Professional vs Non Professional


Ok, here goes, I’m going to wade into this debate with my size 12’s.
Even though I know this has extinguished some peoples careers I’m going to go for it.
But, before you pass judgement on my thoughts remember, they are only my thoughts I put down here. I don’t write them to persuade you to think any different from your own thoughts and I certainly don’t write them because I believe your thoughts to be invalid, or wrong and I certainly don’t write this because I don’t value your opinions, so hopefully in reading this if you disagree you’ll remember that they are just my thoughts.
Now I’m going to admit it, I never went to library school. I have no formal library qualification. I do not have a degree in librarianship neither have I taken a course in librarianship. I do however have degrees in English and Education, I have gained MCLIP status and am working towards my FCLIP.
I also believe that the training I have received, working in the best Schools Library Service in the country, under two of the best librarians, managers and leaders you’re ever likely to meet has provided me with more than I could ever have gained from a library degree.
Now if you have a degree in librarianship I am not rubbishing your degree in the slightest I am merely saying that the experiences I had provided me with an equivalence and more, with an understanding of specifically a school library.
At no time in my school librarian career have I ever felt I’ve missed out from not having a library degree, in fact I feel that my education degree has actually massively benefitted me. I have achieved massive amounts in my school, am an Assistant Head and have impacted on numerous aspects of the school.
Yet when I tell some school librarians that I don’t have a degree in librarianship a sharp intake of breathe is heard, followed by the sentence, ‘really, you mean you’re not qualified?’ ‘Not qualified for what’ I always reply. ‘Well not a qualified librarian.’ At this point I normally just walk away. This, I feel is a massive problem in our profession. It is a locust, a disease that is slowly killing our profession. I feel I’ve been relatively successful in my job, maybe more successful than most and still have lots to give but I am shunned because I don’t have a library degree, what. the. hell. is. that. about?
Who cares about the qualifications someone has? If they are doing a fantastic job then do we stop them from doing it because they don’t have a certificate that says they can do it?

Now some people are going to be fuming at this point.
Remember, I value yours and this is only my thoughts on the matter.

So let’s think about some of the (legit) reasons why people may feel like this. It could be that they feel threatened, threatened that someone potentially that hasn’t had the training that they have had is doing the same job. Does this not devalue their job, their role and their qualifications. Maybe it does and maybe it doesn’t. But I’ll leave you with just one thought. In my experience it is these school librarians, who are most vocal in this area, that would more often than not, describe that in their role, they, are quite often teachers and teaching. Now, again my own opinion, but would you not think that a teacher who has a teaching degree would feel that you are devaluing their degree, training, knowledge and job by saying this?

Just have a moment to think and remember it’s only my opinion.



  1. Hi Adam,

    Whilst talented individuals exist who have, through training and application, learned their skills on the job, I still come down on the side of qualified librarians.
    Having academic qualifications in a subject seems to work well for lawyers, teachers, vets and medics, why then should it constitute ‘a disease that is killing our profession’ when it comes to librarians? I took my library degree eons ago and it certainly could have been better (I’ll never get those six hours of my life back that I spent learning about photocopiers for instance) but it did give me a framework and theoretical knowledge to draw on. I too learned a lot from great librarians when I started work but they really wouldn’t have had the time to teach me the kind of theory I learned in university. It has also allowed me to worked in many different kinds of library over the years. Can we even call ourselves a profession if we think everything can be learned on the job and university courses have nothing to offer?
    I really don’t think anyone unqualified should be shunned or denigrated, that’s just rude and arrogant, and I admire people like yourself who have worked hard and become successful, but if we aspire to professionalism we need library degrees, charterships and anything else we can get our hands on.

    • Hi Leslie, I certainly don’t think having a qualification is the disease of the profession it is the attitude of so many librarians with qualifications towards those without that irks me. If there are unqualified people working in libraries we need to encourage them to then want it to be their profession too. That doesn’t happen by treating them like second class citizens.
      Let’s also think about how the work place is changing with University fees becoming expensive and employers wanting employees with skills and experience, can we really only welcome those with qualifications into the profession? I feel I am most certainly a better school librarian due to my eduction degree.
      However my main point in the argument is the librarians who act like this yet also call themselves teachers when they have no qualifications themselves.
      Like I said in the article though it is entirely my own opinion and I value yours just as much!

  2. But Adam, surely you are a qualified librarian if you’ve achieved MCLIP? That is why Chartership exists – to demonstrate professional awareness, competence & development in Librarianship. What upsets people is that School Librarian job descriptions often don’t ask for any library skills or qualifications, in fact I saw one recently that said a degree in English was an essential but you didn’t need to have ever set foot in a library! I’d have thought library experience, whether it be on the job or through education or both, should be a prerequisite for taking on the massive responsibility of an entire library for a school population. It also gives schools the excuse to pay the ‘Librarian’ a pretty poor salary.

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