Librarians work in a variety of collection-based services, including: public libraries, research or academic libraries, school libraries, special libraries or related activities within the GLAM sector (galleries, libraries, archives and museums).
You will have a deep interest in the processes and activities involved in keeping the record of civilisation and you are likely to value excellent organisation.
Your role will involve managing library cataloguing systems and serving library users. As a public librarian you acquire and organise various information and resources to meet the needs of a community. You support independent learning and encourage reader development.
As an academic librarian, you work to make academic information and resources easily accessible to students and staff. Your detailed knowledge of specialist resources and how they are organised will support every member of the academic community.
Here at City, University of London, we are an international centre of excellence committed to developing library and information science (LIS) as an academic discipline and vocational practice.
What can I expect from a career as a librarian?
You will obtain, manage and organise all available resources that library users can access.
Today this ranges from traditional books, newspapers and magazines, to eBooks, internet access and other digital resources. Your library may also provide classes and community services, which you will also be involved in managing.
Your general duties will vary depending on library type and size, but will usually include:
- Acquiring and cataloguing library resources
- Answering enquiries
- Using library systems and specialist computer applications
- Managing staff, including recruitment and training
- Deciding which resources can be disposed
- Ensuring services meet the needs of specific users
- Managing budgets and resources
- Supporting independent research and learning
- Supporting use of computer equipment
- Keeping up to date with sector developments and new technology.
As a public librarian you may invest time in building relationships with library users and helping with their specific learning needs. You may also help to run library events for the community and collaborate with local schools and colleges.
Your working conditions may be unpredictable, especially as a public librarian. Library buildings in city centres can be large, purpose-built and modern, but in smaller towns they can be cramped and old.
Who can I work for as a librarian?
As a librarian you can work for a number of organisations. These primarily range from local authority public libraries in towns and cities, to schools, colleges and higher education institutions.
Many large universities have highly qualified librarians working on different campuses and in different specialisms.
Other employers may include research institutes, government departments and specialist departments within large professional firms.
What about work experience as a librarian?
Having work experience as a librarian can be important to securing a place on a relevant postgraduate course. It also gives a valuable insight into the working environment, helping you focus on your goals.
You should find it simple to arrange with a library or information service on either a voluntary or paid temporary basis. Internships on local authority websites are advertised locally.
Paid experience can also be found through the Library and Information Association (CILIP) Graduate Training Opportunities scheme. Trainee jobs are usually fixed term for one year and help you build experience.
What are my prospects as a librarian?
Bigger libraries usually have a transparent structure for promotion to management roles responsible for specific subjects or sites. This may be an option when you have gained a considerable amount of experience.
You should be dedicated to regularly updating your skills and having an openness to new tasks in specialised roles. Experiencing different settings may position you favourably, enabling you to gain a wider perspective and a bigger network of contacts.
In smaller libraries there is reduced scope for promotion and development without moving to other libraries, areas or authorities. Senior roles within local authorities are rare and can be extremely competitive when they do appear.
Redundancies in public libraries due to funding cuts are not uncommon, so job security is not guaranteed. Such public spending cuts have also impacted on the availability of full-time paid roles in smaller towns.
Related careers may be considered such as information management in settings such as local government, law courts or other professional practices.