New ALIA report on LIS education, skills and employment
21 August 2015 Canberra: The Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) said there is a positive outlook on job prospects for library and information professionals over the next five years, but the labour market will remain tight.
This is one of the conclusions of the ALIA LIS Education, Skills and Employment Trend Report 2015.
Sue McKerracher, ALIA Chief Executive Officer, said: ‘This report gives us useful insights about education and students, as well as the underlying employment trends in the Library and Information Science (LIS) industry. This is helpful guidance for our association and provides our members with valuable insights.’
‘While many in our sector worry about employment prospects, we have seen an interesting trend. Over a five year period, as reported in 2013, we found the number of librarian positions dropped by 23%, yet the unemployment level for librarians was below the average for other occupations.’
‘While the job market remains tight, we believe the reason has something to do with the number of baby boomers retiring which is providing job opportunities for the next generation.’
Over the same period, there was a four percent drop in library technician positions and a nine percent increase in library assistant positions.
Ms McKerracher said: ‘This adds credence to anecdotal evidence that more employers are recruiting candidates without LIS qualifications to provide frontline services. Our aim is the encourage non-LIS professionals employed in the sector to study for LIS qualifications or at least gain a better understanding of the library environment by joining ALIA’s proficiency recognition program.’
On the education front, educators are in a challenging period and this situation isn’t restricted to the LIS sector.
Ms McKerracher said: ‘Smaller budgets, less administrative assistance, higher teaching loads and the pressure to maintain research outputs mean that educators have less time to take stock. In this environment, it’s more important that practitioners and employers provide feedback and support to educators that ensure that course content remains current and graduates have the skills to work at the cutting edge of library services.’
ALIA analysis of the report data concluded:
- Library and information science is an occupation with a relatively small, highly qualified workforce. Fewer than 30,000 out of 11.5 million, or 0.2% of the Australian labour force. This is reflected in its equally small education footprint (0.2% of VET students and 0.1% of higher education students).
- Although the LIS workforce is small, the sector has significant reach and profile because millions of Australians use library services. More than 10 million Australians are registered public library users and still more use university, VET, special and school libraries, although there will be some duplication.
- The job market will remain tight, with as many as 1800 professionals graduating each year and seeking employment. While many of these graduates will already be employed in the sector, others will be new entrants.
- LIS courses have been particularly vulnerable to changes in the TAFE system at a state and territory level, which have seen pressure on individual courses and substantial increases in student fees. In 2015, there were 24 institutions delivering 33 ALIA accredited courses around Australia. In addition, there were VET (Vocational Education and Training) providers offering Certificates II, III and IV in library and information studies. This represented a significant decline (23% and 37% respectively) since 2009, when there were 31 institutions and 52 courses.
- Librarians, Technicians and Library Assistants had significantly higher education attainment compared with people employed in all occupations in Australia. For example, some 60% of Librarians had a Post Graduate or Graduate Diploma or a Graduate Certificate, compared with 9% for all occupations. The essential role of education underpinning participation in the sector remained strong, with 69% of workers having Librarian or Technician qualifications.
- As well as library and information service delivery positions, there were also approximately 1,000 jobs working for the Australian vendors who supply library and information related products.
Ms McKerracher concluded: ‘The core skills, knowledge and attributes required by library and information professionals are evolving and it is important that educators, employers, students, professionals and ALIA work together to ensure people working in the sector are equipped to deliver quality services.’
Read the previous edition of the report – 2014.
About the Australian Library and Information Association
The Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) is the professional organisation for the Australian library and information services sector. With 5,000 members across Australia, we provide the national voice of the profession in the development, promotion and delivery of quality library and information services, through leadership, advocacy and mutual support. www.alia.org.au
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 Source: National and State Libraries Australasia