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The Library Schools and a Historical Dilemma

Library Review

ISSN: 0024-2535

Article publication date: 1 March 1955



When the Library Association decided ten years ago that greatly extended facilities for full‐time training should form part of the programme of post‐war library development, few of the people concerned could have been expected to foresee what has now become one of the major problems in education for librarianship in Great Britain. It is indeed possible that it was not foreseen by anyone at all. Roy Stokes has reminded us in his article in the Library Association Record, January 1954, that there was not a single British librarian in 1945 with any experience in the management of a full‐time agency for professional training. Nor is there evidence of any consultation with similar agencies in those countries, the United States and Denmark for example, in which full‐time training had for long been recognised as the only adequate form of preparation for professional librarianship. It was in these rather strange circumstances that the nine new schools were founded between 1946 and 1950. In the eyes of the Library Association Council and the profession at large they were simply training agencies within the long‐established framework of the Association's examination and registration system; a system which had developed over a period of sixty years against a background of apprentice‐type training, with little intellectual content to the work, and a confused pattern of methods of preparation—private study, part‐time classes, summer schools, week‐end courses, correspondence tuition. This system had operated reasonably well, without claiming to be anything more than mere technical training, because the Association's exclusive control over both syllabus and examinations ensured reasonable standards of national certification. All candidates, whatever their background, practical experience or method of preparation, had to submit themselves to the one series of tests. That in the minds of many was all that mattered; and, despite the greatly changed circumstances brought about by the establishment of nine full‐time professional schools, there are still many who think it is all that matters today. Which brings us to what has been called “the historical dilemma of professional education”, the problem of relating full‐time training for a profession with what is expected of the products of it by those who examine them and those who employ them. In this connection let us also remember that at present hardly any of the examiners and only a small minority of the chief librarians concerned have themselves had any personal experience of full‐time professional training. Time is on the side of the schools here but there may still be many years of frustration and misunderstanding which will cause most distress to the most important person of all, the student who is on the road to professional qualification.


HARRISON, J.C. (1955), "The Library Schools and a Historical Dilemma", Library Review, Vol. 15 No. 3, pp. 158-162.




Copyright © 1955, MCB UP Limited

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