Gillian Hallam, Helen Partridge and Lynn McAllister






Bernie Sloan, an aspiring library and information science (LIS) educator who is currently a PhD student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, maintains a personal web resource entitled Changes in LIS education: a bibliography.[1]  The bibliography makes interesting reading in itself: it contains more than 300 references to the literature, predominantly American, relating to changes in education for library and information professionals.  The reader would benefit from a concordance to analyse the occurrence of particular words, such as future, change, directions, trends, issues…  If Sloan’s research was expanded to include areas of specialisation and to cover articles and papers published worldwide, the entries would undoubtedly reach into the thousands.  If he looked at the discussion on change accompanying the migration from ‘Library School’ to ‘LIS Department’, with greater emphasis placed on ‘information’ as opposed to ‘library’, or on change through the impact of technology on service delivery, or indeed change in the higher education sector, the bibliography would grow exponentially. 


Feather notes that few industry professionals have time to be concerned about LIS education; inevitably your personal and professional focus is your own work.  ‘Many of you reading this will be practising information professionals.  Many of you will have graduated from an LIS department (or been to a library school!)  Some of you might even have pleasant memories of the experience. Many of you, however, will not have set foot in a department since the day you left, whatever you feel about what happened when you were there.’[2]  This paper offers you the chance to capture a glimpse of some of the concerns and initiatives that are central to LIS education today, not only here in Australia, but across the world. 


These are indeed challenging times for educators who are charged with the development of the new information professional while contending with the multiple demands of students, employers, professional bodies, university managers and governments.  The paper has been informed by the literature review undertaken by the authors as the initial component of a research project which aimed to explore the core knowledge and skills required by the successful modern day library and information professional.  Drawing on the review of the literature, the paper will consider three main, and intertwined, issues currently affecting LIS education across the world: the focus of LIS education, the process of LIS education and the accreditation of LIS education.  



The focus of LIS education


In 1998 a number of LIS academic staff felt that, to understand the issue of change within the context of LIS education, there should be a better grasp of the common denominators underpinning the changes.  Accordingly a significant study was undertaken in the United States (1998-2000) known as the KALIPER project (the Kellogg-ALISE Information Professions and Education Reform Project).  The sponsoring bodies were the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, which had originally funded five U.S. library schools, and the Association for Library and Science Education (ALISE). The project was supported by a further twenty two LIS schools.  This collaborative project set out to identify the factors that promote significant curricular change in LIS education in the United States.


 Pettigrew and Durrance[3] report on the six major trends in the education of LIS professionals which were identified in the study:


Trend 1

In addition to libraries as institutions and library-specific operations, LIS curricula are addressing broad-based information environments and information problems


§         The inherent transferability of library skills to other situations and information problems was evident in the creation and redesign of curricula so that the concepts and skills covered have broad implications and relevance.

§         Introduction of new courses to focus on information problems such as licensing and legal issues, ethics, the creation and marketing of information products, the organization and management of digital information.

§         Renaming or retooling of traditional LIS courses such as cataloguing, classification and reference, or redesignating them as electives instead of core.

§         Dropping the L-word and introducing the I-word.

Trend 2

While LIS curricula continue to incorporate perspectives from other disciplines, a distinct core has taken shape that is predominantly user-centered


§         Infusion of multidisciplinary perspectives into LIS curricula, eg from computer science, medicine, engineering, psychology, art and design, business.

§         Yet the development of a distinct core: the central domain covers cognitive and social aspects of how information and information systems are created, organized, managed, disseminated, filtered, routed, retrieved, accessed, used, and evaluated.

§         At the heart of the activities, issues and problems is the user.

§         Emphasis on the user included in LIS schools’ mission and vision statements.

Trend 3

LIS schools are increasing their investment and infusion of information technology into their curricula

§         Courses are integrating electronic technologies into their courses.

Trend 4

LIS schools are experimenting with the structure of specialization within the curriculum.


§         Schools are providing multiple courses within specific subject areas (eg health informatics, law librarianship) or are offering flexible programming so that students have choices within the core or can tailor their programs according to their own specific interests.

Trend 5

LIS schools are offering instruction in different formats to provide students with more flexibility

Trend 5

§         Eg campus-based programs, distance education, Internet-only course delivery.

§         Emerging forms of instruction include inter-university partnerships where students from one institution may take courses for credit at another LIS school, or through collaboration with universities in other countries.

Trend 6

LIS schools are expanding their curricula by offering related degrees at undergraduate, master’s and doctoral levels, or double degree combinations.


§         New continuing education programs, workshops and other alternative programs enable LIS schools to tap into expanded markets and provide another potential source of revenue.


Table 1: Current trends in LIS curricula (Pettigrew and Durrance, 2000)


Sutton[4] has noted that Trends 3 and 5 represent the natural development of the use of information and communications technologies in both content (electronic information resources) and teaching and learning approaches (flexible delivery opportunities) in universities, and as such should not really be regarded as LIS specific.  Other trends, such as the broadening of the curriculum, the introduction of new areas of specialisation and flexible options for higher education will be examined further in this paper to highlight some national and international responses to the issues and concerns.


The continual changes in the LIS work environment have raised considerable debate not only amongst employers, but also amongst LIS educators and on the professional associations.  Huckle, speaking for the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Profession (CILIP) in the United Kingdom, indicates the impact of curriculum change results in specific concerns for the professional body: ‘Over the last few years the current accreditation procedures and the Body of Professional Knowledge have not kept pace with the development and of the range and nature of programmes at both undergraduate and postgraduate level in our dynamic and rapidly changing discipline’.[5]   As LIS educators, Brine and Feather have noted that ‘so far as the academic curriculum is concerned, there is probably general agreement about the broad scope of knowledge and understanding which the new entrant to the profession needs to acquire.  There is rather less clarity and consensus about the skills which are needed if s/he is to function effectively’.[6]


This view is supported by the literature reporting on the situation in all corners of the world (Middleton,[7] Myburgh,[8] Rehman,[9]  Koehler,[10] Raju,[11]  Maceviciute,[12] Irwin,[13] Tedd[14]).  LIS educators propose a wide range of competencies, skills, knowledge areas, topics or modules for their courses.  Terms include social informatics, knowledge management, information management, information economics, information resources development, IT applications, information systems, networking, Internet, virtual library, management of information organisations, human resource development, information organisation, information retrieval, collection and access management, professional ethics and so on.  The role of skills in information technology comes to the fore in the analysis.


The Skills for the new Information Professionals (SKIP) project[15], coordinated by the University of Plymouth, aimed to explore and illuminate the nature, type and scope of IT skills required by LIS staff in academic libraries to support learning, teaching and research activities in British universities.  One of the outcomes from this project promised to develop a schema for job classification to help employers plan for staff development of current staff and to design new positions that would reflect the scope of IT skills required by LIS staff.  Unfortunately the findings and recommendations concerning the future of LIS professionals presented in the final report were very general in nature and provided no real guidance on how to effectively move forward:

Service management must recognise the changing nature of the role of the majority of professional librarians within LIS. Their changed functions will require new skills and training, and continual updating. At the present time, three areas in particular require attention for a significant number of such staff:

i) information and IT skills required to function in the networked information environment;

ii) an understanding of the nature of change taking place in the teaching and learning process in higher education;

ii) team working and team management skills, particularly within the context of multidisciplinary team working. [16]

It is disappointing to find that there have been no significant initiatives, independent or collaborative, resulting from either the KALIPER or the SKIP projects.  However, a more proactive approach has been adopted by the Special Libraries Association (SLA).  The SLA led the way in identifying the key skills and competencies required by special librarians, with the first edition of the document ‘Competencies for special librarians of the 21st century’[17] published in 1996.  In response to the dynamic nature of the sector, this document has been revised and released in June 2003 as ‘Competencies for information professionals of the 21st century’.[18]  The document offers a model which identifies four major professional competencies: managing information organisations; managing information resources; managing information services; managing information tools and technologies.  Each competency is augmented by specific skills and illustrated by applied scenarios to explain the diverse roles and responsibilities of information professionals.  The professional competencies are balanced by a set of personal competencies reflecting the generic attitudes and values required by information professionals to perform effectively in the workplace.  Skills in this arena include oral and written communication, adaptability, problem-solving, teamwork etc. 


Henczel has taken the SLA competencies and mapped them to five broader business competencies of marketing (promoting), packaging (product development), persuading and performing (sales/customer service) and positioning (strategic manoeuvring)[19].  Henczel argues that we do not need to adopt ‘new competencies by which to measure ourselves, but rather to map our librarian competencies to a set of accepted business competencies and to articulate how we measure our competency levels in the language of our organizations’.[20]  This will help ensure that the contribution made by information professionals to their parent organisation is clearly understood and integrated into core business strategies.


Of particular interest are the ‘Competencies of law librarianship’ published by the American Association of Law Librarians[21].  This document outlines sixteen core competencies, which in the current context can be regarded as generic capabilities, and five ‘specialized competencies’ which relate to specific areas of practice: library management; reference research and client services; information technology; collection care and management; and teaching.  Henczel indicates there would be value in mapping competencies such as law librarianship ones to the business competencies in order to enable employers to fully comprehend, in their own language, the value the law librarian adds to the organisation.[22]


Middleton comments on the degree of ‘unease in a number of quarters about the influence of competencies on (LIS) curricula’[23] due to the potential dangers of confusing vocational competency-based training with professional education, to move beyond procedural knowledge into analytical, evaluative, flexible and creative knowledge areas.  In Australia, the term ‘competencies’ are more readily applied to the ‘National training package for libraries and museums’ coordinated by CREATE Australia (Culture Research Education and Training Enterprise Australia),[24] focusing on 62 competency standards that reflect the knowledge and skills of library technicians.  The new training package for libraries and information services is scheduled to be launched in May 2004. 


A similar situation is found in the United Kingdom, where the Information Services National Training Organisation (isNTO)[25] has developed standards for the National Vocational Qualifications (NVQ).  In the European context, the European Council of Information Associations (ECIA), an umbrella body of nine national professional associations, developed ‘an index of expertise’ in the form of the ‘Euroguide LIS: the guide to competencies for European professionals in library and information services’.[26]   ECIA acknowledges both the value and the limitations of the document, while Brine and Feather stress that ‘vocational’ standards such as these do not relate to the theoretical aspects of the LIS discipline which are taught in library schools and ‘which employers in the sector attach some importance to’.[27] 


Brine and Feather report on the Recording Academic Professional and Individual Development Project (RAPID 2000)[28] project developed for the discipline area of building and construction management ‘through which students and newly qualified professionals can examine their own personal professional development and measure their levels of competence in the subject-specific key skills as a means of identifying their skill gaps and training needs’.[29]  The critical first step in the development of a similar tool for the LIS discipline was, of course, to define the skill set for the profession.  The Centre for Information and Computer Science (ICS), part of the Learning and Teaching Support Network (LTSN) in the United Kingdom has undertaken preliminary research in this area.  The role of the LTSN in higher education is discussed later in the paper.


The scope of the LTSN-ICS skill set is fairly similar to the SLA model and focuses on four key areas of professional practice: information resources; information service and organisation management; information systems; and policy and the broader social dimension of information work.[30]  These four core areas are supported by more detailed statements of the desired skills.  The area of information resources, for example, has the ‘sub-units’ of skills such as identification and analysis; collection and data management; knowledge organisation, recording and retrieval; and evaluation.  The acquisition of these skills can then be evaluated according four levels: a basic understanding of why the skill is needed; a basic level of ability in the skill; a higher level of ability in the skill; a full command of the skill with the ability to work independently and with initiative.[31]  Generic skills also form part of the skill set, eg communication skills, IT literacy, teamwork and self-management.  A review of the pilot study conducted with students in three LIS departments has been published recently.[32]


Brine and Feather indicate that the four core areas of the LTSN-ICS are broadly reflected in the structure and content of academic curricula, as well as in the benchmark statement for the library and information management discipline developed by the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA).[33]  This body undertakes the assessment and audit of the quality of learning and teaching in universities, and their academic management processes, in the United Kingdom.  The core elements of the subject benchmark statement are identified as follows:


1.       The processes and techniques whereby information is created, captured, analysed, evaluated, moderated and managed in a variety of media and formats in the service of defined user populations.

2.       The application of techniques for planning, implementing, evaluating, analysing and developing library, archive and information products, services and systems within the context of organisational culture, objectives and client base, professional statutory and ethical frameworks, and national and international legislation and regulations.

3.       The broad concepts and theories of information systems and information and communication technologies in so far as they apply to the principles and practice of information management.

4.       The dynamics of information flow in society, in and between nations, governments, organisations and individuals. [34]


At the same time, CILIP has been developing a ‘new framework of qualifications’ to review and update the Body of Professional Knowledge in order to facilitate multiple and alternative entry points into the profession, as well as to offer strategies for career progression.[35]  The merger in April 2002 of the Library Association and the Institute of Information Scientists to form CILIP brought with it the challenge to develop an agreed framework of skills for professional practice, with ‘the remit to broaden the two pre-existing outlines and accommodate even more change in modern professional practice’.[36]  CILIP proposals include the idea of certification to recognise the knowledge and experience of paraprofessionals and encouraging career-long professional development for Chartered Members through a revalidation process.  The chartered status of LIS professionals in the United Kingdom aims to provide evidence within the profession of professional development and progression since the completion of academic studies[37]. There has been some debate within the professional association about whether revalidation of this chartered status should be voluntary or compulsory.


At the local level, the authors have conducted a research project funded by Queensland University of Technology (QUT) which aims to help both LIS educators and the LIS profession as a whole to respond to questions such as those posed by Harvey and Higgins: ‘What is librarianship, or information studies? What skills and attitudes make for successful practice? Do Australian graduates in LIS possess these skills and attributes?’[38]  The main aim of the research project was to identify and examine the skills and knowledge essential for the successful library and information professional in the twenty-first century, considering the two areas of discipline knowledge and generic capabilities. 

The search of the literature was extensive.  In the area of generic capabilities the literature examined included the fields of higher education, human resources management, and library and information studies.   In addition, materials published by the professional library and information associations nationally and internationally were studied.  In the area of discipline knowledge the search encompassed the literature in the professional areas as well as the education areas.  In addition, the LIS courses and curricula offered by over 75 institutions for higher education in Australia, New Zealand, the United States of America, Canada and the United Kingdom were examined. 

Focus groups were used as the vehicle to explore the desired generic skills and discipline knowledge, with 98 participants drawn from diverse sectors of the LIS profession in South East Queensland: public, State, academic, government and special libraries, LIS education and LIS employment services.  The participants were employed in a variety of roles, from new graduates through to senior managers.  Eleven 2-hour focus group sessions were held, five for the LIS discipline knowledge and six for the generic capabilities, with each session attended by between 6 and 11 participants.

The focus groups were presented with the initial findings obtained from the literature review, in the form of a one-page handout outlining the preliminary findings for each dimension: ten areas of discipline knowledge or ten generic skills.  The focus groups began with a broad question:  Are these the skills and knowledge required by the Library and Information Professional for the twenty first century?  Under the guidance of the moderator, the group was guided through the topics and invited to provide comments and to ask questions.  The discussions ended with the participants being invited to provide additional comment on any skills or knowledge that may have been omitted but which they believed should have been included on the initial list.  The research project has been valuable in the way that it validates the work done in other countries.  It has also established an open dialogue between current industry professionals, library science educators and the professional association on the traditional and evolving skills and knowledge required by LIS professionals to guide the development of current and future education of library and information professionals.  The research project will ensure a high level of industry input into the development of a new master’s curriculum at QUT.


The process of LIS education


In the higher education sector, the traditional library schools have disappeared, to be replaced by departments or schools within a faculty.  While library and information work has in itself been subject to substantial change, the higher education sector has itself experienced ‘seismic changes’ which are succinctly summarised by Feather[39] to incorporate the dynamics resulting from the creation of ‘new’ universities and ‘new’ funding models in which resource allocation is explicitly linked to student numbers.  Additionally there are concerns about the quality of teaching and learning in universities, with some countries moving towards formal external processes to assess university quality.  The implications for academics include new perspectives on the traditional relationship between research and teaching, and a focus on new teaching and learning methods and modes of delivery.  Harvey and Higgins highlight the funding issues in higher education in Australia, where the ongoing reduction in government income for universities has resulted in the continual increase in fees for courses.[40]   There are serious concerns about the level of debt that could or should be carried by graduates.


A significant initiative in the United Kingdom has been the establishment of the Learning and Teaching Support Network (LTSN) which has the overall aim ‘to provide, through a coherent and integrated network of subject specific and generic centres, high quality information, expertise, and resources on good and innovative learning and teaching practices, and to effectively promote and transfer such practices to enhance learning and teaching activity in UK higher education’. [41]  The LIS discipline is supported by the Centre for Information and Computer Science (ICS), based at the Department of Information Science at Loughborough University.  The responsibilities of the LTSN-ICS include promoting quality information, resources and expertise in the LIS field and disseminating the information to ensure it reaches a wide audience.  Details of the various activities and initiatives can be found on the LTSN-ICS website.[42]


Other countries have seen the emergence of schemes to support teaching and learning in higher education, eg the Council for the Renewal of Higher Education in Sweden[43], established in 2000 to support innovative teaching and learning activities in universities.  Here in Australia, the Australian Universities Teaching Committee (AUTC)[44] was established in 2000 as a national body to promote quality and excellence in university teaching.  The three principal initiatives of the AUTC are:


  • The establishment of the National Institute of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (planned 2004)
  • Plans for a Teaching and Learning Performance Fund (2006)
  • Supporting quality teaching through the Australian Awards for University Teaching.[45]


It should be noted, however, that while these Australian initiatives will hopefully encourage best practice in teaching and learning, they are cross-disciplinary in focus, rather than discipline specific.


Myburgh has commented on the problems of offering LIS programs at the undergraduate level, with falling enrolments and the poor quality of students resulting in a number of institutions (eg RMIT, University of South Australia) closing down their bachelor courses.[46]   In the United States, master’s courses are the only accredited programs.  The Graduate Diploma as we know it survives only in Australia and South Africa, with an ever increasing number of universities offering or planning master’s courses. Myburgh’s views are shared by many LIS educators:


A post-bachelor Master’s degree should become the basic pre-professional training.  The Graduate Diploma is not enough.  It is not possible to meet the needs of the profession within this framework.  We don’t need more superficialists, who train within a one-year time frame, and have a smattering of bits and pieces of knowledge across a discipline area that is too wide to capture within one year. It should be noted that a Master’s degree has become the first professional qualification internationally in LIS.[47]


Harvey and Higgins, on the other hand, highlight the problems of industry recognition the higher degree:


Professionally-recognised bachelor’s qualifications awarded by nine of the twelve Australian LIS schools are accorded the same professional status as graduate diplomas or masters degrees.  Holding a masters qualification in Australia is not usually linked to higher levels of pay; pay scales are theoretically the same for all first professional qualifications.  There is, therefore, no financial incentive to pay the extra costs incurred in studying at the masters level.[48]


This view overlooks the fact that many LIS students enter the graduate course as part of their strategies for career change.  The student cohort in LIS programs is an interesting one, with a wide diversity in academic background, employment history, personal interests and life experiences, all of which adds richness to the profession they join.  Myburgh stresses that, in her experience:


Undergraduates (if they have come directly from school) typically do not have the life experience which is necessary to understand this complex and sophisticated blend of art and science that forms the backbone of the profession.  It is only after more experience of human nature, individually and within organisations, that some appreciation of the role of information and knowledge (not reading or documents) can be fully understood.[49]


Marcella and Baxter argue, however, that in the United Kingdom there is a strong demand for undergraduate LIS courses and state that, in 2000, about 50% of the membership of the Library Association had completed an undergraduate LIS course.[50]


The International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) recommends that

‘Students should acquire a broad general education (topics from other disciplines) as a significant preparatory component of the total education program for the library/information professional’,[51] thereby encouraging the postgraduate avenue for LIS education.  This is particularly important for academic libraries:  Dalton and Levinson make reference to anecdotal evidence to indicate that ‘for work in the academic sector, employers prefer to recruit LIS professionals with a Master’s level qualification in a separate subject, in addition to the professional LIS qualification’.[52]  Taking this a step further, there has been recent debate in the profession about a new development in the United States to recruit PhD graduates to apply their academic research skills as subject specialist library staff (without the LIS qualification).  The Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) has announced a new Postdoctoral Fellowship for Humanists in Libraries, with 14 universities being involved.  The rationale is provided in the program announcement: ‘It is already clear that there will be – that there is now – a growing need for a new type of librarian who combines strong academic preparation in a discipline with an understanding of information science, particularly with digital technology and the management of digital information resources.’[53]  The Fellowship program will involve one month of orientation and eleven months of specialised on-the-job training.


The debate focuses on the dangers of ‘by-passing LIS education’ which threatens to undermine the professionalism of the field.  One institution is considering ‘a separate executive program for PhD’s who wish to pursue a (LIS) master’s degree’,[54] as a fast-track option for people who want to be subject specialists, possibly via a three- to six-week immersion program covering collection development, bibliographic control, service, library values and the history of books ‘to socialize them into the profession’.[55]  Many critics believe that ‘it would be going down the slippery slope if librarians come to believe that it does not take a master’s degree to become a librarian’.[56]  


Yet simultaneously there have been efforts in the United States to involve undergraduates – or even high school leavers – in library work[57].  One proposed model is a ‘junior fellows’ program, employing young people in libraries for a year and then encouraging them to enrol in the LIS course.  This is seen as a positive approach to recruitment and in fact reflects the situation in the United Kingdom, where a number of universities offer post-experience entry for the higher degree courses, requiring students to have gained library and information experience at a professional level before they study .  The United States also offers the internship model of education, where students receive academic credit in return for working in an organisation, often in a paid capacity (cf the unpaid fieldwork placements which form part of the LIS program in Australia).


These different scenarios highlight the need for flexibility both in LIS education and in individual career pathways.  The ALA has adopted a policy statement ‘Library and information studies and human resource utilization’[58] which offers the concept of a ‘career lattice’, rather then a ‘career ladder’ to reflect the potential career routes a person can follow.  The policy statement aims to recommend categories of library personnel and the respective levels of training or education appropriate for the different personnel.  The document differentiates between undergraduate LIS programs which should be seen as a contribution to liberal education, rather than an opportunity to provide technological and methodological training.  The objective of the master’s programs, on the other hand, should be ‘to prepare librarians capable of anticipating and engineering the change and improvement required to move the profession constantly forward.  The curriculum and teaching methods should be designed to serve this kind of education for the future rather than to train for the practice of the present’.[59]


It is important for employers to truly acknowledge the professional status of new graduates.  Too many graduate librarians find themselves ‘functioning in that grey area inhabited by both the professional and para-professional’.[60] It is important that new graduates are not viewed as apprentices, but are offered the opportunity to be engaged in professional work that draws on the analytical, evaluative and critical thinking that distinguishes university education from vocational education.


The ALA policy document stresses importance of career development and continuous learning for all professionals and underscores ‘the shared responsibility of the individual, the employer, formal education providers, and professional associations’ in achieving the goals of lifelong learning.[61]  In their Framework of Qualifications, CILIP also recognises the partnership of individual, educator, employer and professional body along the continuous learning pathway.[62]  The professional association has responsibilities both to its chartered members who seek ‘CPD with teeth’ and to those employees who may not have a formal qualification but who possess a high degree of professionalism in their work.


ALIA has its Library and Information Science Education for the Knowledge Age (LISEKA) project, which aspired ‘to develop an education framework to underpin career-long education of future generations of library and information workers, to sustain them throughout their careers’.[63]  Following a consultative process which involved a wide range of individuals, groups, institutions and associations, a draft framework incorporating education, training, levels of practice and membership was developed, which strongly supported the concepts of an entry-level qualification and an effective CPD program. A Stage 2 Working Party is currently developing programs and strategies to implement the framework. 



The accreditation of LIS education


Harvey and Higgins indicate that due to the complex and ever-changing nature of the LIS profession, it does ‘not speak with one voice about the attributes and skills it expects new graduates to have’, meaning ‘LIS educators often feel that they are walking a tightrope as they attempt to accommodate the demands of the profession with their own perceptions of what content is needed in the curriculum’.[64]  In an increasingly global economy, this diversity has far-reaching implications.  In 2000, Dalton and Levinson[65] reported on the issue of the standards for LIS education across the world, with a specific focus on the potential for international mobility of LIS professionals, which infers an increasing need for international parity of qualifications.  Their research project was funded by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), in response to the recognition that ‘there were no worldwide approved standards for determining the equivalency of LIS education’.[66]  LIS professionals wishing to work in other countries have expressed concern over the difficulty they have experienced in seeking information on the recognition of their qualifications, while prospective employers have sought guidance in accessing authoritative and consistent information on assessing the LIS qualifications of overseas candidates.


One of the goals of the IFLA research project was to establish ‘a database of recognised qualifications world wide and the responsible sanctioning or accrediting body or bodies in each country’.[67]  Dalton and Levinson highlight their original aspirations for the database: ‘It was anticipated that the database would include information on the core body of knowledge and the accrediting process for professional level qualifications in each country and that this information could be later used to feed into work on standards and equivalency of qualifications throughout the world’.[68]


Findings from the research highlighted the fact that there are substantial differences across the world both in terms of the education system and the structure and organisation of professional LIS associations.  Dalton and Levinson identified three models which endeavour to maintain the standards of LIS courses:


  • Governmental monitoring
  • Formalised LIS accreditation/approval processes
  • Individual course/departmental standards.[69]


Examples of quality control by governments focus primarily on the standards of the higher education institution as a whole, as is the case in many European countries (eg Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, or Germany).  Professional accreditation of LIS courses by professional bodies is a model applicable to only a few countries, including the United Kingdom, United States of America and Australia, which has encouraged the reciprocal recognition of qualifications within these countries.  The third model of internal quality control generally runs concurrently with external accreditation processes, as most institutions aim to offer a high quality education program that attract students, with continuous improvement activities to ensure the course remains current and relevant to the employment market for graduates.  In New Zealand, the Open Polytechnic of New Zealand runs ‘annual moderation procedures in co-operation with LIANZA (Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa) which is regarded as “approval and unofficial accreditation”’.[70]  The Open Polytechnic is also involved in an informal collaborative project to support institutions in the Flanders area of Belgium, partnering with LIANZA and Victoria University.


The United Kingdom, the United States and Australia are therefore all examples of the second model of formalised LIS accreditation or approval purposes, yet there is still considerable diversity apparent within these three countries.  The situation in the United Kingdom reflects the opportunity to study library and information studies at both the undergraduate (bachelor degree 3 years full time, or 4 years as a sandwich course) or graduate levels (master’s degree 1 year full time or 2-3 years part time).  For graduates to be recognised as a professionally qualified library and information practitioner, the courses themselves have to be accredited by CILIP.  Dalton and Levinson note that while theoretically there could be graduates who are not eligible for professional status as a member of CILIP, market forces have ensured that all LIS courses in the United Kingdom have met the criteria for accreditation.[71] 


In Australia, ALIA ‘recognises’, rather than ‘accredits’, entry-level programs at both the undergraduate (bachelor) and graduate (graduate diploma and masters) levels.[72]  ALIA advises potential library and information professionals to ‘choose the level of course which will best qualify you for the level at which you wish to work’[73], outlining the differences between the role of librarian and library technician.  Completion of an entry-level course confers graduates with eligibility for Associate membership of ALIA. 


In the United States, the ALA limits accreditation to programs leading to a master's degree declaring that only these programs represent ‘the only appropriate professional degree for librarians’.[74]  The ALA stresses the fact that ‘there is no agency that accredits undergraduate or associate programs in library and information studies’.[75]   Dalton and Levinson indicate that the reciprocal recognition of other professional bodies’ course recognition processes does enable LIS professionals to seek employment internationally.  The ALA provides some general guidance to employers by acknowledging the course recognition processes in the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, providing hyperlinks to the relevant pages which list accredited programs in those countries.  This means that ‘an individual who has received his/her degree from an institution in one of these countries is considered acceptable for employment in the United States’.[76]  However, the ALA does stress the preference for graduates of master’s programs.


The accreditation processes themselves have differing levels of significance within the professional associations.   CILIP has adopted the procedures for the accreditation of courses developed jointly in 1999 by the Library Association and the Institution of Information Scientists, which ultimately merged to form the new professional association, CILIP. The current accreditation process looks carefully at course content, to establish a conceptual map of the core body of knowledge required by an LIS professional, with five current areas of priority:


  • Information generation, communication and utilisation
  • Information management and organisational content
  • Information systems and information and communication technologies
  • Information environment and policy
  • Management and transferable skills.[77]


Each of these five areas includes a number of topics that make up the composite core body of knowledge, but CILIP further indicates that there are opportunities for joint degree programs where a substantial component of the core knowledge is combined with other areas of study.  The context in which the course is offered is important, to verify the level of institutional support for the program and to ascertain the academic qualifications and professional experience of the teaching staff.  Enser notes that in the United Kingdom, significant emphasis is placed on students receiving instruction in research methods and that all courses should include a requirement for a substantial piece of individual work in the form of a project or a dissertation.[78] 


As a reminder, alongside these professional accreditation processes, there is now the introduction of an additional layer of formal government monitoring of universities through the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA)[79] in the United Kingdom and through the Australian University Quality Agency (AUQA)[80] in Australia.  The quality assurance process involves individual universities conducting their own self-assessment as well being the subject of an intensive audit visit.[81] 


The subject benchmark statement prepared by the QAA, discussed earlier in the paper, recognises the value of professional recognition: ‘Professional and vocational relevance is an important aspect of the degree programmes.  Compliance with the relevant professional bodies is a key determinant of course design for those programmes seeking professional accreditation’.[82] Enser notes, however, that the objectives of the QAA may differ from those of CILIP when they conduct an evaluation of an educational program, so that the professional association needs to carefully consider its role in the accreditation process.[83]


The process of course recognition in Australia is more fuzzy.  ALIA states that courses to be recognised are ‘assessed against criteria set out in the Association’s education policy statements and the course recognition procedures’.[84]  Together, four education policy statements provide the general framework for LIS education in Australia, indicating that ‘entry level courses should provide an examination and analysis of all core knowledge areas and, within this context, develop generic knowledge, skills and attitudes’.[85]  Reference is made to the policy statement ‘The library and information sector: core knowledge, skills and attributes’.[86]  Compared to CILIP, the core knowledge areas are not well delineated in this document.  Reference is simply made to providing ‘library and information services by analysing, evaluating, organising and synthesising information to meet client needs’.[87]   ALIA indicates that the activities of its Board of Education ‘aim to support educational institutions in the continuous improvement of the courses they offer and the graduates they produce’.[88]  It should be noted, however, that since the demise of the Board of Education in 2001, a degree of uncertainty hovers over the course recognition processes. The course recognition procedures themselves are internal documents of the association and were not available for review by the authors. 


In the United States, the ALA regards itself as the leading force in accreditation, having evaluated educational programs to prepare librarians since the creation of the Board of Education in 1924.[89]  The Board of Education became the Committee on Accreditation (COA) in 1956.  Accreditation processes have been under the spotlight in the United States since 1999, when the Congress on Professional Education was established and recommended that a Task Force on an Independent Accrediting Body be created.  The task force was charged to determine whether an external accreditation process was possible and/or desirable, and to determine the scope for extending the current accreditation process both vertically to include undergraduate LIS programs and library technician programs and horizontally to incorporate other areas of information studies that did not have an accreditation process. 


Martin reported that the task force garnered the support of seven ‘colleague associations’ to be party to an external accreditation process:  American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), Association of Library and Information Science Educators (ALISE), American Society for Information Science (ASIS), Canadian Library Association (CLA), Medical Library Association (MLA), Society of American Archivists (SAA) and Special Libraries Association (SLA).  An expression of support was also received from the American Records Management Association (ARMA).[90]  However, there appears to be considerable tension between different groups within the ALA, with the COA accused of secrecy[91] and the Task Force itself ‘dismissed with thanks’ by the Executive Board in January 2002.[92]  The COA indicates, however, that there are opportunities for the COA itself to build on the progress made by the Task Force to work towards a revitalisation of the accreditation process.


The ALA approach to course accreditation highlights the challenges of the accreditation processes themselves: ‘there was no single way to identify school or program excellence; there are many different kinds of schools achieving excellent results in different ways’.[93]  As a result, the ALA indicates that ‘accreditation is based upon an evaluation of a program’s totality’[94] so that failure to meet one standard or one component of a standard does not mean a program is not accredited.  The subjective and interpretative nature of qualitative assessment of educational programs has to be acknowledged.


The fact that the United Kingdom is a key player in the European Union is evident in the role it has to play on the European stage.  On 19 June 1999, the British Minister of Education was a joint signatory to the Bologna Declaration, which includes amongst its objectives the desire to adopt a unilateral higher education system in Europe, with comparable credit-based degree programs to facilitate the international mobility of students as they complete their courses of study, along with European cooperation in approaches to quality assurance in higher education.[95] 


The issue of the equivalency of academic qualifications has been approached in Europe through the establishment of the European Network of Information Centres (ENIC) and the National Academic Recognition Information Centres (NARIC) which jointly provide a gateway for information on international education and qualification issues.[96] To date, however, ENIC-NARIC initiatives have not ventured into the area of course accreditation by professional bodies.


In Australia, the debate on student mobility encompasses the idea of the Distributed Library Education (DLE) model, akin to the idea of the Distributed National Collection (DNC).[97]  This proposal offers a number of possible options, for example local LIS schools offering core units, then individual institutions developing areas of specialization, eg law librarianship, health informatics, preservation and conservation, or offering units targeted for specific information sectors, eg public or academic libraries.  Flexible delivery of education programs increases the feasibility of offering such programs to a national market, with obvious benefits to people in rural and regional Australia.  Distributed education could then support a pick-and-mix approach to learning which would enable students to select courses to suit their own personal circumstances in order to build up a portfolio of skills.  Nimon believes that such a model may eventually emerge ‘because it offers a means by which to maximise use of a nation’s resources in terms of academic and professional expertise to provide a broad overview of a constantly evolving world of work and to offer students simultaneously fieldwork and learning contexts that have local relevance’.[98]  The challenge is, of course, for academic administrators to work collaboratively to support such initiatives, when the economic imperatives are counterproductive to the ideal of sharing subjects and expertise across institutional boundaries.




One of the most significant attributes of library and information work in the 21st century is its multidimensional nature: ‘the very pervasiveness of information work means that it has also become very diverse with many LIS graduates pursuing their careers far beyond the boundaries of the traditional job market in libraries and information centres’.[99]  Jones et al capture the essence of the professional world we live in:


Although the core of the profession remains the same, the methods and tools for information delivery and the scope of the enterprise continue to grow and change dramatically.  While maintaining their client and content-centred approach, practitioners increasingly require advanced knowledge of information technology to realise their full potential.  Continually emerging opportunities will propel the prepared profession into as yet unseen realms of advanced information retrieval, interpretation, synthesis, product development and virtual services on a global scale.[100]


The authors believe that a clearer understanding of the discipline knowledge and skills, integrating both traditional and emerging aspects of the discipline, together with an understanding of the range of generic personal attributes, will help prepare new library and information professionals to respond to the continuing challenges they will inevitably face in their careers.  However, the development of new professionals is not the sole responsibility of the LIS educator, but is viewed as a career-long learning process that involves the individual, the universities, employers and professional associations.  At the same time, there needs to be greater harmonisation between higher education systems and increased recognition of qualifications across national boundaries.  Flexibility is paramount, as the LIS profession – and the LIS professional – is ever-evolving:


The librarian of the future is perhaps a professional who will no longer bear the name librarian.  It is a professional who encompasses a set of standards and values that operate smoothly and seamlessly in a technology driven environment.  It is a professional who has a clear understanding of and appreciation for the traditions of librarianship. It is a professional who is multifaceted and multitasked.  It is a professional with the characteristics of willingness to change; varied experience in training and background; adaptability to a quickly changing environment; ‘shareability’ between disciplines; and commitment.  It is, finally, a professional we will not recognise as a librarian in the usual sense.  If we do, then we have failed to evolve.’[101]  



[1] Bernie Sloan, ‘Changes in LIS education: a bibliography’ <> at 25 April 2004. 

[2] John Feather, ‘Whatever happened to the library schools? (2003) Update <> at 25 April 2004.

[3] K. E. Pettigrew, K.E. and J. C. Durrance,  ‘KALIPER: Introduction and overview of results’ (2001) 42 Journal of Education for Library and Information Science 170.


[4] S.A. Sutton, ‘Trends, trend projections, and crystal ball gazing’  (2000) 42 Journal of Education for Library and Information Science 241.

[5] Marion Huckle, ‘The new framework for qualifications: a progress report’ (2003) 6 Impact 1 <> at 25 April 2004. 

[6] Alan Brine and John Feather, ‘Supporting the development of skills for information professionals’ (2002) 20 Education for Information 253, 253.

[7] Michael Middleton, ‘Skills expectations of library graduates’ (2003) 104 New Library World 42.

[8] Sue Myburgh, ‘Education directions for NIPs (new Information Professionals)’ (2003) (Paper presented at the 11th Information Online Exhibition and Conference, Sydney, 21-23 January 2003 <> at 25 April 2004.

[9] Sajjad ur Rehman, Husain Al-Ansari and Nibal Yousef, ‘Coverage of competencies in the curriculum of information studies: an international perspective’ (2002) 20 Education for Information 199.

[10] Wallace Koehler, ‘Professional values and ethics as defined by “The LIS discipline”, (2003) 44 Journal of Education for Library and Information Science 99.

[11] J. Raju, ‘The “core” in library and/or information science education and training’ (2003) 21 Education for Librarianship 229.

[12] Elena Maceviciute, ‘Information management in the Baltic, Nordic and UK LIS schools’ (2002) 51 Library Review 190.

[13] Ray Irwin, ‘Characterizing the core: what catalog descriptions of mandatory courses reveal about LIS schools and librarianship’ (2002) 43 Journal of Education for Library and Information Science 175.

[14] Lucy A. Tedd, ‘The What? And How? of education and training for information professionals in a changing world: some experiences from Wales, Slovakia and the Asia-Pacific region’ (2003) 29 Journal of Information Science 79.

[15] Skills for the new Information Professional (SKIP), Home page <> at 25 April 2004. 

[16] Penny Garrod and Ian Sidgreaves, ‘Skills for the new Information Professional: final report’ (1998) <> at 25 April 2004.

[17] Special Libraries Association (SLA), ‘Competencies of the special librarian of the 21st century’  <> at 25 April 2004. 

[18] Special Libraries Association (SLA), ‘Competencies of the information professional of the 21st century’ (2003) <> at 25 April 2004.   

[19] Sue Henczel, ‘Competencies for the 21st century information professional: translating the SLA competencies into business competencies’ (2002) (Paper presented at the Special Libraries Association Conference, Los Angeles, 9-12 June 2002) <> at 25 April 2004.

[20] Ibid.

[21] American Association of Law Librarians, ‘Competencies for law librarianship’ (2001) <> at 25 April 2004.

[22] Henczel, above n 19.

[23] Middleton, above n 7.

[24] CREATE Australia, Home page <> at 25 April 2004. 

[25] Information Services National Training Organisation (isNTO), Home page <> at 25 April 2004.

[26] European Council of Information Professionals (ECIA), ‘Euroguide LIS: the guide to competencies for European professionals in library and information services’ (1999) <> at 25 April 2004.

[27] Brine and Feather, above n 6, 255.

[28] Loughborough University, RAPID 2000, Home page <> at 25 April 2004.  

[29] Brine and Feather, above n 6, 255.

[30] Ibid., 255f.

[31] Ibid., 256.

[32] Brine and Feather, ‘Building a skills portfolio for the information professional’ (2003) 104 New Library World 455.

[33] Quality Assurance Agency, (QAA), ‘Subject benchmark statement: Librarianship and information management’ (2000) <> at 25 April 2004.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), ‘CILIP Framework of Qualifications’ (2004) <> at 25 April 2004. 

[36] Biddy Fisher, ‘Skills for the 21st century. The challenges for our professional practice’ (2003) 6 Impact 1 <http://> at 25 April 2004.   

[37] Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), ‘Chartered membership’ <> at 25 April 2004.

[38] Ross Harvey and Susan Higgins, ‘Defining fundamentals and meeting expectations: trends in LIS education in Australia’ (2003) 21 Education for Information 149, 154.

[39] Feather, above n 2.

[40] Harvey and Higgins, above n 38.

[41] Learning and Teaching Support Network – Centre for Information and Computer Sciences (LTSN-ICS), Home page <> at 25 April 2004. 

[42] Ibid.

[43] Council for the Renewal of Higher Education, Home page <> at 25 April 2004. 

[44] Australian University Teaching Committee, Home page <>  at 25 April 2004. 

[45] Australian University Teaching Committee (AUTC), Learning and teaching in higher education <> at 25 April 2004. 

[46] Myburgh, above n 8.

[47] Ibid.

[48] Harvey and Higgins, above n 38.

[49] Myburgh, above n 8.

[50] Rita Marcella and Graeme Baxter, ‘The demand for undergraduate course provision in information and library studies’ (2001) 19 Education for Information 277.

[51] International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), ‘Guidelines for professional library/information education programs – 2000’ <> at 25 April 2004.   

[52] Peter Dalton and Kate Levinson, ‘An investigation of LIS qualifications throughout the world’  (Paper presented at the 66th IFLA Council and General Conference, Jerusalem, Israel, 13-18 August 2000 <> at 25 April 2004).

[53] Norman Oder, ‘New movement towards PhDs to work in academic libraries’ (2003) 128 Library Journal 16.

[54] Ibid.

[55] Ibid.

[56] John N. Berry, ‘But don’t call ‘em librarians’ (2003) 128 Library Journal 34.

[57] Clare McInerney, Alex Daley and Kay E. Vandergrift, ‘Broadening our reach: LIS education for undergraduates’ (2002) 33 American Libraries 40.

[58] American Library Association (ALA), ‘Library and information studies and human resource utilization’ (2002) <> at 25 April 2004.

[59] Ibid., 8.

[60] Mary Carroll, ‘The well-worn path’ (2002) 51 Australian Library Journal 117.

[61] American Library Association, above n58, 9.

[62] Fisher, above n 36.

[63] Australian Library and Information Association, ‘Library and information science education for the knowledge age (LISEKA)’ <> at 25 April 2004. 

[64] Harvey and Higgins, above n 38.

[65] Dalton and Levinson, above n 52.

[66] Ibid.

[67] Ibid.

[68] Ibid.

[69] Peter Dalton and Kate Levinson, ‘An investigation of LIS qualifications throughout the world’, (2001) IFLA Section on Education and Training, 2 SET Bulletin 12, 15 <> at 25 April 2004.

[70] Ibid, 16.

[71] Dalton and Levinson, above n 52.

[72] Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA), ‘Courses in library and information studies’ <> at 25 April 2004.

[73] Ibid.

[74] American Library Association (ALA), ‘Accreditation’ <> at 25 April 2004.

[75] Ibid.

[76] Ibid.

[77] Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), ‘Procedures for the accreditation of courses, revised edition’ (2002) <> at 25 April 2004. 

[78] Peter Enser, ‘The role of the professional body accreditation in library and information science education in the UK’ (2002). (Paper presented at the 68th IFLA Council and General Conference, Glasgow, 18-24 August 2002 <> at 25 April 2004).

[79] Quality Assurance Agency (QAA), Home page <> at 25 April 2004.  

[80] Australian University Quality Agency (AUQA), Home page> at 25 April 2004.

[81] Hartley and Virkus offer valuable insights into quality assurance processes, see R.J. Hartley and Sirje Virkus, ‘Approaches to quality assurance and accreditation of LIS programmes: experiences from Estonia and United Kingdom’ (2003), 21 Education for Information 31.

[82] Ibid.

[83] Enser, above n78.

[84] Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA), ‘ALIA recognition of courses’  <> at 25 April 2004.  

[85] Australian Library & Information Association (ALIA),  ‘ALIA Board of Education policy statements’ <> at 7 April 2004. 

[86] Australian Library & Information Association (ALIA), ‘The library and information sector: core knowledge, skills and attributes’ <>  at 25 April 2004.

[87] Ibid.

[88] ALIA, above n 85.

[89] American Library Association (ALA), ‘Accreditation process policies and procedure’ (2003) <> at 25 April 2004.

[90] Susan Martin, ‘External Accreditation Task Force Chair’s perspective’ (2002) 10 Prism 5 <> at 25 April 2004. 

[91] John N. Berry, ‘For openness in ALA accreditation’ (2000) 125 Library Journal 6.

[92] Jane Robbins, ‘Everything old is new again’ (2002) 10 Prism 2 <> at 25 April 2004. 

[93] American Library Association (ALA), ‘Overview: Accreditation under 1992 Standards for Accreditation of Master’s Programs in Library and Information Studies’ (2000) <> at 4 June 2000, cited in Dalton and Levinson, above n 52.

[94] American Library Association (ALA), ‘Standards for Accreditation of Master’s Programs in Library and Information Studies 1992’ <> at 25 April 2004.

[95] ‘The European Higher Education Area: Joint Declaration of the European Ministers of Education.  The Bologna Declaration‘ (1999) <>  at 25 April 2004.    

[96] European Network of Information Centres (ENIC) and National Academic Recognition Information Centres (NARIC), ‘Gateway to recognition’ <> at 25 April 2004.   

[97] Jan Gaebler, ‘Educators and practitioners scrutinise the kaleidoscope of LIS education’ (2000) InterALIA <> at 25 April 2004. 

[98] Maureen Nimon, ‘The search for the philosopher’s stone: balancing librarianship education in core and evolving knowledge’ (2001) 50 Australian Library Journal 253, 258.

[99] Brine and Feather, above n 6, 258.

[100] Rebecca Jones, Eileen Abels, John Latham, See Magnoni and Joanne Gard Marshall, ‘Competencies for information professionals of the 21st century: introduction’ (2003) 7 Information Outlook 11.

[101] Anne A. Salter, ‘Wanted – new creations: dinosaurs need not apply’. (2003) In Karl Bridges (ed) Expectations of librarians in the twenty-first century. Greenwood Press: Westport, Connecticut.