishing: 2016, pp. 77-110.

Goblaskas, Dana. “Assessing the Transferability of Library and Information Science (LIS) Degrees Accredited by the American Library Association (ALA) and the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP).” Library Student Journal, 2012, p. 5.

Hamlin, Dana. “Accreditation and international qualifications.” Hiring Librarians, 12 Apr. 2013.

Hendrikx, Michiel. “Press Release: All European Scientific Article to be Freely Available by 2020.” Ministry of Education, Culture, and Science, 27 May 2016.

Hyams, Elspeth. “What to Study?” CILIP Update, Feb. 2013, pp. 23-25.

Lee, Deborah, et al. “Learning cataloguing as part of an LIS course: the City University London experience.” Catalogue and Index: Periodical of the CILIP Cataloging and Indexing Group, iss. 175, June 2014, pp. 2-8.

Libraries’ Taskforce. Libraries Deliver: Ambition for Public Libraries in England 2016-2021. Department for Culture, Media, and Sport, 1 Dec. 2016.

MacKinlay, Rob. “Future skills, future professionals.” CILIP Update, Feb. 2014, pp. 24-29.

Taylor, Mark. “Nick Poole confirmed as new CILIP Chief Executive.” CILIP, 16 Mar. 2015.

Wynne, Ben, et al. “Changing the Library Brand: A Case Study.” New Review of Academic Librarianship, vol. 22, iss. 2/3, pp. 337-349.

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