Library and Information Education in Europe: an overview

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Library and Information Education in Europe: an overview

 

[Versió catalana] [Versión castellana]


Ángel Borrego

Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Library and Information Science
University of Barcelona

 

Abstract

The article describes the current situation of Library and Information Science (LIS) education in the European Union. European centres offering LIS-related programmes were identified using an IFLA directory and were classified in eight disciplines. The characteristics of the undergraduate and graduate programmes offered by these schools and departments, and any experience of domestic or international collaboration, were recorded through visits to their websites. The results show the absence of a common European approach to LIS education and a very low level of activity in domestic or international partnerships. Most undergraduate degrees combine a grounding in general culture with courses in technology, languages and practical training. In many cases there are no clear differences between undergraduate and graduate programmes; the programmes have similar names and no target audiences are specified. In addition to the general postgraduate degrees in librarianship and archive studies, most programmes revolve around digital curation, business information services and data analytics.

Resum

Aquest article descriu la situació actual dels estudis de Biblioteconomia i Documentació (BiD) a la Unió Europea. Els centres europeus que ofereixen programes relacionats amb Biblioteconomia i Documentació s'han identificat mitjançant un directori de l'IFLA i s'han classificat en vuit disciplines. Per mitjà de visites als seus webs, s'han enregistrat les característiques dels programes de grau i de postgrau que ofereixen aquestes escoles, facultats i departaments, i també qualsevol experiència de col·laboració nacional o internacional. Els resultats demostren la manca d'un enfocament comú europeu en relació amb els estudis de Biblioteconomia i Documentació i un nivell molt baix d'activitat pel que fa als acords de col·laboració a escala nacional o internacional. La majoria dels programes de grau combinen una base sòlida de cultura general amb cursos de tecnologia, idiomes i formació pràctica. En molts casos, no hi ha una diferència clara entre els estudis de grau i els de postgrau; els programes tenen noms similars i no s'especifica a quin públic van adreçats. A més dels estudis generals de grau sobre Biblioteconomia i Arxivística, la major part dels programes giren al voltant de la gestió de continguts, els serveis d'informació comercial i l'anàlisi de dades.

Resumen

Este artículo describe la situación actual de los estudios de Biblioteconomía y Documentación (ByD) en la Unión Europea. Los centros europeos que ofrecen programas relacionados con Biblioteconomía y Documentación se han identificado mediante un directorio de la IFLA y se han clasificado en ocho disciplinas. Por medio de visitas a sus webs, se han registrado las características de los programas de grado y de posgrado que ofrecen estas escuelas, facultades y departamentos, y también cualquier experiencia de colaboración nacional o internacional. Los resultados demuestran la falta de un enfoque común europeo en relación con los estudios de Biblioteconomía y Documentación y un nivel muy bajo de actividad en lo relativo a los acuerdos de colaboración a escala nacional o internacional. La mayoría de los programas de grado combinan una base sólida de cultura general con cursos de tecnología, idiomas y formación práctica. En muchos casos, no hay una diferencia clara entre los estudios de grado y los de posgrado; los programas tienen nombres similares y no se especifica a qué público van dirigidos. Además de los estudios generales de grado sobre Biblioteconomía y Archivística, la mayor parte de los programas giran en torno a la gestión de contenidos, los servicios de información comercial y el análisis de datos.

 

1 Introduction

Educational programmes in Library and Information Science (LIS) have been intensively studied in the last few decades. However, a literature search shows that this interest has mainly focused on other parts of the world rather than Europe, where an overview of the training in the discipline at the continental level is currently lacking.

The only major attempt to conduct a Europe-wide analysis of LIS education in the last decade was the final chapter of the European Curriculum Reflections on LIS Education report (Larsen, 2005) which discussed the results of a survey of LIS schools in the continent. Around 50 schools out of a population of some 200 LIS institutions answered an electronic survey. The study explored the organisational affiliations of LIS schools and found that 59 % functioned as departments within a specific faculty, 25 % operated as programmes within a specific department, 10 % were independent faculties or departments, and 6 % were independent academic institutions. Thus, most European LIS schools formed part of a larger educational framework. When respondents were asked which larger academic unit they belonged to, Arts and Humanities was the academic umbrella most frequently mentioned (35 %), followed by Social Sciences (15 %), Communication and Media (13 %), Business/Management (9 %) and Computer Science (4 %), and the remaining 24 % were placed under other units. In terms of size, European LIS schools were generally small academic units; a third (35 %) enrolled fewer than 100 students and a half (51 %) fewer than 200. In terms of staff members, 27 % of the schools had fewer than 10 full time staff and nearly two thirds (64 %) fewer than 20.

More recently, Tammaro (2011) analysed whether the Bologna process could contribute to quality enhancement of LIS education, taking Italy as a case study. She concluded that the Bologna learning outcomes model had been adopted as an approach with the potential to empower students through the knowledge and capabilities needed for the European labour market, although the coexistence of different concepts of quality and internationalisation of LIS education lend to various interpretations. Juznic and Badovinac (2011) analysed the development of LIS schools in the European Union applicant states and concluded that they are adapting their curriculum to new professional and political standards, embracing the new outlines regarding higher education, especially the Bologna Declaration. Other studies have described the changes introduced by the Bologna Declaration (Johnson, 2013) while expressing concerns about differences in assessment standards and conventions, and questioning the relevance of the attempts made to produce model lists of competences and curricula.

The present article focuses on LIS education in the 28 member states of the European Union as of June 2015: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Specifically, the study aimed to address the following research questions:

  • How many schools and departments offer LIS education in Europe?
  • In which disciplines can these schools and departments be classified?
  • Is there any experience of domestic and international collaboration between these schools and departments?
  • What are the characteristics of the undergraduate and graduate programmes that these schools and departments offer?
 

2 Methods

To identify the LIS educational programmes offered in the 28 selected countries, the IFLA's World Guide to Library, Archive and Information Science Education (3rd ed., 2007) was used. According to this guide, 283 centres in 26 European countries offer LIS programmes; only two countries (Cyprus and Luxembourg) do not.

The websites of the schools and departments included in the IFLA guide were visited between February and June 2015. Information was compiled regarding the faculty, school, institute or department where LIS programmes were offered and the characteristics of the undergraduate and graduate degrees. The compilation of the information proved to be difficult for two reasons: the linguistic diversity of the countries considered, and the fragmentation of the LIS community in different faculties, schools, and departments.

As far as the linguistic diversity is concerned, the European Union has 24 official languages and several others. For instance, in Spain three languages (Basque, Catalan and Galician) are co-official with Spanish in certain regions. Although some schools and departments have English versions of their websites, these are not usually full translations but brief descriptions of the school or department without complete information of the degrees on offer; frequently, this information is targeted to local students and is only provided in the local language. The author of the study is able to read English and some of the most widely used romance languages (Catalan, French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish). Therefore, most of the results of this study are based on information from universities using these languages or English translations of their websites. This must be acknowledged as a limitation of the study.

Schools and departments were classified in eight disciplinary categories borrowed from Wiggins and Sawyer (2012)'s disciplinary classification applied to iSchools faculty: Communication, Computing, Education, Humanities, Library & Information, Management & Policy, Science & Engineering, and Social & Behavioural. In addition to linguistic diversity, the second limitation in conducting the analysis was the fragmentation of the LIS community into different schools, institutes and departments. In some cases, LIS-related degrees depend on a school, in some cases on a department and, in others, on both a school and one of its departments. For classification purposes the most specific instance was used. Thus, if a degree was offered by a Department of Information Science at a School of Social Sciences, the department was classified under "Library & Information". However, if a similar degree was delivered by another School of Social Sciences but not under a specific department, the centre was classified under "Social & Behavioural". Finally, the category "Library & Information" was used only for schools and departments that specialise in this field. When the term "information" appeared in the name of the school or department along with another field, the other field was used for classification purposes: for instance, a department of Information and Communication was classified under "Communication".

After visiting the websites of the 283 educational centres included in the IFLA guide, 63 institutions were removed from the analysis, for four reasons:

  • Some of the institutions included in the IFLA guide were professional associations or national libraries mostly offering short courses addressed to active professionals.
  • Some of the institutions seemed to have dropped their degrees in LIS.
  • Some institutions offering degrees in LIS had merged since the publication of the IFLA guide in 2007.
  • When two departments in a single university offered LIS-related education, only the one closer to LIS was considered for the study.
 

3 Results

3.1 European LIS educational centres

A total of 220 centres offering LIS education were identified in 26 countries. As shown in Table 1, LIS programmes are offered at both undergraduate and graduate levels, although there is a higher tendency to offer bachelor's degrees: 88 % of the institutions offer undergraduate degrees whereas 65 % offer master's programmes. The only major exception to this trend is the United Kingdom, where all the 15 centres identified through the IFLA guide offer master's programmes in LIS but just nine of them offer bachelor's degrees.

Country
Population (in millions)1
Institutions offering LIS education
Institutions offering undergraduate LIS education
Institutions offering postgraduate LIS education
Austria
8.4
3
2
3
Belgium
11.1
11
9
4
Bulgaria
7.3
2
2
2
Croatia
4.3
3
3
3
Czech Republic
10.5
7
7
5
Denmark
5.6
1
1
1
Estonia
1.3
2
1
2
Finland
5.4
4
4
3
France
65.3
31
28
25
Germany
80.3
17
16
14
Greece
11.1
3
3
0
Hungary
9.9
10
10
5
Ireland
4.6
1
1
1
Italy
59.4
58
53
22
Latvia
2.0
1
1
1
Lithuania
3.0
1
1
1
Malta
0.4
1
1
0
Netherlands
16.7
6
6
1
Poland
38.5
12
12
8
Portugal
10.5
4
4
3
Romania
20.0
3
2
2
Slovakia
5.4
1
1
1
Slovenia
2.1
1
1
1
Spain
46.8
15
12
13
Sweden
9.5
7
4
6
United Kingdom
63.5
15
9
15
Total
≈ 500 million
220
194
142

Table 1. Institutions offering LIS related degrees by country

Defining countries with a population below 10 million inhabitants as small, most of them (11 out of 14) have between one and three departments offering LIS-related educational programmes. The main exception is Hungary, where 10 institutions offer educational programmes in LIS, all of them offering undergraduate education. To a lesser extent, seven universities in Sweden offer LIS-related education, but just four of them offer undergraduate programmes.

Among medium-sized countries —those with a population between 10 and 20 million inhabitants— Belgium stands out, with 11 institutions offering LIS-related education. Some Belgian regions have "hautes écoles" which offer vocational degrees, for instance in librarianship. Second in this category is the Czech Republic where seven universities provide LIS education; in this country, there are five undergraduate degrees in archival studies.

The remaining six countries can be considered big. The smallest country in this group is Poland, with a population that surpasses 38 million inhabitants, and the biggest is Germany with more than 80 million inhabitants. Among the big countries, Italy has 58 institutions offering LIS-related programmes, mainly due to the large number of universities offering degrees in cultural heritage (beni culturali) which include some kind of specialisation in LIS. In France, 38 institutions offer LIS-related education, largely due to the large number of universities offering degrees in information and communication (licences information et communication). Both cases are described in more detail below. In Spain, 15 universities offer LIS programmes, a figure similar to that of the United Kingdom or Germany, though of course it should be borne in mind that Spain has a much smaller population.

 

3.2 Disciplinary affiliation of LIS educational centres

Schools and departments delivering LIS programmes were classified under eight categories following Wiggins and Sawyer (2012)'s disciplinary classification. An additional "none" option was added mainly to classify highly generic schools that could not be accommodated in the remaining categories – for instance, schools of Social Sciences and Humanities.

 
Centres
%
Humanities
70
31.8
Library & Information
62
28.2
Communication
34
15.5
Computing
20
9.1
Management & Policy
6
2.7
Science & Engineering
4
1.8
Education
3
1.4
Social & Behavioural
3
1.4
None
18
8.2

Table 2. Disciplinary classification of LIS European educational centres

Table 2 shows that most European LIS-related educational centres can be classified under the heading Humanities. However, this figure is slightly misleading; a closer look at the 70 centres in this category shows that most of them (49) are faculties of Language, Philosophy and related disciplines at Italian universities that offer degrees in cultural heritage. Frequently, these degrees have courses in fields such as archaeology, art history, performing arts or LIS. In terms of the number of credits taken by the student, these specialisations are quite limited and, in line with the specialisation of the degree, they do not offer general training in LIS but concentrate mostly on subjects such as archives or heritage libraries. In addition to the large number of degrees in cultural heritage, a second explanation for the large number of Humanities centres in Italy is the existence of 17 regional archives offering training in archives, palaeography and diplomatics (scuolas di archivistica, paleografia e diplomatica).

Professional training in the field of archives is sometimes distinguished from training in librarianship. Thus, several universities, especially in Central and Eastern Europe, offer degrees in archival studies in parallel to those in librarianship. At some universities we find two different departments in a single faculty offering alternative undergraduate degrees in librarianship and archival studies.

The combination of centres and degrees specialising in information and communication is quite common, especially in France, where centres and degrees in Information et Communication are frequent. In fact, 21 out of the 28 undergraduate LIS-related degrees identified in French universities combine the terms "information" and "communication" in their titles.

In France, undergraduate degrees (licences) last three years. However, universities also offer DUTs (diplôme universitaire de technologie) and DEUSTs (diplôme d'études universitaires scientifiques et techniques), both lasting two years. These degrees can be supplemented with a one-year degree (licence professionnelle). Analysing the study programmes of these degrees, we observe that many three-year undergraduate degrees in Information et Communication mostly include courses in communication, foreign languages, public relations, and so on, and are closer to journalism and mass media than to LIS. Usually, training more closely related to the field of LIS is found in the form of licences professionnelles, which offer a one-year specialisation to students with a two-year academic background and also to active professionals.

In 9 % of cases, centres offering LIS-related degrees can be classified in the field of computer science. From a quantitative point of view, the closest relationship between LIS and computer science is observed in the United Kingdom, where six of 15 centres offering LIS-related training include the term computer or computing in their names.

Finally, around 28 % of the centres are closely related to the core of the discipline, that is, they have names that refer exclusively to library and information. Most of these schools and departments advertise what we could consider to be traditional degrees in LIS, oriented towards the training of graduates who will work in public and academic libraries or as information specialists in public and private institutions, or in more innovative profiles such as data scientists or information architects. Most of the study plans in these programmes are based on four areas: general culture, information and communication technologies, practical education, and languages.

 

3.3 Postgraduate education in LIS

When analysing the master's programmes offered in LIS-related fields, one of the first notable characteristics is the fact that most degrees have highly generic names. Frequently, master's degrees share titles with undergraduate degrees run by the same institution. It is easy to find examples of universities that offer both bachelor's and master's degrees in "library and information science" or in "information and communication", for example.

As a result, it is difficult to know what differences there are between undergraduate and graduate degrees, if indeed there are any. Nor is it obvious who these postgraduate degrees are targeted at – that is, at students with previous LIS studies or students with a different background.

Beyond generic postgraduate degrees in librarianship and archive studies, most programmes involve digital curation, business information services and data analytics.

 

3.4 Collaboration

There are few examples of collaboration between universities at either domestic or international level. At the domestic level, we found fewer than five master degrees offered in partnership by several universities in the same country.

At the international level, there is a single example of a former Erasmus Mundus programme delivered in partnership by two universities in Estonia and Italy. The Berlin School of Library and Information Science at Humboldt University offer two joint study profiles in partnership with the Royal School of Library and Information Science in Copenhagen and with King's College London.

Still at the international level, the LIS School in Copenhagen organises a summer school in collaboration with the University of Washington (US) and, in a similar fashion, the Institute of Information Science and Librarianship at Charles University in Prague organises a summer seminar in collaboration with the University of North Carolina (US).

 

4 Conclusions

The main conclusion to be drawn from the analysis of the websites of the 220 educational centres offering LIS-related education according to the IFLA's World Guide to Library, Archive and Information Science Education is that there is no common European approach to LIS education. The number and disciplinary orientation of LIS-related centres that appear in the IFLA guide varies widely from country to country, but this seems simply due to organisational differences, such as the inclusion of LIS-related content in more general degree courses (as we find in Italy and France, for instance, the two countries with the largest offer of LIS-related programmes). Maybe as a consequence of the lack of a common European approach, there are very few experiences of international (or even domestic) collaboration for delivering degrees in partnership.

Regarding the characteristics of the programmes, most undergraduate degrees in librarianship combine a grounding in general culture with courses in technology, languages and practical training. Other undergraduate degrees seem to be more oriented towards business information management. As far as postgraduate education is concerned, in many cases there are no clear differences between undergraduate and graduate programmes, which bear similar names and lack specific target audiences. Many universities offer both bachelor's and master's degrees with generic titles such as "library and information science", making it difficult to establish the differences between them. The classical debate on whether LIS education should be offered at undergraduate or at graduate level remains open, and different approaches are applied at different European universities. In addition to generic postgraduate degrees in librarianship and archive studies, most programmes revolve around digital curation, business information services, and data analytics.

 

Acknowledgement

Rafel Serra provided assistance in compiling the data.

 

References

Johnson, Ian M. (2013). "The impact on education for librarianship and information studies of the Bologna process and related European commission programmes — and some outstanding issues in Europe and beyond. Education for Information, vol. 30, no. 1/2, p. 63-92. DOI: 10.3233/EFI-130933.

Juznic, Primoz; Badovinac, Branka (2005). "Toward library and information science education in the European Union". New Library World, vol. 106, no. 3/4, p. 173-186.

Larsen, Jeannie Borup (2005). "A survey of Library & Information Science schools in Europe". In: Kajberg, Leif; Lørring, Leif (eds.). European Curriculum Reflections on Library and Information Science Education. Copenhagen: Royal School of Library and Information Science, p. 232-242. <http://hdl.handle.net/1889/1704>. [Accessed: 10/06/2015]

Schniederjürgen, Axel (ed.) (2007). World guide to library, archive, and information science education. Edited by Axel Schniederjürgen. Munich: K.G. Saur.

Tammaro, Anna. (2011). Towards Internationalisation of Library and Information of Library and Information Science Education: Bologna Process as a Lever of Quality in Italy. Newcastle: Northumbria University. <http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/2364>[Accessed: 19/10/2015].

Wiggins, Andrea; Sawyer, Steven (2012). "Intellectual Diversity and the Faculty Composition of iSchools". Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, vol. 63, no. 1, p. 8-21. DOI: 10.1002/asi.21619

 

Notes

1 Source: http://europa.eu/about-eu/countries/index_en.htm

Recommended citation

Borrego, Àngel (2015). "Library and Information Education in Europe : an overview". BiD: textos universitaris de biblioteconomia i documentació, núm. 35 (desembre) . <http://bid.ub.edu/en/35/borrego.htm>. [Consulta: 19-02-2020].


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