The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 11, Number 6
Aug 1987


Distance Learning

Last November an article in the British journal, Library Association Record, reviewed the experience of the College of Librarianship Wales and its students after its first year in a three-year correspondence course leading to a master's degree. Correspondence courses were the only way to prepare formally for a library career from 1904 to the Second World War, when the new library schools were established. The College, already used to offering the master's degree course to overseas students, extended the idea to domestic students. It obviously fills a need: over 300 inquiries were received for the 15 available places (this has since been increased to 30 places).

Tuition is 500 per year, and the work averages 12-15 hours per weak, with peaks of up to 20 hours. There are two courses ("modules") per year for the first two years, each of which has eight units. For each unit, a package of study materials is received at approximately monthly intervals: a study guide, a tape cassette of a lecture, supplementary reading material, a reading list and so on. There are four written assignments and one project per year. The third year is devoted to a dissertation involving a study of library systems other than one s own. The human element is provided by assignment of a personal tutor to each student, and a week's summer school at the beginning of the first and second years. The students' greatest difficulty has been in finding the reading materials, especially if they do not work in or near a major library. "Self-help" groups, to alleviate isolation and address problems like this, have not gotten off the ground.

For more information, see Libr. Ass. Rec. 88 (11) Nov. 1986, p. 544: "Professional Education by Distance Learning: Experience of the Master's degree at CLW," by John Sherwell; or write to the Library Association (7 Ridgmount St., London WClE 7AE, England) for Distance Learning, by Sheila Dale (Guidelines for Training in Libraries no. 8).

American librarians are not eligible, but the concept of distance learning may hold promise for use in this country to increase the opportunities for preservation education and provide a wider choice of options for people who want to prepare themselves for work in this field.

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