Tag Archives: Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals

Researcher’s Corner: Comparative Employability of ALA and CILIP Accredited Degrees

Let’s think internationally today.  Dana Hamlin (née Goblaskas) wrote a wonderful article for the Library Student Journal (hey students, why not try to get that term paper published?), entitled:

Assessing the Transferability of Library and Information Science (LIS) Degrees Accredited by the American Library Association (ALA) and the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP). Library Student Journal, 2012, Feb.

Ms. Hamlin was kind enough to summarize some of her key points here for us today.  I think it’s a fascinating topic.  As the world gets smaller, and new grads are encouraged to move in order to find work, it becomes more useful to understand the way degrees are really perceived.  Library Student Journal is open-access, so if you want to read more you should be able to click above and get the full text of her in-depth original article.

The Backstory

When I was first considering library school, I had my heart set on a program in London. As a lifelong Anglophile this seemed like the perfect choice, and I was excited about what networking opportunities and possible jobs might come about from my attending school in the UK. Knowing that the ALA accredits library schools in the US, I did some research to see if the UK had something similar and came across CILIP, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals. CILIP’s webpage about overseas qualifications explained that, due to a reciprocal agreement, libraries in the UK recognize ALA-accredited degrees, and that Master’s degrees accredited by CILIP are similarly recognized in the US. I figured I was sorted until a nagging feeling made me check ALA’s website, and sure enough there was no mention of any reciprocal agreement. Instead, ALA just recommends that holders of international LIS degrees have their credentials checked by an independent agency.

This discrepancy made me think twice about going to library school overseas, since I didn’t want to risk being considered under-qualified in the US if I couldn’t get a job in the UK. I ended up getting my MLS here in the States, but the quandary of cross-Atlantic credentials stayed in my mind. When it came time to think of a topic for my final research project in library school, I decided to look into how transferable LIS degrees from either side of the Atlantic (including Canada, since the ALA accredits seven programs there) really are.


First, I compared the core competencies of librarianship as defined by each accrediting body, as well as the core curricula from all ALA– and CILIP– accredited programs, in order to determine the similarity of the knowledge base expected of LIS graduates in the US, Canada, and the UK. The latter step involved collecting data about required courses or modules from the websites of every accredited (as of August 2011) LIS program listed by ALA and CILIP.

Second, I developed and distributed two surveys. One was geared toward LIS graduates of ALA- and CILIP-accredited programs, and the second was intended for library employers in the US, UK, and Canada. Through these surveys I hoped to find out a) a rough percentage of how many LIS graduates were able to successfully use their credentials to gain employment overseas, b) how happy – or unhappy – managers were with any international hires they had made, and c) what, if any, knowledge gaps existed between graduates of ALA-accredited programs and those with CILIP-accredited degrees.

Comparison Findings

A comparison of the core competencies of ALA and CILIP showed that the two organizations hold very similar expectations for graduates of their accredited programs. Though presented in two visually distinct ways and employing slightly different language, ALA’s Core Competencies and CILIP‘s Body of Professional Knowledge (BPK) outlined essentially the same knowledge base that is expected of new members of the profession. The only major difference was that the ALA expects LIS graduates to have knowledge of the history of librarianship; the BPK did not address this topic.

Note: In the year-and-a-half since I completed this research project, CILIP has updated their BPK to a new model called the Professional Knowledge and Skills Base (PKSB), which can be viewed here. This new PKSB lays out CILIP’s core competencies in a more direct and specific manner than the BPK did, but apart from a few additions, the competencies appear to be fundamentally the same.

Although the core competencies are very similar, a divergence occurs between what classes are required (as of August 2011) in ALA-accredited programs and those accredited by CILIP:

ALA v CILIP figure1

ALA- and CILIP-accredited programs also differed in whether or not they required field experience/internships and dissertations/research projects:

ALA v. CILIP figure2

From the data shown in the figure above, it can be presumed that CILIP-accredited programs place significantly greater emphasis on practical experience in the field than programs accredited by the ALA do. In fact, nearly half (46.67%) of CILIP-accredited programs require that applicants have previous related work experience before they can be admitted. Thus it can be argued that graduates of CILIP-accredited programs enter the job market with more hands-on knowledge of the field. However, since the previous work experience of graduates with ALA credentials is unknown and therefore not included in the data, this argument is not thoroughly supported.

Another assumption from the data in the figure above is that CILIP-accredited programs are more academically rigorous than those accredited by the ALA, since 100% of Master’s-level programs in the UK require dissertations of 15,000 words or more. It is noteworthy to mention that students in CILIP-accredited programs who do not complete a dissertation still graduate with what is called a Postgraduate Diploma, or PG Dip, and are still considered by CILIP to be professionally qualified. The PG Dip is not recognized by the ALA as equivalent to an ALA-accredited Master’s degree, even though graduates of most ALA-accredited Master’s programs are not required to complete a dissertation and are therefore earning the CILIP equivalent of a PG Dip.

Survey Findings

From the data gathered in the survey geared toward employers, it can be inferred that employers who hire employees with foreign credentials tend to be satisfied with the speed with which those employees adjust to working overseas, and no major gaps seem to exist in core areas of the professional knowledge base. However, the data from this survey may be biased due to the low number of respondents (13), and unequal representation of employers from varying types of libraries or the countries represented.

The data gathered in the second survey geared toward LIS graduates suggests that graduates of ALA-accredited programs are more successful at acquiring jobs overseas in the UK than CILIP-accredited graduates are in the US or Canada; roughly 81% of respondents with ALA credentials who applied for library jobs in the UK reported being successful, compared to approximately 35% of respondents with CILIP credentials who applied for jobs in the US or Canada. However, according to the data, this assumption is not due to the issue of foreign credentialing.

While conducting these surveys, I also received some interesting comments via email. Three self-identified American citizens wrote to tell me about how they had earned LIS degrees in the UK, only to return to the US and find that libraries would not hire them due to their CILIP credentials. One commented that library administrators told him that “non-ALA degrees would not even be considered, regardless of [the] reciprocity which CILIP currently claims.” Another respondent, who identified herself as a lecturer at one of the CILIP-accredited programs in the UK, shared that a few American graduates of the program had told her that they were denied employment upon returning to the States. In contrast, two respondents with non-CILIP credentials shared that they were able to find professional jobs in the UK without any difficulty. Thus, although not reflected in the statistical survey data, it is clear that foreign credentialing is indeed an issue when it comes to professional LIS employment in the US.


I drew three conclusions from this study: 1) ALA and CILIP expect roughly the same of their LIS graduates, since their core competencies are so similar; 2) required courses in both ALA- and CILIP-accredited courses differ, but neither side of the Atlantic shows a greater deficiency in covering the core competencies than the other; and 3) most ALA-accredited Master’s degrees are effectively the equivalent of CILIP-accredited PG Dips, and graduates of CILIP-accredited programs are more likely to have more practical experience in the field.

If those conclusions are true, then why has it been so difficult for graduates of CILIP programs to have their credentials recognized in the US and Canada? The ALA claims to celebrate diversity, and “promotes the exchange of professional information, techniques and knowledge, as well as personnel and literature between and among libraries and individuals throughout the world” (American Library Association, 2011b, para. 1). Wouldn’t working alongside library professionals who earned their degrees from around the world be a great way to do just that?

Michael Dowling wrote in 2007 that the ALA has changed its policies to be more accommodating of foreign credentials, but that the organization hasn’t communicated this change well enough to human resource departments. However, most of the comments I received about CILIP credentials being denied in the US indicated that this problem has continued since 2007. If the ALA has indeed changed its policies, it doesn’t seem to be communicating them any better. I, for one, would like to see this question of transferability addressed more clearly by the ALA and CILIP, in hopes that more LIS students don’t complete a year or more of study and hard work only to find that their degree is effectively worthless in the country where they’d like to work.

Dana HamlinDana Hamlin (Goblaskas) is an archives collections associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She earned her MLS at Southern Connecticut State University in August 2011, and can be contacted at dgoblask@mit.edu



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Researcher’s Corner: Job Trends in Music Librarianship

I’m a generalist, but I always like to peek into the different library specialties.  In this piece, Joe Clark reports on vacancies for Music librarians, describing changes in the number of posted jobs, in what types of organizations are posting, and even in the nature of the work being advertised.  His findings make me curious to see if these types of changes are occurring all over.

A more formal write-up of his research was published in Notes: Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association, and if I’m parsing Project Muse correctly, it’s open access, so you can read his article here for free.

The graying of the library profession and recession of 2008 piqued my curiosity about the number of available positions in music librarianship over the last decade. Position announcements seemed fewer in 2009-10 than when I was looking for my first position in the early 2000s, but I did not have empirical data to back up this suspicion. This entry provides an overview to the study investigating my question, some key findings, and additional data from research I have done since.


Vacancies in music librarianship are posted in numerous places; however, the most comprehensive sources is the Music Library Association’s (MLA) Placement Service Job List. The Job List was a subscription-based service before the early 2000s, at which time it was moved online and made freely available. Hiring institutions can post announcements at no cost, and access is free to employment seekers.

Because 2002 was the first full year that all job openings were included on the web page, it marks the first year of my study. Each Job List posting from 2002 through 2010 was classified into type of position (professional librarian, para-professional, appointment in professional organization, etc.). Professional and paraprofessional employment was grouped by hiring organization category (academic, public library, government, etc.) and type of work (reference, cataloging, etc.).


The total number of job postings varied widely from year to year. Advertisements were most plentiful in 2002, 2006, 2007, and 2008, with 102, 101, 95, and 92 respectively. While the number of available positions was lowest in 2009 with 50 (followed closely by 2010 with 58), the numbers were similar to those in 2003. Of the positions posted on the Job List, most (63%) were for professional librarians and required an American Library Association accredited Masters degree. Twenty-three percent of the listings were for paraprofessionals, while a small number (under five percent) fell into one of the other categories (such as an officer position for professional library organization, work for a scholarly organization, or a music-related position not involving library work).

Eighty-two percent of the professional library positions were in academic institutions. Eleven percent were in public libraries, and 5% were in non-profit institutions (most of these were in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum and Archives). Vacancies in public libraries were 11%,  down from previous Job List studies. Renee McBride’s 2004 book chapter “What Employers Want Now: A Survey of the MLA Job List” (in Careers in Music Librarianship II: Traditions and Transitions, ed. Paula Elliot and Linda Blair, Scarecrow Press for the Music Library Association, 2004) found 14% of listings in public libraries. Reference, cataloging, and administration positions each accounted for approximately one quarter of professional employment. The remaining quarter offered work in archives, digital specialization, or hybrid positions involving cataloging and public service.

The percentage of professional jobs in public libraries decreased over the nine years of the study,  as did listings in corporate environments. Due to the staffing of the newly opened Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Library and Archives in Cleveland, Ohio, the number of positions in non-profit environments rose sharply during 2007-2010. Cataloging jobs declined as a percentage during the nine years of the study. Advertisements in archives and hybrid positions (those involving both public service and cataloging) increased dramatically between 2008 and 2010.

Research conducted since the original study reveal that professional vacancies in music librarianship hit a low in 2011, with only 25 Job List advertisements. 2012 witnessed 60% more professional positions, with 40 announcements, which was slightly lower than 2010’s total. Distribution of the 60 professional jobs by type for 2011-12 are as follows: 35% reference, 25% administrative, 17% archival, 13% cataloging, 7% hybrid (includes both cataloging and public service), 2% digital, and 2% scholarly work. Eighty-eight percent of these posts were in academic institutions, 7% in public libraries, and 5% in non-profits.

Hiring institutions for paraprofessional openings were more varied than professional positions, with approximately one-third in academic, one-third in performing organizations, and the remaining third in government/military, corporate, non-profit, and public libraries. Forty-one percent of paraprofessional posts involved ensemble librarianship. The duties of the remaining posts were distributed among seven other job types.

The other position types included officer positions within professional organizations (mostly from the Music Library Association), non-library posts in music settings, non-music library positions, and organizations that create scholarly materials used by music librarians. These accounted for up to ten percent of Job List postings in any given year.


The original study’s data spanned December 2010; however, the recent number of Job List postings continues to be lower than those from 2004-08. While there were 67 jobs listed in 2011, that year marked the smallest percentage (37%) of professional vacancies during the eleven years under study. Due to the high number of job seekers lacking library experience, the Placement Officer during this period included paraprofessional positions whenever possible. Fifty-eight positions appeared on the Job List in 2012, the same as 2010.

The complete study, entitled “Job Trends in Music Librarianship: A Nine-Year Analysis from the Music Library Association’s Job List,” was published in Notes 69, no. 1 (September 2012). I also wrote the follow-up article “What Employers Want: Entry-Level Qualifications for Music Librarians,” which examines the qualities hiring institutions want in new librarians. It will be published in Notes 69, no. 3 (March 2013). Feel free to contact me with questions or comments.

Joe Clark

Joe Clark is the Head of the Performing Arts Library at Kent State University. He has published articles in Notes: Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association, Fontes Artis Musicae, Serials Review, and Journal of Library Innovation. His research interests include employment trends in music librarianship, collection management, library administration, and American music.

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