Apr 19, 2013— read in full
Library and information science explained
Library and information science (LIS) combines two related fields. Library science is dedicated to making libraries and archives useful and useable for the people who need them. This covers a wide range of questions: what order should the books be in? What books should be on the shelves? How important is it for people to be able to browse the books, rather than have to ask for them at a desk? Information science is broader: it looks at how information is gathered, stored, organized and distributed in a variety of systems.
Both areas have to balance technical problems about storing and managing information with the practical needs of the people who use that information, whether they are finding it in a library or on the internet.
The basics of LIS
Some of the fundamental ideas of LIS can be seen in the 'Five Laws of Library Science'. Although they were written in 1934, these laws are still relevant today, even when dealing with things other than books.
- Books are for use. This law says that there is no point just storing books and information away: it needs to be easy to use, too. This covers everything from extending library opening hours to improving website search engines.
- Every reader his/her book. This means that everyone who uses a library or other resource should be able to find the information they are looking for.
- Every book its reader. This law says that every item will be useful to someone, and so they all need to be easy to find - for example, a library should not lock some of its books away rather than keeping them out on the shelves.
- Save the reader's time. This means that people should not have to spend a long time looking for information instead of using it.
- The library is a growing organism. This means that a library, or any other system for storing information, should be able to cope with growth, whether in the amount of information it stores or the number of people trying to use that information.
There are a variety LIS courses available, including some which combine information management with other disciplines like accountancy. The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals keeps a list of accredited courses, which can contribute to getting professional status. They also run a directory of graduate training schemes for people with degrees in other areas.
Careers in LIS
As you might expect, librarian is a common job for people with LIS qualifications. This doesn't just mean working in a local library: it could mean managing a large academic library, or specialist collections like old manuscripts.
However, this is far from the only career available. Many different organizations need the kind of skills taught in LIS to help them store and share information. For example, news agencies might need archivists to keep track of old stories and research. These careers are likely to require more computer-based information management than working as a librarian would.