15 May 2018

Library School - a Bavarian perspective



Guest Post by Lena Fischer, an undergraduate student of Library and Information Management from the University of Applied Sciences for Administration and Legal Affairs in Munich, Germany.

During my internship of three weeks at the Library of  University College Cork in March, I was often asked by my colleagues how my education to become a Librarian in Bavaria, Germany worked. With that question in mind Martin O'Connor asked me to write this article. And I’m glad for the opportunity to write it!

First, I must say that the hierarchy among the employees in German libraries is a little bit steeper than in Ireland. There are four main levels of qualification, with the (student) help workers in the first, the employees with a basic apprenticeship in the second, the (mainly diploma or now newly bachelor) undergraduate librarians in the third and the subject librarians in the fourth qualification level. This article mainly focuses on the third qualification level with the undergraduate studies I’m doing at the moment.

In other regions and cities of Germany, such as Cologne, Berlin or Leipzig, you can study Library and Information Management/ Science as an undergraduate or master student the “usual” way, just among hundreds of other students (often of different subjects) at a university of your choice. The studies are good and also well rated, but often there is little practical education and you have to work your way into the special field of your job on the go or during holiday breaks. In Bavaria, which is in the southeast of Germany, we have a different system: studies to become a librarian are not offered at “usual” universities, it all happens under the status of a civil servant within the University of Applied Sciences and Legal Affairs. If you want to get the education to become any kind of civil servant, e.g. also if you want to go to the Bavarian police, or into social welfare services, you must go through a long application process.

First, you have to register with your last grades from school for a standardised test, which is held once a year at different locations all over Bavaria. If you pass the test, and you are among the best people rated (there are around 5.000 people doing the test each year), you are lucky to get an invitation for a “structured interview” to pass on with your application for Library School. While the test is all about reading comprehension, logical thinking, education for democratic citizenship, history and geography, the interview afterwards tests you over all on your personality and abilities for the job and the studies. There is also a huge variety among the participants of this procedure: since this is an undergraduate programme, everybody with an A-level can apply for it - from students directly from school with their A-level in the year ahead (just like me) to students of any fields (often in Arts and Humanities, but also in Science). If you have higher education in any subject, such as a master’s degree or even doctorate, I would suggest to apply for a slightly different library school to become a subject librarian in the fourth qualification level, which is also with the status of a civil servant and lasts two years (the undergraduate study takes three years to finish). One will then be also higher rated and can even get to a library directors position. But back to my application process: If you also pass the “structured interview” successfully, you will be rated on a list with the results of the test and the interview. Each year there is a number of participants the state of Bavaria wants to educate. The number is evaluated from the state and university libraries all over Bavaria, so the education is in line with the demand of new librarians three years after. In my year we are eleven students, but the number is increasing (the classes afterwards have around 20 to 25 students) because of a wave of retirements in the next years. If you are lucky to fit with the list and the number of students of the year, you are officially a student of Library and Information Management at the University of Applied Sciences of Administration and Legal Affairs, section Libraries and Archives, in Munich. As already mentioned, it all takes place under the status of a civil servant of the State of Bavaria, which means you are paid a monthly salary and get a free accommodation during the theoretical studies in Munich.

In total, there are six semesters of which four are theoretical and two of practical education. Unlike “usual” students, there is no such thing as university vacations, but you do have a few days off around the public holidays and in the summer. Starting in October, you have one semester of theoretical education before you get into your first 6 months of internship. During the whole practical education, each student has their own “main educational library” all over Bavaria, where he or she spends most of the time in different sections. For me it is Bayreuth University Library, but there are also State Libraries participating in the education. For the first practical semester, there is only time at the sections of your main educational library and a few weeks at a public or city library of your choice. When you are done with the first year of study (with one theoretical and one practical semester), it is followed by a whole year of theory at the Library School in Munich. Afterwards, there is the second practical semester, which is much more flexible concerning the internships you can take. There are also stints at your main educational library, often used to get more experience and knowledge of different sections or more specialised parts such as library IT or special collections. But there are also around eight weeks for you to choose where you want to apply for an internship, with up to four weeks abroad. Furthermore, it is interesting that during these weeks you can also take some shorter internships at museums, archives or other institutions similar to libraries. With the last theoretical semester afterwards, you will end your studies with writing an undergraduate thesis and also specialising in either special collections or library IT services, a new module which was introduced with the switch from diploma to undergraduate studies recently.

As you see, it is a long and packed study, but it’s definitely worth it and the opportunities afterwards and also during the various internships are very good. I am very grateful for my enriching experiences at Boole Library and I would like to thank everyone in general and especially Martin O’Connor for the wonderful time and great support during my three weeks of internship in Cork!

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