The days when walking into a library meant filtering through volumes with an inch of dust on them and having a sour faced librarian "shush" you for breathing on too grand a fashion over their horn "“ rimmed spectacles are long gone.

Today's library has had to face up to the challenges of operating in the modern world. Essentially, given the internet's facility of use as a tool for research, it would appear that these hallowed halls of learning had to either modernise, and thus continue to draw in learners and the public in general, or else close and become luxury apartments or a very, very small out of town mall. Those who have failed to adapt will fade slowly in the public's memory, until the time will come when people will pause outside the building and wonder: "Didn"t there used to be a library somewhere near here?"

The Future

Those that have met the challenge are a different type of library; noisier, certainly, but also livelier and more open. One of the most important challenges to be faced by any organisation today is that of the provision of skills training for the workforce. As such, the announcement of a joint agenda for workforce development issues between the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) and Lifelong Learning UK (LLUK) marks an important positive step.

Central to the joint agenda, which takes the form of a Memorandum of Understanding, is the growth and development of the new National Occupational Standards (NOS) dealing specifically with the CILIP Body of Professional Knowledge. This is joined by the development of more vocational qualifications, including Foundation degrees. These provide further progression into the existing Framework of Professional Qualifications offered by CILIP.

This growth of the portfolio of qualifications on offer seems set to provide a more flexible route when planning the relevant career pathways. It will also offer a pathway into professional and higher academic qualifications. The emphasis upon the collection and dissemination of data "“ such a central theme in Sir Andrew Foster's Report on FE of November 2005 "“ is mirrored in this agreement, with considerable attention being paid to the collection of more robust workforce data. There will also be a coordinated approach towards careers within the sector, aiding recruitment and retention.

A Vital Role to Play

David Hunter, the Chief Executive of the LLUK, praised the signature of the agreement and was at pains to highlight the importance of the library and information workers. He said: "This agreement is an opportunity both to foster the career development of existing staff but also to create opportunities that will attract growing numbers of high-calibre new entrants. The role of LLUK is to work with our employers across the four countries of the UK and the professional bodies such as CILIP to develop a top quality workforce, meeting both individual career needs and those of the wider economy."

The CILIP Chief Executive Bob McKee commented: "CILIP and LLUK share a vision in which the library and information workforce plays a key role in the nation's knowledge economy. To fulfil that potential it is essential for the Sector Skills Council and the profession's own regulatory body to work closely together. This joint agreement between LLUK and CILIP will help to raise standards, support professional development, improve on understanding of the workforce, and strengthen engagement with employers across the whole of the library and information domain. It represents a major step forward in equipping the library and information workforce to meet the needs of the modern information society."

David Ruse, the Director of Libraries for Westminster City Council, also highlighted the crucial position that libraries and information services occupy. He said: "I am pleased that this partnership signals a joint approach between employers and our professional body in developing the skills and employability of our people. This is becoming especially important in an increasingly IT-focused world where communities look to libraries for support and guidance in accessing information."

Jethro Marsh

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