– Lucy Davies, Graduate Library Trainee at the Bodleian Social Science Library 2021-2022
What is Library School?
Going to library school means studying for a postgraduate course in Library and Information Studies, usually a Masters (MA/MSc) or a Postgraduate Diploma (PgDip). To become a librarian or work at a higher grade, many positions require a postgraduate qualification accredited by CILIP, the UK’s Library and Information Association. Some trainees look to complete the Masters straight after their graduate trainee year whilst others look to gain more experience (and save money!) before taking the next steps towards career progression. It’s not unusual to work in libraries for a number of years before deciding if this is the right step for you.
Although the Bodleian Graduate Trainee scheme offers lots of support, advice and networking opportunities for the Masters courses, there is no pressure to apply and rush into it straight after completing the traineeship if you’re on the fence!
Applying and Selecting Courses
The first place to look when searching for a suitable course is the CILIP list of accredited qualifications.
You may notice that the name of the courses vary from Librarianship to Library Science to Library and Information Studies. However, what matters is that it is CILIP accredited and will assist you in your career progression as a librarian. The content is fairly similar across the variety of courses, although it’s important to see if the modules and course structure will be tailored to your interests and your way of learning. Some courses may offer more niche modules in Database Design or Health Librarianship, whereas others may focus on gaining broader transferable skills.
Listed below are the Librarianship accredited courses running for 2023-2024, but check CILIP’s list as there are other accredited courses in areas such as Data Science or Museum Studies.
|Course Provider||Course Title||Method of Teaching||Full Time? Part Time?|
|Aberystwyth University||MA/PgDip Information and Library Studies||Distance Learning or Campus-Based||Full or Part Time|
|City, University of London||MA/MSc Library Science||Campus-Based||Full or Part Time|
|Manchester Metropolitan University
|MA/PgDip Library and Information Management||Campus-Based||Full or Part Time|
|Northumbria University||MSc Information Science – Data Analytics||Distance Learning||Part Time|
|Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen||PgCert/PgDip/MSc Information and Library Studies
|Distance Learning||Full or Part Time|
|Ulster University||PgDip/MSc Library and Information Management
|Distance Learning||Part Time|
|University College London||MA Library and Information Studies||Campus-Based||Full or Part Time|
|University of Glasgow||MSc/PgDip/PgCert Information Management & Preservation||Campus-Based||Full or Part Time|
|University of Sheffield||MA/PgCert/PgDip Librarianship OR
Library and Information Services Management (Distance Learning)
|Distance Learning or Campus-Based||Full or Part Time|
|University of Strathclyde, Glasgow||MSc/PgDip Information & Library Studies||Campus-Based||Full Time|
Full time? Part time? Distance Learning?
Deciding which method of study is best for you will rely on a number of factors, including whether you’re currently working, how you plan to fund the Masters, and the location you’ll be based in.
Matthew Henry, Senior Library Assistant (Research Support) at the Bodleian Social Science Library, described how he decided on the course that was right for him:
I did my Library Master’s at City, University of London, 2013-2015. I decided to do it part-time over two years to give me more flexibility and to spread the cost over a longer period, including of travelling into London (I live in Reading). They scheduled lectures for one day per week – Mondays in one year, Fridays the next year. I wasn’t working full-time then so I wanted to take advantage of being able to ‘go’ to university rather than do distance learning. That gave me a choice between City and UCL. I chose City because it was, at the time, less expensive and more focused on the digital aspects of library and information science.
MA or MSc?
When choosing a course, you may also notice that for Library Masters, some institutions offer courses as an MA, others as an MSc, and others offer both! Professor Stephen Pinfield from the University of Sheffield assured us it wasn’t important to pay attention to this, as what matters is that it is CILIP accredited. The differentiation between MA and MSc is down to the individual university running the course and will not cause your qualification to be viewed any differently when applying for jobs. Even the MA courses will cover information science and digital aspects of librarianship.
So, you may be wondering, what is a PgDip? This is a Postgraduate Diploma, which means you will undertake most or all of the same modules as the Masters students, but you will not complete a dissertation. So, many PgDip full-time courses are 9 months for this reason, making it attractive to people who already have a Masters or want to complete their qualification quickly. Many librarian positions only require a CILIP accredited qualification, not specifically the Masters, and so you wouldn’t necessarily be disadvantaged in that sense. However, it’s important to note that you cannot get the Postgraduate Loans backed by the government for a Postgraduate Certificate or Diploma, even if you later convert your certificate into a Masters degree.
Interviews for library school are rare nowadays, and if they do go ahead they’re more likely to be conducted online. University College London still conduct interviews, and at the virtual open day the teaching staff made clear that what they looked for in a candidate was:
- Paid or voluntary experience in a library (there are even distance/online opportunities at the moment!)
- Strong desire to work in libraries
- Knowledge of what subject areas and optional modules interest you
- Knowledge of current events/issues in the library sector
- Explanation of why you would like to study at this particular university
They stressed that the main role of an interview was to get to know the candidate and so that the person applying can evaluate if the course is a good fit for them. So, if you get to an interview stage, good luck!
If you’re English or a resident in England, you can apply for up to £11,836 if your course starts on or after 1 August 2022. You’re eligible if you’re studying a full-time, part-time or distance learning course, but visit Student Finance England for more information.
If you’re Welsh or a resident in Wales, you can apply for up to £18,430 to fund a full-time, part-time or distance learning Masters at any UK university. Everyone can claim the same amount, but what proportion is made up of a loan or a grant is dependent on household/personal income. Visit Cyllid Myfyrwyr Cymru/Student Finance Wales to learn more!
Scottish residents can apply for a tuition fee loan of up to £5,500 and a living cost loan of up to £4,500. Courses delivered via distance learning must have a minimum amount of teaching or contact time between the student and teaching staff at the institution to apply for the loan and some students. SAAS may also fund students on eligible full-time courses in the rest of the United Kingdom, as long as the same course is not available in Scotland.
If you’re a UK or Irish Citizen or someone with settled status in the UK who normally lives in Northern Ireland, you can get up to £5,500 to fund a postgraduate course via distance or campus based learning. The Postgraduate Tuition Fee Loan will be available to you even if you already hold a postgraduate qualification of any level, but you won’t be able to claim funding if you already have previously.
- The Stationers’ Company offer postgraduate bursaries to students on the MA Library and Information Studies at UCL. They also fund other creative degrees in Publishing and Book Conservation at London universities if you’re interested. There’s a limited amount available each year, so check their website to see if you could fit the criteria!
- City, University of London are offering scholarships of £2,000 for students on their Library Science course if you hold a first class degree, have applied for a place and have a strong supporting statement.
- The Colywn and Jean Rich Scholarship has previously offered students (who must be a UK national) the equivalent of up to $7,000 Canadian dollars to fund their study towards the Library and Information Management course at Manchester Metropolitan University. It is not yet clear if this will be available for 2022-2023 study.
- University of Sheffield are offering 100+ scholarships worth £10,000 to students studying postgraduate courses starting in 2022. You have to meet certain criteria, including having achieved a first at undergraduate level or being part of a group that is evidentially under-represented among the institution’s taught masters population, so definitely check the website!
- There are many more funding opportunities, bursaries and scholarships. Some may be more niche, based on nationality or even surname. Many universities will offer alumni discounts too if you’ve previously studied there! So it’s definitely worth a good search to find what you may be eligible for.
For more information about library school and librarianship qualifications, visit:
CILIP: The Information and Library Association
NLPN: New Library Professionals Network
Good luck with your application for library school!