How to become a qualified Prep School librarian

Whilst specific library and information qualifications are not essential to start a career as a Prep School librarian, formal qualifications  will enhance your employability and provide a solid introduction to your area of work. CILIP actively encourages school librarians to become qualified and are totally opposed to the situation in schools where paid professional and support roles are directly replaced with either volunteers or untrained administrative posts in order to save money. So it would be well worth finding out if your school would support you if you were to embark on a qualifying course and also if you would receive proper recognition for your qualifications on completion

As it is quite common for individuals to come to school librarianship without a relevant library qualification, many seek to qualify whilst they are in post and there are various ways this can be done. Either by taking a university qualification in library and information studies or by completing a work-based training scheme. The latter is a valuable option for Prep School librarians in particular, as they usually have considerable experience of working in libraries and often already possess a degree from some other discipline.


University qualification route

Most librarians qualify by completing one of the following:

  • a degree in librarianship or information management that is accredited by the Library and Information Association (CILIP)
  • a degree in any subject, followed by an accredited postgraduate qualification in library/information management. Courses can be full-time or part-time, and there are even some offered through distance learning so you can still  work whilst you study.

If you want to apply for a postgraduate course, most universities would expect you to have gained some experience of working in a library or information service beforehand. Graduates from non-library and information disciplines who have little or no library and information work experience should try and find volunteer work in a library or alternatively join a graduate training scheme. Graduate traineeships provide a period of paid work experience usually lasting between 10 and 12 months and are a great way to enhance your job prospects and prepare yourself for your next course of study. Trainees are often offered jobs by their placement provider at the end of their course. If you are a graduate interested in graduate training opportunities use the CILIP directory to find a paid entry level post and get started on your career. See website: http://www.lisjobnet.com/graduate-training/)


Work-based qualification route

Apprenticeships – initially CILIP planned to withdraw the apprenticeship framework but in 2017 the organisation had to acknowledge that being able to offer high quality apprenticeships was a way in which they could start to address the inequalities within the library and information profession. At that time access into the profession was limited as the entry point was set far too high. 61% of the library and information workforce held a post-graduate qualification whilst the highest qualification of most of the UK workforce was, and still is, A-level or equivalent. So in 2019 the CILIP-led ‘trailblazer’ group successfully won full approval for the establishment of an apprenticeship for the library and information profession. The Standard is for a Level 3 – Library/ Information/ Archive Services (LIAS)  Assistant and covers a wide range of professional skills, including digital skills and information literacy. The activities of the LIAS Level 3 apprentices are defined as: “LIAS Assistants help users find the information and resources they need in order to resolve their specific query. They work with people from all parts of society and the workforce, providing essential digital and analogue information services – issuing and returning materials, organising collections, answering research and information queries, improving customers’ literacy skills, – quite often at the forefront of innovation.” The Standard can be viewed in full on the Institute for Apprenticeships’ website.

CILIP will continue to work with employers across the sector to encourage engagement with and adoption of this standard and also plans to explore the development of further apprenticeship standards.


CILIP’s Professional Registration scheme – this offers an opportunity  to enter the library profession at any stage in your working life and still become a recognised professional. Not having a specific academic or vocational qualification does not have to be a barrier to success because this scheme offers the benefit of a recognized library qualification (with  postnominals) which will help with career progression. If embarking on this route the only requirement is that you are first a current member of CILIP. The CILIP membership team will be pleased to advise you on costs etc. Email:  memberservices@cilip.org.uk

CILIP offers three different levels of registration:

  1. Certification: – this is the first stage on the Professional Registration journey with a focus on demonstrating knowledge and skills, and developing these in the workplace. It is aimed at those who are at the beginning of their professional career or who want to gain some recognition for the knowledge and skills they have developed whilst working in a library.  So if you are working as a library assistant, or are relatively inexperienced  Certification is probably the best route for you. You will need to have a minimum of two years’ experience of working in libraries. A successful application leads to Certified Affiliate status – ACLIP
  2. Chartership: –  this  demonstrates that individuals have both the knowledge and skills required for the role as well as the ability to apply them. It is aimed at those  who are working in a role that includes some level of professional responsibility, however you do not need to hold a specific library qualification in order to work towards Chartership. So if you are already a graduate from some other discipline and have a wealth of experience in the development and management of school libraries you will usually choose to work towards Chartered status (MCLIP)
  3. Fellowship:- This is the highest level of Professional Registration and if you are already a Chartered member, hold a senior position in your organisation, or have made a significant contribution to the library profession, this would be the most appropriate for you. On completion you will receive Fellowship status (FCLIP)

Depending on your experience and current role you can choose whether Certification or Chartership is the most appropriate path for you. There is further information on this here. It is also possible to follow up a successful Certification with a Chartership if appropriate. Individuals can always contact CILIP to discuss which  Professional Registration route they should follow by emailing memberservices@cilip.org.uk or by telephoning on: 020 7255 0500. One does not have to be CILIP member just to make an enquiry!

None of CILIP’s professional registration schemes require any sort of exam. Candidates are just required to submit an e-portfolio of evidence which is built up by logging their Continuous Professional Development Activities and writing reflective statements  on how their knowledge and performance has improved.  All candidates have a mentor to advise and support them in this process –  it is particularly helpful if this is someone from another sector. There is no time scale involved but it is possible to complete any of the three schemes in just 12 months. The cost is £50 to register and another £50 when you submit your portfolio. It is recommended that all candidates attend the portfolio building workshops and training  courses that are run by CILIP  all over the country

Revalidation: All members who hold Certification, Chartership or Fellowship are recommended to revalidate their qualifications on an annual basis by submitting a short, reflective evaluative statement to CILIP  on their CPD activities for that year. This is to ensure they continue to  get the professional recognition for keeping their skills up-to-date and staying in touch with the latest developments in the profession. CILIP tried to  make Revalidation obligatory, but members voted against it

For further information please see CILIP’s Career Hub section of their website https://www.cilip.org.uk/page/Careershub


Training & CPD                  

Library organisations such as CILIP, the SLA and the Schools Library Service offer training courses on a regular basis on a wide range of subjects. You do not have to be a member of these organisations to attend but if you are, you will receive good discounts on the costs of the courses.

If you are working as a librarian, it is well worth joining national bodies such as CILIP (there are different levels of membership, depending on your experience and qualifications) and/or the SLA. Membership will give you access to support and advice, and also opportunities for professional development training. You can develop your skills and knowledge by attending short courses arranged by these organizations at their local and regional branches, whilst weekend conferences and informal training and networking days are also available. Please see links below:



Groups such as LIPSSEE also provide informal training and networking opportunities whereas your local Schools Library Service can provide regular courses and training days.

Online CPD opportunities:

These are becoming more popular as the advantage of e-learning is that you can study at your own pace and can pick up the course any time and any place. Several organisation supply such courses:

  • Opening the Book. If it is practical work place skills you require then look no further than the online courses provided by Opening the Book (a CILIP recognised CPD provider). They offer courses  on three different levels – ‘Entry’ for new staff and volunteers; ‘Intermediate’ and ‘Advanced’ aimed at graduates and library managers respectively.  Each learner is assigned a personal assessor/mentor and discussion boards bring learners together to discuss ideas so you are not alone!  Opening the Book award certificates to those who successfully pass each course. These courses offer great value as learners can go back to the course materials at any time after they have completed the course. They can also continue to visit and participate in the online discussions.
  • SLA – Online Courses for Primary & Secondary School Staff. Including “Learning about Libraries” – a modular course which leads candidates through the processes involved in organising and running a primary school library and “Basic cataloguing and classification“. All courses lead to a certificate of participation. See website for further details: www.sla.org.uk/online-cpd.php
  • WebJunction. This is a US site where you can find online library-specific courses and webinar recordings which are available free to all library workers and volunteers. All new users must create an account. To do this just select “Log in” at the top right of the webpage, and then “Create new account.” Once you’ve created your account, explore the catalogue of library-focused self-paced courses and webinars. Certificates of completion will be available to you after you have completed any course or webinar.

(Last updated by Denise Reed on 16 January, 2019)





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