Applications of ICT in Libraries/Using ICT in Professional Practice

This page is designed for the use of students undertaking the Level 7 PDA (Diploma ICTL) or the Level 8 PDA (Advanced Diploma ICTL) in Applications of ICT in Libraries.

These qualifications were developed by the Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC) and are validated by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA)

Using ICT in Professional Practice is a core unit in both the Diploma and Advanced Diploma programmes.

Information regarding the background to the courses, content and certification opportunities can be obtained by following the Level 7 (Diploma ICTL) or the Level 8 (Advanced Diploma ICTL) links.

You will have received on-site training allowing you to develop specific operational knowledge of your library management system. This might have been provided by the supplier, the systems manager or other library staff.

In some cases your job role may not allow you to get practice in all of the operations we describe in this Outcome. If this is the case, you must at least understand what is going on and see demonstrations of the operation. As an example, relatively few staff may actively add new items to the catalogue but it will help your understanding of the operation of the system as a whole if you can observe new items being added.

You should know where to find information or instructions on procedures relating to the use of the library management system. If necessary you can create some “crib guides”.

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You should have a good knowledge and understanding of the system and its workflows. As an exercise, taking a typical item, such as a work of fiction, draw up a flow chart which lists what happens at each stage from stock selection, through the ordering and acquisitions process, to the point when the item is made publicly available and is visible on the catalogue.

Borrower informationEdit

The two main elements in an automated system are the borrowers and the stock items. The basic information held on the borrower, apart from name, is address and contact details. There are usually several classes of borrower.

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Before proceeding, jot down the different classes of borrower you are aware of, and what the key differences are between them as far as the automated system is concerned.

Types of borrowerEdit

The main categories of borrower, common to most public libraries, are:

  • adult
  • teen
  • junior
  • concession (e.g.: senior citizen, person in receipt of benefits)
  • disability (e.g.: visually or hearing impaired)
  • housebound
  • temporary (e.g.: transient worker)

You may have noted others.

The key differences are likely to be:

  • limits on the type of items allowed, e.g.: junior borrowers may not borrow adult stock without a parent's permission
  • different loan periods for different categories of borrower, e.g.: no limit on length of loan period for borrowers with disabilities
  • the scale of fines may vary with the different classes of borrower, e.g.: no fines for concessionary borrowers.

Registering and removing borrowersEdit

The precise details of registering and removing borrowers can vary significantly depending on the system in use at your location.

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Note down the steps you need to go through to:

  • register a borrower with the system.
  • remove a borrower from the system.

In addition to the borrower details which are permanently on the system, it may be necessary from time to time to add a temporary message to alert members of staff to something connected with a particular borrower. Some of these messages may be added automatically by the system. Typical would be information about money owed by or due to the borrower.

Staff will also be able to add specific messages.

T cap.gif Before proceeding, jot down some examples of messages which you might wish to add about borrowers.

Messages about borrowersEdit

You might want to ask for some of the borrower data to be verified, e.g.: if you have tried unsuccessfully to contact the borrower by telephone, you could add a note asking for the telephone number to be checked. Other data which sometimes changes (and borrowers neglect to inform the library) are home address and e-mail address.

Messages could be of a more personal nature “Mrs Jones left her umbrella in the library on her last visit. It is in the lost property cupboard.” Or “Tell Mr O’Neill that we have got some good new stock in about the Atkins diet.” With these sorts of messages, do be careful to keep them factual. Data protection legislation means that borrowers are entitled to read any information stored in a computer about themselves.

Remember to delete these messages once they are no longer applicable. Mr O’Neill will be pleased to be told once about the Atkins diet books but he will not appreciate being reminded of them on every visit to the library!

The circulation moduleEdit

Issuing and discharging items of library stock using an automated system is usually quick and straightforward. Sometimes the system will indicate a complexity in the transaction, e.g.: you are prevented from issuing an item to a borrower. Although in almost all cases the system will supply you with correct information regarding the status of the borrower and their borrowing activities, the underlying reasons may not be displayed on the screen.

However, you have to be able to explain the actions of the system to the borrower. This requires both an excellent understanding of the library authority rules (which guide the system) and the ability to access quickly the required screens of the system to find the reasons for the system's decisions.

You should have a good understanding and have had practice in the main operations of the circulation module of the system.

Issuing items

This is the basic action of entering the issuing details, i.e.: borrower and item barcodes on to the system.

T cap.gif Before proceeding, jot down problems that may occur with this task.

Problems with issuingEdit

We can think of several problems, such as:

  • With self-issuing systems, where the borrower is able to carry out self-issue over the Internet, borrowers, especially if they are inexperienced in doing this, can easily make a mistake.
  • The system indicates that the borrower's lending limit has been reached.
  • The borrower would like at this point to know which other items they have out on loan.
  • Different classes of items may have different loan periods, e.g.: DVDs may need to be returned within three days. Certain types of book may be lent for only one week instead of the general three weeks. The system may prompt you about this but you have to remember use the correct date stamp on the item.

You must be able to deal with these situations and be aware of relevant library policies so that you can communicate quickly with the borrower and explain the reason for any problems.

Discharging itemsEdit

Most automated systems allow items to be discharged by entering only the item barcode. They do not require borrower information to be entered. This makes discharging items a simple and fast operation. However, additional steps are sometimes required.

T cap.gif Before proceeding, jot down problems that may occur when discharging items.

Problems with discharging itemsEdit

We can think of several potential problems, such as:

  • The returned item is damaged. This must be shown on the system and the book sent for repair or disposal.
  • The returned item is subject to a request by another borrower or an inter-library loan. The system will prompt on this and you must follow reservation or ILL procedures.

Other circulation tasksEdit

  • Renewing items: this is a variation on the issuing procedure. However, it may be a renewal over the telephone. This requires you to manually input the details into the system.
  • Reserving Items: make sure that you are familiar with the steps you must carry out on the system to input a reservation.
  • Overdues: most automated systems generate overdue notices automatically and the screen will show any fine incurred by the borrower at the point of return of the item.
  • Charges and Fines: reservations often require charges to be made to the borrower. Charges may also be made for interlibrary loans. The other common financial transaction is related to fines for late return of items.

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Make a list of the charges your library make to borrowers which must be administered via the library's automated system.

Data provided by the circulation control module of the automated management system can make a significant contribution to the successful management of stock. Used properly, the system can provide data on usage for managers to support their decisions in areas such as stock selection policy, opening hours, staffing levels, distribution of stock and information for statutory and local performance indicators. A particular use of the library management system is in monitoring the performance (levels of issuing of resources) of existing stock.

The acquisitions moduleEdit

Once new stock to be purchased for the library has been selected (the selection process is covered in outcome two of this unit) the automated system plays a prominent part. Although details will differ, there are three clear steps - ordering, receipting and invoicing. The system then will allow the acquisitions process to run, using its Reporting Systems and Order Transmission.

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Find out the procedures for placing and receiving stock orders on your automated library system and how this interfaces with the system's monetary reporting facility.

The above are the procedural steps. However, the automated system is equally powerful in aiding the acquisition process when it comes to financial control.

The acquisition of new items for your library stock is governed principally by an acquisitions policy. Different library authorities will have different methods but the following is the basis of the process:

  • The total level of resources available for the library service as a whole is set.
  • Priorities for spending are agreed.
  • The total budget is then broken down across the various budget headings, e.g.: fiction, non-fiction, DVDs, allocations to different branches etc.
  • Budget holders are informed of their budget allocation and acquisitions may proceed.

It is important that you clearly understand the boundaries of your personal authority within the ordering of any stock selection process. You may be permitted to place orders or this may only be done by a more senior member of staff. Know what responsibility you have and your accountability for actions within your remit.

Clearly the whole process of acquisitions is based on the availability of funds to enable the purchase of new stock items. Thus, there is always a very clearly defined method of deciding how much money can be spent on the various types of new stock item.

The joy of an automated system is that it can give really hard data to inform the acquisition process. It will give the spending situation under the various budget headings. This includes both the projected and the actual spending to date. Although you may not need to access this management information, it is important for you to realise that you have a vital part in this. You must always enter order information accurately to ensure the system has the correct data for its calculations.

Of course there is also non-financial information in the data. For instance, it can also give information on the performance of the various suppliers used by the library. This allows the library managers to select the best performing suppliers for future orders.

The cataloguing and stock management modulesEdit

A library catalogue has two main functions:

  1. it is a record of the items which comprise the library stock
  2. it allows people to seek out suitable items they wish to use

The first appearance of automated systems in libraries related to automation of the library catalogue. In the late 1960s computers became powerful and available enough to allow libraries, particularly academic libraries, to embark on ‘computerising’ their catalogues. It is easy to see why this was more attractive than going for the circulation system first. Users could use searching techniques to find book titles by keywords. Networks were beginning to appear so that it became possible to search for titles in other libraries remotely. You must compare this with the position up till this point of using paper or card indexes to find a book only by its author or subject.

From the user's point of view the cataloguing module of the automated library system is the most powerful and useful part of it. Of course the user has to learn how to use it to advantage, as indeed do those who work in the library.

The advantages of automated cataloguesEdit

The advantages of automated catalogues are twofold:

  1. They permit sophisticated searching of the library stock.
  2. They link to the circulation control system so that not only can a borrower ascertain that the library service holds a particular item, they can also see its loan status at the time.

The search facility of the catalogue module is very flexible. It will allow searching for items on author, title, accession number as well as classification. However its greatest power for users is to search on subject keyword or word in title. You will no doubt have to demonstrate this feature to keen users of your library.

In your administrative work related to the catalogue, i.e.: stock management, you are most likely to be locating items whose details are known. You will be searching on author, title or accession number. Having found the item, you may need to withdraw it, thus deleting its entry in the catalogue.

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Note down the procedure to withdraw an item from the catalogue module of the automated library system.

Withdrawing itemsEdit

Although the basic deletion process is very simple, there may be complications. The system may require a special procedure if it is the last remaining copy of a book, or if it is an item forming part of a special collection. Clearly your library will have its unique rules for this type of matter.

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Ascertain the policy in your library if an item being withdrawn is shown to be the last copy of this title held within the library service.

Adding itemsEdit

You also need to understand how resources are added to the catalogue. In some library services, library staff undertake much of the work related to cataloguing and classifying items to be added to stock. In many other services this is done automatically using records from the supplier or downloaded from elsewhere during the order process. However, even here, with certain items, such as donations to the library, it may be necessary to create a new record and enter all its data manually.

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Note down the procedure to manually add an item to the catalogue module of the automated library system.

Of course, having found the item after successfully searching the catalogue depends on knowing the layout and organisation of the particular library. The catalogue entry will include a shelf mark.

T cap.gif Before proceeding, note down how fiction items are arranged in your library.

Shelving itemsEdit

Fiction is usually arranged by author surname in alphabetical order. Then, within any one author, by title. Where no author exists, the editor's surname or title is used alphabetically.

A popular method of shelving fiction is by the use of genres. Essentially a set of genres are decided upon, e.g.: crime, fantasy, science fiction, romance and the books are labelled correspondingly and placed on the shelves in their appropriate genre. The catalogue entry will indicate this.

Non-fiction is usually shelved by subject according to the local classification system. Here too genres may be used, e.g.: libraries frequently group all biographies together.

Whichever methods are used, stock items are always organised according to agreed principles by libraries in order to aid the swift retrieval of resources either physically from the shelved collection or virtually from the library catalogue.

Inter Library Loan moduleEdit

You should be familiar with the steps associated with the ILL process.

It may be that the borrower has a specific item in mind, in which case you must get a precise description of the item.

What information about a book would you ideally wish to have before placing an ILL request?

To satisfy the British Library ILL form, a considerable amount of information is required, indeed the full bibliographic details. In the case of a book, these are the following:

  • Author
  • Title
  • Year of publication
  • Edition
  • ISBN
  • Publisher & place of publication
  • The source of the reference

And remember you also need to record the name and contact details of the borrower.

If, as is likely, the borrower cannot supply you with full bibliographic details of the item being requested, you will need to ascertain these using appropriate bibliographic tools.

It may be that from the nature of the borrower request (they cannot find an item to satisfy their quest) you may need to follow the reference interview process, described in Unit 1 so that you have a clear definition of the subject area required by the borrower.

Inter Library Loan proceduresEdit

Before embarking on the ILL procedure, it is always worth double-checking your own library catalogue to verify that the requested item is not actually in your stock. If it is not, your library service will have procurement procedures and appropriate ways of securing the item. For example, this might be purchasing the item, instigating an internal ILL or carrying out an external ILL.

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Check out your library authority's procurement procedures for securing an item which might be subject to an ILL.

Let us assume that an ILL will be required. The automated library system will allow the following steps to be carried out:

  • The initiation of an ILL request
  • Tracking the progress of an ILL request
  • Informing the borrower of the arrival of an inter-loaned item
  • Issuing the inter-loaned item
  • Discharging the inter-loaned item
  • Recalling an inter-loaned item
  • Recording the return of an inter-loaned item to its home library

Using Inter Library LoansEdit

You should be familiar with all aspects of the Inter Library Loan system in use at your own location.

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Make yourself familiar with the Inter Library Loan module of your automated library management system for:

  • Initiating an ILL request
  • Monitoring progress of an ILL request
  • Carrying out internal ILL procedures for issue, discharge, recall of ILL items to client
  • Carrying out procedures for receipt of and return of ILL item from/to home library.

You will find that the rules governing the use of ILL items will vary from those for stock items found in your own library. It is important to be aware of these conditions and to be able to explain them to the borrower.

T cap.gif Before proceeding, jot down some points which you think might be different for ILL items.

Rules governing Inter Library LoansEdit

Three important points are as follows:

Costs: your library may make a charge, thus passing on some of the ILL cost to the borrower, e.g.: fines for late return - there are additional penalties for non-return of British Library items within loan period.

Timescales: you will need to give as accurate as possible an estimate of the time taken to secure the item. Also the period of time that the borrower can hold the item may be different from the loan period for similar items in your own library stock.

Restrictions on use: it may be that the item may only be consulted within your library and not borrowed. There may be photocopying restrictions on the item.

Use ICT sources in stock selectionEdit

Criteria for stock selectionEdit

Although you may not be responsible for the selection and acquisition of materials for your library, you may contribute to the identification of appropriate materials for the service. You certainly need to understand the principles of stock selection for public libraries.

  Before proceeding, jot down the information you think you would need to make decisions on which stock to purchase.

Selecting stockEdit

The two main drivers in stock selection are the current demands of the borrowers and the current stock available.

The current demand has to be audited. This is relatively simple when an automated library system is being used. In fact, it is possible to be overwhelmed by the available statistics from an automated system. So a careful approach is required in deciding which categories, fiction genres and authors to run statistics on.

This information on borrowing can be compared with the current stock provision. Broadly speaking there should be a match between the two. Thus looking at the detective genre, if the books by two popular authors show a great disparity such that the books by author X are on loan five times as much as author Y, there may be a good case for purchasing more copies of the books by author X.

  Before proceeding, think of circumstances where this may not be valid

Factors affecting demandEdit

It would be important to take into account any reading promotions carried out by the library on author X. Another factor might be that author Y's books are shelved in an inaccessible place. Perhaps X's books are paperback and Y's are hardback and your borrowers prefer the paperback format.

The conclusions on the previous page are made under the assumption that the stock levels, display methods and format are roughly the same for both authors

You also need to be aware of reading promotions external to your library which might drive a boom in borrowing books by author X. Although it may still be valid to increase your stock because there is a genuine and sustainable increase in interest in reading author X as a result of rave reviews on a television arts programme, you do need to question the sustainability. You do not want to be left six months later with a shelf full of author X's books which are no longer being borrowed.

  Before proceeding, think of other reasons for choosing items for stock apart from balancing stock and demand.

Additional criteria for stock selectionEdit

Apart from this balancing of stock and demand, we think that the following points will drive stock choice.

Gaps in stock which need to be filled. Obvious examples are new novels by favourite authors, or earlier novels which have never been in the stock of the library. There will also be a need for replacement copies due to poor condition or because material is out of date in the case of reference items for instance.

There will also be some form of stock development plan for your library. This may cover the need for more diverse formats, including non-book resources, as well as new directions of book materials.


Note down the stock development plans for your library. If necessary ask other library colleagues.

All the above points go to making up the stock selection policy for your library. From this policy, it is possible to identify criteria for selection of new stock items.

It is now possible to use online selection tools to find possible new items and assess them against the agreed stock selection criteria.

Online library cataloguesEdit

Of the possible ways of finding suitable material for stock selection, the use of online library catalogues of other libraries has the advantage that the materials ought to be properly catalogued and so easy to find using keywords.

QUESTION TextEntry1: Online library catalogues

This ability to search other library's catalogues is increasingly possible because it is becoming commonplace for libraries to have catalogues which can be searched via the Internet. The UK Public Libraries Page is a useful resource, linking to the web-available catalogues.

Some services combine together the catalogues of several libraries. A single-search interface is used to cross-search multiple catalogues in a single search action. In Wales there is CatCymru which enables the searching of library catalogues across all public, FE and HE libraries in Wales


Go to the UK Public Libraries Page and find examples of public library services with combined catalogues. (There are several examples of this.)

Combined cataloguesEdit

Some websites combine catalogues of collections with a common theme. Here are some more examples of catalogues to explore:

Differences between cataloguesEdit

The catalogues we looked at on the previous page vary in the details they provide and in the range of functions which can be performed. They do however offer the opportunity to trace resources. Here you are using the existing systems for inter-library loan as a helpful way of allowing library staff to view each other's collections.

Some services may have automatic links to bibliographic service providers such as Talis or subscriptions to services such as Whittaker's Books in Print.


Go to the Northern Ireland catalogue and search under author for Dan Brown's “The Da Vinci Code”. Look through the list and select the correct author. Follow the links and note that you can clearly see format, availability and reserve the item online. Compare this to the information available for the same book from your service.

QUESTION TextEntry1:

Publishers’ and booksellers’ websitesEdit

The most obvious place on the Internet to look for new stock items is of course the library booksellers’ and publishers’ websites. These companies aim to sell the items and so one would expect that they contain the most up to date information on things like prices and publication dates for the items.

  Before proceeding, think of other more negative points about the use of such websites.

Negative aspects to commercial sitesEdit

Well, you have to bear in mind that publishers and booksellers have a commercial imperative and thus the content may be biased or might not provide full information.

You must exercise caution when using these websites to select material and you must therefore ensure that any selected materials do properly match the agreed selection criteria.

Example sitesEdit

Here is a small selection of useful sites:


Go to the Harper Collins website ( and follow links from the home page to New Releases, Forthcoming Titles and Best Sellers. Look for a favourite author in these sections and note the information you can find about the author, forthcoming events, full list of titles in print, range of formats titles are available in and links to author's websites. NB: You can also register for an author tracker facility and to find out about new writing.

Services offeredEdit

Some of the websites offer a range of sophisticated services – pre-publication ordering facilities, EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) information, download facilities of MARC (Machine Reading Catalogue) records and tracking systems for current orders.


Choose one of your own library suppliers, view their website and make a note of the services apart from straight forward sale of items which they provide. Find out how well they integrate with your automated library management system. You may find it useful to ask your colleagues about this.

Online reviews and personal evaluationsEdit

The Internet provides a great potential for reviewing potential new stock items. There are many websites which will provide this sort of service. An obvious choice is the bookseller Amazon

However, there are many others’ including sites linked to newspapers. Here are some examples:

  Before proceeding, think of more negative points about the use of such websites.

Negative aspects of online reviewsEdit

You have to treat reviews which have been posted on the Internet with some caution. They often include only part of the entire review and the views of the individual reviewer are unlikely to have been through a rigorous editorial process, unlike print journals.

It is also possible to review extracts of audio/visual materials using the Internet, again candidates should return to the stock selection policy for guidance prior to purchase.


Go to the Guardian's website and compare one of the reviews with the book blurb on the publisher's website or another review on the same title. Look at style, content, detail and overall conclusion of the reviews with a view to their helpfulness within stock selection.

Use ICT in continuing library practice and professional developmentEdit

Discussion listsEdit

Online discussion lists (sometimes called groups, newsgroups or forums) are the Internet version of electronic bulletin boards, popular among computer users long before Internet. A user can post comments on a topic and other users can respond. Messages are visible to all members of the group and some services provide extensions such as file storage and calendaring. The original newsgroup service, Usenet, is now available via Google Groups ( Other services include Jiglu ( and Yahoo Groups (

Discussion lists are a useful tool for both individual professional development and solving specific problems. Lists work in the following way. You have to sign up as a member, giving your e-mail address. Any of the members can send in an e-mail with information of interest to the group or a question. All these e-mails are forwarded automatically to all list members. This usually generates a flurry of helpful responses.

Some lists are moderated so that the e-mails are only posted after they have been vetted. For the lists you use, you should be aware which are vetted and which allow e-mails to be sent instantaneously.

We can classify discussion lists into three broad categories:

  • professional discussion lists run by or for the professional library bodies
  • government or local government sponsored lists
  • ad hoc lists run by interested people or groups.

Professional discussion listsEdit

JISC mail (the service provided by the Joint Information Systems Committee) is one of the key providers of discussion lists and has a number of public library, special interest and library profession groups. The home page is You can search for different lists based on topic and there are many related to libraries.

You can see a list of library categories on this page:

Three specific examples of lists which can be used for professional matters by library staff are:

CILIP has a range of professional discussion lists which are targeted at supporting members of library staff who share particular professional interests or working environments. Visit to browse the library discussion lists (you can search for the CILIP sponsored discussion lists using 'LIS-CILIP').


Select an appropriate online discussion group on a subject that interests you e.g. information literacy, youth library work or mentoring. Join a group (you will find more at and read some of the recent discussions.

Government sponsored listsEdit

Non-library-specific discussion groups, such as those run on local authority websites or the websites of other agencies may also be useful. An example is the Welsh Assembly Government which offers a range of consultation and discussion forums (you have to register to access the forums):


Search the Internet for a discussion list for your geographic area, perhaps run by your local authority.

Ad hoc groups and listsEdit

There is a range of commercial service providers such as:

They provide discussion groups (lists) free of charge. These offer simple, alternative ways to start discussion lists for groups, e.g. Community Services Group (Scotland) at: Of course this also means that you can also easily set up a group to discuss any topic you choose. This approach can allow you to share ideas in the professional field.

Social networking websites have a huge potential for useful exchanges of news, information and ideas. Many of them have established areas for library interests. The main problems are the quality of the content and access from within local authority firewalls. Here are some sites to look at, if you can access them.


Taking any one of the three group providers mentioned above, explore how to set up a group for your own use.For all three use the group index or search system to find groups related to library work.

Professional websitesEdit

You should be familiar with and able to access a range of key professional websites to support you in your professional practice.

  Before proceeding, jot down any websites you can think of which fall into the above category.

Types of professional websiteEdit

The websites you have listed are likely to fall into one of three categories:

  • Websites of the strategic agencies
  • Websites of professional associations and special interest groups
  • Websites of local agencies

Websites of the strategic agenciesEdit

Each of the 4 UK home nations has its own strategic agency for libraries. These are:


Look at each of these 4 websites and compare the information given.

Websites of professional associations and special interest groupsEdit

All professional associations have websites. These usually comprise pages which can be accessed by anyone plus further sections which are available only to members who use a password to access them. The main professional association in the library field is the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) at:

Many relevant special interest groups have websites. These can be particularly useful as they often act as portal sites, collecting links to other websites based on the same or similar topics. Examples are:

Websites of local agenciesEdit

You should also be aware of the importance of the contents and functions of your own local authority website and local intranet.

Simple client enquiries made at the library counter or over the telephone can often be answered from these sources and it is useful to be well informed regarding content and layout so that site navigation takes the minimum amount of time.


Spend some time making yourself familiar with the website run by your own local authority.

Online professional journalsEdit

Online journals offer a readily accessible and searchable source of professional information. Some are freely available but others operate on a subscription basis. Examples are:

CILIP members enjoy free online access to the Journal of Information Science and Journal of Librarianship and Information Science from the CILIP website.


Look at the latest issue of CILIP Update at Familiarise yourself with the layout and content. Is there anything in this issue which is of interest to you in your current job role?

You should get into the habit of regularly checking on-line journals to gather information and ideas which are relevant to your own continuing professional development.

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