The librarian’s profession is constantly changing. BHS turns 40

Forty years ago, a librarian training programme began in Borås. The Swedish School of Library and Information Science (BHS) was founded through legislation (SFS 1972:308); since then a large number of the country’s librarians have received their degree here. Over the past 40 years, major changes have taken place both within the university and in the external environment. I’d like to take a quick look back at what’s happened, primarily over the last 40 years, and then look forward.

A brief history

In 1926, our predecessor, the Swedish State Library School, began a program-me of librarian training in Stockholm at the National School Board. The offices were first located on Sveavägen, and then later in Solna. In 1943 a research requirement was added to the lowest bachelor’s degree programme, and in 1948 the Stockholm City Library began its own training programme.

The background for establishing a school of library science was the go-vernment’s desire to broaden recruitment and increase its training capacity (SOU 1969:73). The Minister of Edu-cation at the time was Olof Palme; in 1971 his successor Ingvar Carlsson submitted Prop. 1971:52 to the government. The student association’s news-paper was thus ingeniously christened Stuck in Carlsson’s Mess (I Carlssons klister).

The newly-established two-year

training programme at BHS had two elective curricula: school and public libraries, and research and business libraries; two internship periods were included. The majority of students had at least two years of study at college or university, but there were also other inroads to admission. The courses were similar to those at the State Library School and the Public Library Correspondence Institute (FKI). The university reform law (SFS 1977:263) meant that BHS was to be financed through what was called the cultural and information sector. At the same time, BHS was incorporated into the University of Borås. A curriculum committee with representatives from various libraries governed the contents and organisation of the training programme.


A new and important university reform took place in 1993, in that the academic subject of Library and Information Science (B&I) was established. A master’s degree was instituted, which was founded on four years of academic studies (two of them in B&I). A programme of postgraduate education and a joint organisation with BHS was also begun, through collaboration with the University of Gothenburg (GU). The reform also means that the BHS monopoly was ‘broken up’ and training programmes were started in Lund, Uppsala, and Umeå; and a few years later in Växjö as well.

Through the university reform law SFS 2006:1053 the Bologna process was implemented in order to increase student exchanges and the flexibility of labour power in Europe. The reform meant that training programmes in Library and Information Science were given three academic levels (bachelor’s, master’s, postgraduate). In July 2011 the University of Borås received the right to confer postgraduate degrees in B&I, and the joint organisation with GU was terminated. In total, 28 dissertations have been carried out at the Institute.

The goal of the University of Borås is to develop further as a professional seat of learning. Jan Nolin (2008), a professor at the Institute, developed theories around the significance and development of the professions. The Institute actively seeks to meet the needs of internships, teaching students new, broad skills and training those already working; similarly, research that can benefit the professions is being carried out. By order of The Swedish Library Association, a Delphi study was conducted in 2009 on what library research librarians were believed to need.

The present

Librarians in Sweden may have different levels of education: bachelors, master’s, and doctorates. They may have studied on campus or remotely, full or part-time. BHS began in 1972 in the form of a bachelor’s degree with vocational training. In 1993 the librarian training programme turned into a one-year master’s degree with a clear academic structure and content. At the same time postgraduate education in Library and Information Sciences (B&I) began in collaboration with the University of Gothenburg. In 2011, the University of Borås received the right to confer graduate degrees. Since the Bologna reform of 2007, B&I studies now encompass three academic levels. A balance between academic and professional knowledge and skills is what we strive for, as well as a relevant connection to current research.

Another important goal is good em-ployability; a recently completed undergraduate alumni study shows that the undergraduate programmes have it. Changes have also opened doors for new training programmes at BHS such as web editors (120-180 credits), master’s programmes (120 credits) in such things as digital ser-vices and communications, and a master’s of science programme (one year, 60 credits) in Strategic Information and Communications.

All multi-year programmes strive for flexibility and eligibility with several specializations. Courses and program-mes are continually updated and de-veloped based on changes to the external environment, and in contact with representatives of the profession on our institutional board and our three programme councils. Currently there are 1050 undergraduates and 20 doctoral students at the institution, which employs 10 professors and do-cents, 12 senior lecturers, 20 lecturers, and 8 administrators. BHS is one of the largest educational and research environments in Europe.

Library and Information Science covers three partial areas of research: Information practices, digital resources and services, library, culture, society. At BHS and the University there is also a multi-year investment in social media sciences (SMS), which includes three doctoral students. BHS manages a large number of research projects, and publishes two scientific periodicals: Human IT and Nordisk Kulturpolitisk Tidskrift.

The future

The information society is becoming more and more complex; digitisation, like the development of new media and web services, is taking place unbelievably rapidly. This changes society’s need for information, which increases the need for new skills in areas like external environment monitoring, digitalisation, information structuring, and communications.

The new school laws passed by the Swedish Parliament could mean a necessary strengthening of the role of school libraries. The Library Act (SFS 1996:1596) has been reworked and has currently been submitted for comment. In the proposal, the focus on the user has been clarified, as has libraries’ work with literature and reading.

The Swedish National Library has recently been given national responsibility for the country’s library system. These various factors are significant for the library’s future. Copyright issues are also important, especially concerning public access to e-books via the library. There is a change of generations under way in the library business, as a large number of those born in the 1940s are retiring. Both new librarians and new managers are needed; unfortunately there are relatively few people with librarians’ degrees looking for management jobs. Organising and managing libraries is an important issue for the future, as is which strategies and methods are needed to develop their operations.

Head of the Swedish School of Library and Information Science (BHS).