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Does education in library and information studies in the United Kingdom have a future?

Marcella, Rita; Oppenheim, Charles


Charles Oppenheim


The last decade has seen a decline in the fortunes of the Library and Information Science (LIS) sector in the UK, both in professional practice and in higher education. This paper sets out to assess the health and wellbeing of LIS teaching and research, and to identify key strategies for its future survival. Over the past decade, many schools of LIS have ceased to exist, for example in the University of Central England, Brighton University and Loughborough. Many have become subdivisions of other schools, as in Northumbria University, Strathclyde and the Robert Gordon University, spread indiscriminately around a variety of disciplines like business management, computing and communications. Arguably, there remains only one autonomous school and two autonomous departments of LIS in the UK today, in Sheffield University, and UCL and City University - a very significant decline from fifteen examples in the 1980s (Elkin and Wilson, 1997). From 2018 to 2019, we undertook a series of interviews with colleagues in information and library science education across the UK, both current academics with responsibility for the subject, and also retired heads of school, department or subject. The aim of the interviews was to gather the views of these experienced and knowledgeable individuals about how the discipline has fared in the last thiry years, its current status and where it might go in the future. What emerged from these interviews was a sense of isolation, threat and uncertainty amongst participants about their future and that of the discipline. The authors were of the view that we are currently at something of a crossroads for the subject, as taught in universities in the UK, and that a study such as the present one would help to focus minds on the areas where most impact might be made in creating a legacy for the subject into the future.


MARCELLA, R. and OPPENHEIM, C. 2020. Does education in library and information studies in the United Kingdom have a future? Education for information [online], 36(4), pages 411-440. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 22, 2020
Online Publication Date Jul 24, 2020
Publication Date Dec 16, 2020
Deposit Date Aug 3, 2020
Publicly Available Date Aug 3, 2020
Journal Education for information
Print ISSN 0167-8329
Electronic ISSN 1875-8649
Publisher IOS Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 36
Issue 4
Pages 411-440
Keywords Library education; Library research; Information science education; Information science research; LIS education; LIS research; United Kingdom
Public URL


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