What we do

We run courses on subjects and skills of particular interest to our members, at very low rates and tailored to the needs of information specialists.

We offer a chance to visit other libraries to find out about the incredible range of resources and services on offer in other organisations.

Don’t miss our Summer Social, held in the most architecturally inspiring or otherwise interesting venue we can get, a chance to have a few drinks, network, gossip, and admire each other’s libraries. Previous venues include the Terrace at the House of Commons, Somerset House and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

From Circle of State Librarians to Network of Government Librarians & Information Specialists : 1925-2014

The 1920s

The very first meeting to start the Circle took place on 25th November 1925, then an unofficial organisation so that books could be lent between Government libraries.  It became the ‘Circle of State Librarians’ in 1926 with the objective of ‘the friendly intercourse and mutual help and improvement in relation to our work’.

The 1920s proved to be a busy time for this new organisation. Government libraries were in the news in 1927 in the Morning Post when the librarian of the London School of Economics attacked them as they weren’t open to the public. In 1928, controversy continued: the Secretary of the British Museum had remarked that officers in charge of Government libraries were not qualified. The Circle responded with a statement saying that departmental knowledge was more important but service librarians should have a definite post with a title. The Library Association (LA) echoed that view; some Circle members had attended Schools of Librarianship but had found the courses of little practical use apart from classification.

The 1930s

Following the comments that had been made in the 1920s about qualified librarians, the 1930s saw a definite shift in attitude by Circle librarians. The Circle decided that staff working in libraries should be graded as librarians throughout the Civil Service with a view to securing a definite pay scale and status. It was also in the 1930s that representatives from the Library Association first attended a Circle meeting and promoted the idea of LA membership. There was also a suggestion in the 1930s that amalgamating government libraries could lead to improvements in pay and status.

 The 1940s

The outbreak of the Second World War brought the development of the profession and the Circle to an abrupt halt. Activity of the Circle ceased during the War. Membership of the Circle by professional librarians increased in post war years and by 1949 there were 116 members. The Committee was dominated by Heads of Library services and the first guide to government department libraries was published. This became the British Library’s guide to Government libraries and other bodies.

 The 1950s

The 1950s was a period of expansion and the change in membership rules enabled the membership to increase. The Circle was now open to all in Government service who were interested. The first Circle conference was held in 1957 on the subject of the analysis of special materials. Educational and social visits in the summer were organised for the first time, a tradition which continues to the present day. The original quarterly ‘State Librarian’ was replaced by a bulletin due to the cost of production.

 The 1960s

Circle membership was the princely sum of 4 shillings (20p). That may sound cheap but the salary of an assistant librarian was in the region of £970 per annum.

The 1970s

The range of social events broadened with cheese and wine parties proving very popular, with over 100 people attending on occasions. Visits included a trip to Sandhurst and wine tasting in the earthquake room at the Natural History museum. Social events in interesting locations have always been a feature of the Circle and NGLIS. The Government Libraries group of the Library Association had been formed by then and there has been a close association between the two organisations. Membership reached 500.

 The 1980s

The objective of the cost-effective management of information was first mentioned in the 1980s, reflecting the changing political climate of the time. This kind of theme also crept into training as well so that librarians were equipped to rise to new challenges. In 1982 the fifth annual study conference at Kew Gardens looked at the use of Serial Publications and Stephen Hume from the Management and Personnel Office talked about the use of computers to manage serials. Janet Driels from the Property Services Agency, talked about information dissemination from serials. Lewis Foreman, then at DTI, talked about assessing user needs. The fee for attending was £4 per person. In 1990, there was an all-day conference run jointly by CDL, Circle, Prospect and Government Libraries Group at DTI for those joining government libraries.

 The 1990s

Conference topics included a survey of current skills needed by librarians.  David Smith provided an annual survey of the top skills required by librarians, based on his research of the job adverts. He presented the survey at most Circle conferences in the 1990s, in a similar format to the pop music charts, indicating which skills had gone up or down in the course of the year. By 1993, the journal was published by theme. In July of that year, there were articles about managing the performance of librarians and developing their potential, and in November a number of articles on Market Testing and the future for libraries in the light of that. Other issues looked at Change Management, Virtual Libraries and Networking technology. Summer socials were held on the river and at the Natural History Museum. Training included a session on government information sources at the Home Office Library, EEC Information, disaster planning and time management .


The new Millennium also brought significant changes to the traditional role of the librarian. With the passing of the Freedom of Information Act in December 2000, public bodies had four years to prepare for the implementation of FoI. With the need for good records management which was and is a pre-requisite for FoI and the implementation of the Data Protection Act, librarians’ skills of managing information were in demand. Many of us took on these new challenges and our job titles changed. With many librarians starting work outside of traditional libraries, there was a knock-on effect on the Circle.

At the 2004 AGM it was reported that membership had been static over recent years. Many people started to leave the Circle, however, if they no longer worked in traditional libraries, even if they worked in related information areas. Fewer people were coming forward to join the Committee or give time to activities. The Circle needed to review its aims to see if it was meeting the needs of members and   appeal to the wider information community.  The result was a change in name to the Network of Govenrment Librarians & Informatin Specialists (NGLIS) in the summer of 2005. The 80th anniversary of the Circle was celebrated with a special cake at the AGM, featuring the new logo.


2013 was a critical year when there was a vote on whether or not to disband NGLIS. Luckily Jan Parry took the lead in saving NGLIS. Members voted at a Special General Meeting  in favour of keeping NGLIS going and Jan formed a new committee to plan and organise a busy programme of activities. Committee members have close links with other information professional organisations.

NGLIS are building on the best of the past:

  • Training – collaborating with Association of Departmental Records Officers on a course on sensitivity reviewing. The same course in 2014 sold out in a few hours and received excellent feedback.
  • Organising Summer socials in special locations, including the 90th anniversary at the House of Commons and visits to libraries and other interesting locations.
  • Excellent speakers – Lord Hennessey, and Sarah Tyacke former Keeper of Records, gave talks in 2014. Early in 2015, there was a workshop on genealogy building on Sarah’s talk.

The Committee reflects changes in membership as not all of us are working as librarians now. 40 new members joined in 2014 .

How has it survived almost 90 years? The answer found in its objectives, NGLIS:

  • provides a golden opportunity to network, socialise and keep in contact with Government information specialists
  • is for anybody working within Government Information or anyone interested in Government Information, regardless of qualification or job role.
  • is non- profit making, funded by membership fees and income from courses, conferences and other events –not too expensive, still only £10 per year
  • is not affiliated to or funded by any particular government department or other organisation, so it’s autonomous.
  • is managed by members of the Committee, with assistance from other members and colleagues