Librarians collect and organise information in libraries so it is available to people who want to access it.
Libraries don’t just deal with books. The information may be in other formats including newspapers and other periodicals and journals, microfiche, videos, DVDs and CDs. Increasingly, information is stored and accessed digitally.
The work of a librarian
A librarian's work is likely to include:
- selecting material for the library by researching relevant publications and sources and liaising with library users and academics
- ordering and buying material, and clearing outdated stock
- managing the library budget
- collating statistics on library usage
- advising users, either face-to-face, by phone or by email
- classifying and cataloguing library resources
- caring for valuable or historic items or collections and, sometimes, putting these on display
- organising publicity and events among users and ensuring potential users are aware of library facilities.
Fully-qualified librarians require a qualification in information and library management.
In public libraries, librarians may organise community events and coordinate other activities in the library.
In large libraries there may be a team of librarians, led by a senior librarian or head of library services. Librarians may have staff management responsibilities for other more junior librarians, library assistants and shelvers. In some libraries they may also manage volunteers.
Librarians work in local public libraries, in academic and university libraries and in colleges, schools and prisons. There are also specialist libraries within research organisations, some large companies and legal and professional institutions.
How to become a librarian
Fully-qualified librarians require a qualification in information and library management (or a similar title) accredited by CILIP, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals. This can be gained by taking an accredited first degree in library and information management (or a similar title) or through an accredited postgraduate course. Postgraduate qualifications can be gained by full-time, part-time or distance learning courses.
CILIP runs a Graduate Training Opportunities Scheme which offers graduates a year’s experience in a library to prepare them for an application for a postgraduate course. The CILIP website has an up-to-date, searchable list of graduate training opportunities. Although trainees are employed by one particular library for the year, they can attend visits and events at other libraries participating in the scheme.
In specialist libraries – such as scientific, legal or health – librarians may have a relevant first degree.
Building a career as a librarian
Many librarians become members of CILIP and study for chartered librarian status and then for Fellowship of CILIP. They can progress by taking on more responsibility or a more specialist role.
In larger libraries and library services there may be a promotion structure, to senior manager or head of service. Librarians may move to different employers for promotion or to widen their experience.