ASSOCIATES (2005, July, v. 12, no. 1) -

*Certification - And The Final Frontier!*


Jim Jackson
C/O The Law Library
University of Exeter

June 2005 will go down in history as the time that CILIP awarded its first Certification Award. This entitles the candidate to use the post nominal ACLIP, and I am proud to say that my name will be one of the first on the new register. But this article is not designed or intended to be self congratulatory but an idea of what ‘you’ can do as well. (CILIP is the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals. ACLIP means Associate Member of CILIP.)

As regular readers will know I have been involved with library assistant training for many years now, and have spent the last two years on a committee looking at radical changes to qualifications at CILIP. Full details can be found at

I have always tried to promote the concept that competence based qualifications have a valid place to play in today’s organisations and even more so in today’s changing libraries. I want to look at some research that has been done on training for staff, and how this may help library staff develop in the new information service. This year there are two major conferences in Europe that are looking at how libraries are developing, and the type of staff and the skills they will need. One is the CILIP conference, Umbrella – in Manchester, UK see which is open to overseas people as well as UK based people. The other is the IFLA conference in Oslo, see (IFLA is the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions.)

One of the great advances and advantages of the new Framework of Qualifications (FoQ) being offered by CILIP is that this is a national award and not a state award. I know the UK is smaller than the US but the theory still applies, I think. With a clearly defined Knowledge Base and Criteria for Certification, and for the first time the opportunity to progress to Chartership, this progression now allows candidates to move onwards with their qualifications without artificial barriers in the way. By this I mean that you have to pass exam A before moving onto exam B. This does not mean that you can now easily become qualified but that there is an alternative route to that qualification.

Linda Owen in her article 'Library Technical Assistant Programs' in Library Mosaics (Jan/Feb 2003) discusses the programmes available to library technicians in the US, and what people wanted out of those programmes. As with the UK candidates, they need to think clearly about what they want the qualification for and where they hope it might enable them to go in their career path. You need to examine how much support you can get at work, in terms of resources and time available with the possibility of some mentoring support. Are you someone who likes intense periods of study classroom style or independent learning?

Marilyn Ligner Steury in Library Mosaics (March/April 2004) wrote an article entitled ‘Should the ALA/APA Establish National Voluntary Certification of Library Technical Assistants.’ The article looks at various programmes. For example, Minnesota has a voluntary certification programme while the Michigan public library certification programme is mandatory. Both programmes have a variety of levels from Basic to Masters Level. The general problem here seems to be that there is no national standard and there are problems with transferring qualifications from one state to another. I would hope that the American Library Association (ALA) would consider adopting the CILIP approach to qualifications, but realise that this will mean a huge amount of work agreeing to a national standard. Each state could continue its own programmes, but each programme could be assessed with national criteria. This might help ALA promote CPD (Continuing Professional Development) to library staff, while informing library staff of what is expected of them and available to them as a final qualification.

It should be remembered that other countries are also researching CPD for paraprofessionals. See information about New Zealand at the Open Polytechnic of New Zealand at The Open Polytechnic offers the only undergraduate information and library studies and records and information programmes in New Zealand where students can enroll in either a diploma or a degree course. In COMLA Bulletin (99/100 August 2002 pages 5-9), J. Dillon has written an article entitled ‘The Professionalism of New Zealand Library Assistants.’ This describes the duties and professional situation of library assistants. The book ‘Informing New Zealand: Libraries, Archives and Museums' by McCahan and Oliver gives a clear view of the development of library technician training in New Zealand, which has developed rapidly since 1942 when the first local programme for librarianship qualification was made available. The New Zealand Qualifications Authority is charged with the responsibility of registering and accrediting all courses that lead to qualifications.

Coming back to the UK, Hilary Ollerenshaw wrote an article called 'Library Assistants Seeking Professional Status: Who Pays and Who Benefits?' (New Review of Information and Library Research, 2001 Vol 7 pg 157-184) She studies the position of non-professional staff from academic and public libraries seeking professional status through accredited professional LIS qualification. Which does bring us to the difficult question of what will library managers of today make of certified library staff? Initial reaction seems to be either confused over their status, or happy for the candidate but reluctant to react or reward in any other way. Being among the first for a new qualification is always difficult as you are in effect altering the status quo. Change needs thought, and some will at first be unwilling or unable to do this. One reason being that library services may have been structured and budgeted for on an ‘x’ number of qualified staff and ‘y’ number of non qualified staff. The sudden appearance of extra qualified staff will alter this arrangement. While qualifications never guarantee a pay rise, (much though we would love it too!) they can be used to support re-grading and status claims, and support new job applications. Which then leaves the libraries with the problem of do we acknowledge these new qualified staff, and if required to, do we replace then at a later date with qualified or non qualified staff? This is likely to become even more confused by the merging of services within organizations and the development of new ones.

IFLA is looking at this whole subject with several meetings at the forth coming 71st General Conference and Council meeting being held in Oslo. One of the satellite meetings is entitled 'CPD and preparing for the new roles of librarians: A voyage of discovery.' See Where I expect they will discuss the emergence of library and information professionals who have combined competence based and academic qualifications. This together with a range of new job titles needing specialist personal and contextualized knowledge and the ability to provide information as required.

Paraprofessionals have contributed hugely to the development of new services, from desktop publishing, IT support, catalogue enquires, not forgetting of course book retrieval, and I would hope that as an overall group we can continue to develop our own unique contribution to our organisations. In return I would expect our organisations to recognize our achievements and contributions to service delivery.

It is at this great moment in time that we have to realize that by becoming part of this new library world that we still have to provide a professional service to all our users, from local branch libraries, corporate libraries, and academic institutions. This will take us out of predefined job roles, and we have to be ready for the next challenge – that of defining new roles for us all. It is not going to be easy and we must avoid the trap of ignoring our past backgrounds, but using that knowledge to develop ourselves so that we can continue to develop new roles.

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