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What is librarianship?

It is a dynamic and interesting career, which focuses on information and the management thereof. It includes the collection, organisation and distribution of information, according to international principles and standards, in different formats for education, general use, research, and recreation. It is also the facilitation of access to information so that people find and use information effectively for personal and professional purposes.

The latest information and communication technology (ICT) developments, including data curation, digital preservation, data management planning, institutional repositories, social media, online learning, publishing, e-books and mobile technology offer wonderful new opportunities in the delivery of information services and the way libraries are managed. Librarianship forms the basis of specialization and diverse career opportunities including document management, knowledge management, children’s librarianship, research librarianship and electronic resources management.

What does a library and information professional do?

Within library and information services the following functions are major responsibilities:

  • Selection and acquisition of information sources relevant to the needs of the user community;
  • Organisation and management of the information sources and facilities so that the collections are accessible to the users;
  • Distribution of information to the users;
  • Facilitating access to information in print and electronic formats;
  • Creating and managing digitial collections in institutional repositories;
  • Electronic resources management which includes managing licensing agreements and facilitating access to electronic databases, journals and books.

Where do the opportunities lie?

  • In public libraries, which aim to meet the educational, recreational and information needs of local communities;
  • In school libraries and media centres which provide for learners’ information needs as well as materials for the teachers;
  • In university and university of technology libraries, which meet the academic needs of students as well as the teaching and research needs of the academic staff and researchers;
  • In special libraries and information services, which provide an in-depth and personal service to specialist groups of users within research or financial institutions, industry, professional practices or cultural bodies;
  • In national libraries, which are responsible for building, preserving and making accessible a complete collection of material published in and relating to a specific country.
  • In allied fields where library training and skills are relevant, such as freelancing and lecturing. 

What qualities are required?

A strong service and work ethic, interpersonal skills and appreciation of multicultural diversity, curiosity, broad general knowledge and wide interests, understanding of the value of information and knowledge in the development of individuals and communities, commitment to developing a reading nation and ability to adapt to and learn new skills and technologies.


Professional training requires a four year university degree in Library and Information Science (BBibl); or a three-year general university degree followed by a one-year post­ graduate diploma in Library and Information Science. Alternatively a four-year University of Technology degree in Library and Information Studies (BTech), consisting of the three year National Diploma in Library and Information Studies plus one additional year of study, may be followed.

The undergraduate university degrees allow for further study towards honours, masters and doctorate degrees in Library and Information Science. With a BTech degree, a student can at present study further towards masters and doctoral degrees in Library and Information Studies. Entrance requirements to university studies are determined by the university concerned. There are nine Library and/or Information Schools in several provinces in South Africa. Qualifications can be obtained through full-time, part-time or distance education.

Support staff or library assistants without formal training fill non-professional positions. They perform important routine and support tasks in library and information services. The educational requirement is generally a senior certificate. In­ house training is provided by the library.

Library and Information Association of South Africa (LIASA)

Membership to the professional association, LIASA, is advised for networking, updating skills, upholding professionalism and maintaining professional contacts. LIASA presents an Annual Conference, a continuing education and professional development (CEPD) programme, workshops and training to those who work in the profession.

More info

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A Digital Heritage Session: Public Libraries in Africa in the Digital Age

Featured Members
Mandla M. NtombelaImmediate Past President Mandla Ntombela was appointed as Director SALB. Congratulations!
Sanele A. KuneneSanele Kunene was appointed as the Library Director at TUT. Congratulations!

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