Shelvers support the work of librarians and other library staff, helping to keep the library stock in good order so users can find what they need.
The information in libraries can be collected in books, newspapers, periodicals, journals, microfiche, videos, DVDs and CDs.
The role of a library shelver
The work of a shelver involves:
- reshelving returned items and items which have been used within the library
- retrieval of documents requested by users, either electronically from digital storage or physically from storage areas of the library
- scanning of documents requested by users
- tidying shelves
- making sure library stock is in the correct position on the library shelves
- dealing with general queries from library users and directing them around the library
- helping with reshelving or reorganisation projects within a library.
Working as a shelver can provide useful experience for those wishing to become librarians.
In many libraries, shelvers work part-time, sometimes only a few hours a week (often evenings and weekends). Not all libraries employ shelvers.
They are more common in university and academic libraries with a high volume of users and some contracts for shelvers may be term-time only. Some public (local authority) libraries have volunteer shelvers.
The work involves lifting, carrying, bending, stretching and pushing trolleys and may involve standing for long periods.
Becoming a library shelver
There are no specific requirements but shelvers will be expected to have a good level of literacy and a good general education – for example, to GCSE level. Employers may ask for some specialist knowledge or interest for work in a specialist library. Some knowledge of library classification systems may be an advantage.
In practice, some shelvers have a degree, especially those who are intending to become librarians. Others may have A levels, or other equivalent qualifications, and work as shelvers while they study for a degree.
Career opportunities for library shelvers
Working as a shelver can provide useful experience of library work for those wishing to become librarians.
Shelvers can apply to become library assistants. With a degree they could go onto become librarians by taking a postgraduate qualification (diploma or Masters) accredited by CILIP (The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals).