Library School

A traineeship is the first of many steps on the way to becoming a professional librarian. After a year as a trainee, it can take over two years to gain a postgraduate qualification and charter. As well as an introduction for prospective trainees, this page is also a guide for current trainees on applying for an MA/MSc.

Applying To Library School | Application Tips | Interview Tips | Sample Questions | Funding | Beyond Library School: Chartership

If you have secured a traineeship, and would like to pursue a career in librarianship further, you can apply for postgraduate study on a CILIP accredited course.  A number of UK universities run such courses, and all are highly regarded.

Course content can vary greatly from one institution to another.  Some, for example, place a strong emphasis on electronic resources and web publishing, whilst others will include modules on book preservation and historical bibliography.  The means of assessment may also differ, with some institutions preferring examinations instead of coursework.  Many programmes offer part-time or modular study, and some provide distance learning options.  This can be useful if you need to work to fund your study.  Please refer to individual department websites (available via CILIP) for further details.

Typically, a library school application consists of: the applicant’s university transcripts, two reference letters or contact details (usually, one academic and one professional), an equal opportunities monitoring form, and an application form with supportive statement.  The supportive statement is an opportunity to emphasise your experience in and enthusiasm for librarianship.  Furthermore, you can outline your interests and how you could pursue them on that particular course.

The best (and most frequently given!) piece of advice is to apply as early as possible.  Deadlines vary, and start with UCL’s on 1st December.  Even when no deadline is specified, it is advisable to send your application in advance, especially if you are applying for funding.  To speed up the process, some universities accept electronic applications from candidates.

For institutions that require them, interviews often take place between January and February.  Some will invite candidates to an open day as well as an interview.  This is an excellent opportunity to have a look around the university, and to get a feel for the place and the course.  Even if you are not asked to an open day, take the opportunity whilst you are there to look around and to chat to current students if you can.  The interview is a chance for you to decide if you want to invest your time and money in that particular course; not just for the interviewers to determine if you are a suitable candidate. One of the great advantages of the Oxford Graduate Trainee Programme is that you have a supportive group of people going through the same process.  Often, it’s exactly the same process – some trainees even travel to interviews together!

Most interviews last about 20-30 minutes, and are used to find out about your interests and aspirations.  In preparation, it is best to keep your research as broad as possible.  Crucially, you must be able to link central and current issues to your own experiences as a library user and as a trainee.  Professional awareness is one such issue, so it is worth asking other trainees about their work and projects, joining CILIP and its special interest groups, reading the CILIP Information Professional magazine, following blogs written by LIS professionals, and subscribing to JISC LIS mailing lists.  Remember to reread your application form beforehand because many interviewers will refer to it during the interview.

The following is a list of questions asked of previous trainees at library school interviews.


  • What does your current job involve?
  • What do you enjoy/not enjoy about your current job and why?
  • What are your main responsibilities within the library?
  • What have you learnt from your graduate trainee year and how will it help you on your course?
  • What has your current job taught you about the qualities you need to be a librarian?
  • What have your training sessions covered?
  • Which of the training sessions have you found most useful?
  • Has your degree been useful in your trainee placement?
  • What attracted you to librarianship?
  • What sort of materials does your library have?
  • What kinds of people use your library?

Library School

  • Why have you applied for the course?
  • Why do you want to come to this university?
  • Which modules would you choose? Any ideas for your dissertation?
  • What are you looking forward to about the course in particular?
  • Why should we give you a place? What would you bring to the department?
  • Do you have sufficient funds to pay for the course?
  • (If applying for a part time course) Where do you intend to work while studying? How would you go about finding a job in a library?
  • What do you think of our website? How do you think it could be improved?
  • Where else have you applied/Why haven’t you applied anywhere else?

Future Career

  • Why do you want to be a librarian?
  • What aspects/sectors of librarianship interest you most?
  • What kind of library do you want to work in in the future?
  • Where do you want to get to in your career?
  • How do you feel about being a manager?
  • Have you joined CILIP? Which special interest groups have you joined?

Library Issues

  • What are the most important issues facing libraries today?
  • What qualities would you say a good librarian/information professional needs?
  • What would you do if a policeman asked to view a reader’s record?
  • Can you see yourself, as a librarian, having to face any ethical issues?
  • If you were in charge of your library, what would you change?
  • What would you do if your library had a budget cut? How would you try to raise money?
  • Have you ever read any literature about librarianship?

Current Affairs

  • How do you keep up to date with the news? What are your own information-gathering methods?
  • What issue in the news at the moment concerns you most?
  • What impact do you think current affairs could have on libraries and information management?


  • What did you enjoy about your degree?
  • How do you think you could relate your degree to working in a library?
  • How do you deal with stress?
  • What are your IT skills like?

Funding for courses used to be available from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, but this is unfortunately no longer the case.   Some Universities do offer scholarships and bursaries and many offer a loyalty discount on courses if you studied with them as an undergraduate. Please refer to their admissions pages for further details.

An alternative source of funding is a Career Development Loan.  Government backed postgraduate loans of up to £10,000 will be introduced across English Universities in 2016/17 (but specific details are yet to be confirmed). The DirectGov website has lots of useful advice about funding and financial support.  It is also worth consulting the Educational Grants Advisory Service.  CILIP provides more information on possible funding opportunities – as does Prospects – and there is a JISC LIS-AWARDS mailing list.

After obtaining an MA/MSc from Library School, you may want to consider Professional Registration with CILIP.  Chartership (known as the MCLIP) is a professional qualification awarded by CILIP to prove and promote excellence in the library and information sector.  You can find out more about CILIP’s Professional Registration scheme here.

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