Public librarian: job description

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

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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
  • keeping up-to-date with new releases to inform selection of stock
  • responding to enquiries
  • making improvements to accessibility of library resources
  • maintaining statistical and financial records
  • using library systems and specialist computer applications
  • anticipating the needs of different sections of the public and organising the provision of useful services
  • 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.

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. You could also work your way up to being a librarian without a degree, by starting in a position such as a library assistant and later applying for chartership through CILIP.

  • Work experience is useful, particularly because you may need to distinguish your capability against other potential employees as a result of the fact that public library closures continue to turn this into a more competitive career area.
  • 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
    • teamwork
    • strong IT skills
    • the ability to guide and teach others
    • an interest in books
    • great verbal communication skills.

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