Much focus is placed on the ‘traditional’ postgraduate qualification route, but it is not the only professional qualification available. There are also undergraduate qualifications accredited by CILIP that will fulfill the ‘relevant professional qualification’ criteria present on most job adverts for librarians (or equivalent). Undergraduate qualifications are popular for those who have worked in libraries and want to advance their careers, but do not already have an undergraduate degree.
FLIP spoke to Angela Robson, who recently completed a BSc (Hons) Library and Information Management at Northumbria University. After leaving school Angela worked as a library assistant in a number of different areas of a public library, and later a university library. In 2009, after a change in personal circumstances, Angela decided to pursue a professional qualification. She was initially apprehensive about returning to education, but with some support from her colleagues and the university she was able to overcome this.
“My first ever report I failed by two marks this knocked my confidence again as I felt I was ‘thick’ and should just give up but after a long chat and a few tears with the Director [of the university library service where I worked] I decided not to give up. I listened to the advice she gave me which I want to pass on to others; anyone can do a degree, you don’t need to be clever just the determination and interest in what you are being taught, and to use the services around you. Over time I have seen my marks go up from 38% to over 70%.”
The thought of returning to study when you’ve not been in education for a number of years can be scary, but there are systems in place to offer you support. Angela initially began the course as a distance learner, but found that this did not suit her. After the first year, with the support of her employer, she decided to switch to part time learning.
“As the course got underway I wasn’t enjoying the distance learning experience for numerous reasons. As I was an outgoing person I missed the interaction with other students, I also found it hard as I hadn’t done any studying for over twenty years. At this point I went to the Director to drop out of doing the course. I think part of me was looking for an excuse as I was scared that I couldn’t do it as, when I was younger, there wasn’t the opportunity to go to university and I felt I would fail and let [the university I work for] down. The Director suggested I do it part-time and she would sponsor me to go up to Northumbria one day a week to do the BSc Information and Library Management over a period of 6 years.”
After a few initial setbacks Angela was able to complete the course, and recently graduated with a 2:1.
“I never thought five years ago I could have completed degree. It should of taken six years part-time to achieve this, but I have worked hard to do the course in five years. I will say it has been hard and has taken over my life at times but I am so proud of myself to achieve my degree, I am so pleased I didn’t give up; no one can take my degree away from me.
I have realised that whatever your age you are never too old to learn so have the confidence to give it a go! I can promise you it certainly changes you as a person and makes you look at things in the workplace differently.
I am now looking to find my first professional position, hopefully within the university where I work so I can give something back to them and thank them for allowing me to have the opportunity to become a librarian. I may even decide to do Chartership next year or a leadership and management course as I still want to progress further if given the opportunity.”
So what choices are available to those wanting to pursue an undergraduate qualification? Options are somewhat more limited than the postgraduate qualification, nonetheless there are still a few good options to anyone thinking about pursuing this route:
Aberystwyth offer BSc Information and Library Studies by distance learning. The full BSc takes 3-5 years to complete, although is is possible to exit with a Diploma (essentially a foundation degree) which can be completed in 2-5 years. Aside from being distance learning one of the biggest advantages of the Aberystwyth course is that modules are undertaken flexibly, making it easier to fit around existing commitments.
Coleg Llandrillo (a further education college in Conway, North Wales) offers a Foundation Degree (FdA) Library and Information Management, validated by Bangor University. The course takes 3 years to complete part time, with students attending one day a week.
Glyndŵr University offer FdSc Library and Information Practice, and an additional top-up to BSc (Hons) Library and Information Management. The FdSc takes 2 years to complete part time, and the top-up to BSc 1 year to complete part time. Both courses are taught using a mixture of ‘block residential learning’ and e-learning, meaning you’d need to spend 2 weeks per semester on campus, but the remaining learning could be done from home.