ASSOCIATES (vol. 10, no. 1, July 2003) -

*Job Titles and Beyond*


Jim Jackson
C/O The Law Library
University of Exeter, UK

In the last edition of Associates I asked the question ‘what are you called’ or what would you like to be called in your work place?

I had some very helpful answers, and indeed Kathryn Royster sent me a whole list of people’s job titles from where she worked. What these replies showed was that library staff carry out a huge range of tasks and a huge variety of job titles went with those jobs. But I am sure we all knew that!

I hope that you all are not to concerned about your possibly, hard won, title, as I think we should move on and leave our job titles behind, and look forward. At what we can do rather than what we are called. I am a Principal Library Assistant but if you want my personal favourite I like Library and Information personnel, but I am not desperate to hang on to it.

I think it is important that we do not cling to our job title as these may hold us back in terms of job recognition. At the CILIP Awards Gala Presentation Day in November 2002 the then President of CILIP, Sheila Corral, said when describing the Robinson Medal ( winner "Another group who’s contributions and achievements are often insufficiently acknowledged and celebrated is the people we variously describe as ‘paraprofessionals’ ‘support staff’ ‘non professionals’ or even ‘untrained staff’. – We really must put a ban on these labels and use a more inclusive language". Here, at last, we have a professional organisation President saying that they recognise the work of library staff that don’t have a degree in librarianship. So let’s take this opportunity and move on – together – regardless of title.

Libraries have changed so much in the last 20 years, and so have the demands on library staff. There has been some very large consultation exercises carried out, particularly in London, over what people wanted in their local public library. It seems the most common complaint was over opening hours, and the need for convenience libraries, eg. open more often with more services – this has led to the creation of the Idea Store check out

These are being situated in prime areas of London, which combine a number of services. With standard book loans, CD’s Video as well as high quality computers offering Internet access. Which is combined with training and career information supplied by other agencies, and is supported in many ways by Learndirect, CILIP and London Metropolitan University. 7 of these sites are planned with the first one of these opening in May 2002 at Bow in London. See

These places are still staffed in general by ‘Librarians’ but now they have partners in a wide range of other services. While there may well be other similar types of project, this one simply shows how libraries are expanding their services.

IFLA has just issued some ‘Guidelines for library based literacy programmes – Some practical suggestions’ available for download at these guidelines are designed to help library staff in the promotion of literacy in our society.

With a society becoming more and more IT based, a lack of basic reading and writing skills is still the biggest block to accessing information. With an ever increasingly mobile population one country’s first language cannot necessarily be everyone’s first language, which is another reason for developing the Idea Store concept.

While in some inner city areas this idea may be possible due to the availability of premises, but we must not forget rural areas and those who are housebound. This is where the mobile library can take on a ‘new’ role. I say new as I know that many places are already adapting their mobile fleets to deal with this problem. In addition to usual services of book stock we could have a multitask vehicle which has been adapted to give internet access in remote areas. Satellite technology is now able to offer internet access almost anywhere. There are of course areas of finance and staffing to resolve but this is a definite aim for the future. Areas in the UK such as Essex, Derbyshire and the East Riding are already using their mobiles in this way to try and help with making social exclusion become social inclusion.

One new idea that may be able to bring broadband technology to the most remote areas of the UK, or even Australian outback and the Rocky Mountains is Skylinc’s Libra system; Libra stands for Low Cost Integrated Broadband Access. All thanks to a helium filled mini airship. The company maintains a single balloon could cover up to 2,000 miles. A customer would use a wireless link to the balloon via a receiver about the size of a satellite dish. See either or

All this talk of technology and advance does not get us away from some fundamentals of staff training, but does provide hope for the future.

Is the training to be provided national or regionally, by national organisations or local networks like CALIM or a private company partnership like the CSP Group, see

One recent complaint was that being registered for a course was one thing but having to travel some distance for seminars or tutorials was an ever-present problem.

The City and Guilds Organisation currently offer the ILS NVQ in England and Wales as well as Northern Ireland, and this does allow a candidate to work in their placement but will require some travel, which can still be a problem. Hence the need for some form of arrangement that CSP are offering. The information offered by City and Guilds can be found on there web page at or try looking at the links from the CILIP web page at which provides an excellent link to a large number of courses.

But all these plans for Scottish Qualifications have been thrown into confusion by the announcement recently that the Scottish Qualifications Authority plan to withdraw their ILS NVQ scheme, without having consulated anyone like ISNTO, the English National Training Board or the Scottish Library and Information Council. Following claims that there was a ‘poor uptake’. Having in mind the vast explosion in reader development in recent years, fuelled to some extent by the interest in the Harry Potter phenomenon, and the work of the People’s Network, how they can justify this decision escapes me. Part of the CILIP corporate plan includes vocational qualifications so they must respond to this threat very strongly if they are to retain any creditability with its members.

I would hope that readers would take heart from the advances there have been, which may in some cases appear small, but which are building a better career path for us all.

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