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Public librarians organise, manage and distribute library resources, and ensure library provision meets the needs of all its users.

What does a public librarian do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Librarians no longer just deal with books. They look after all kinds of resources that the public can access, from ebooks to magazines. Many libraries also offer IT facilities, classes and community services, and librarians will be involved in running these.

Other typical duties include:

  • selecting, cataloguing and classifying library resources
  • answering enquiries
  • ensuring that library services meet the needs of particular groups of users (eg children, adult learners and schools)
  • making improvements to accessibility of library resources
  • maintaining statistical and financial records
  • using library systems and specialist computer applications
  • promoting and marketing services
  • developing IT facilities and assisting with the use of computer equipment
  • supporting independent research and learning.

The job normally involves regular evening and weekend work. Prospects for career advancement are good, particularly within larger libraries and for individuals who are willing to move jobs/geographical location.

Typical employers of public librarians

  • Local authority libraries
  • Information services
  • Central government departments

Vacancies are advertised on national job sites and specialist public sector job sites. The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) also advertises jobs on its website.

Qualifications and training required

To work professionally as a public librarian, you will need either a first degree that's accredited by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), or a degree in any subject followed by an accredited postgraduate qualification. CILIP publishes a list of accredited undergraduate and postgraduate courses on its website.

To find out about other careers in the public sector that you can get into via a school-leaver route (eg an apprenticeship or school leaver programme), see the public sector section of TARGETcareers, our website aimed at school leavers.

Key skills for public librarians

Recruiters look for candidates who are confident working with people from all backgrounds. Other essential skills and qualities include:

  • excellent organisational skills
  • team-working skills
  • strong IT skills
  • the ability to teach others basic IT skills
  • great verbal communication skills.

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