Shush! No talking please. If you want to pursue a career as an academic librarian, you’ll need to get used to the sound of silence.
Academic librarians are the friendly people you see at the library—the ones who don’t have a hangover or a look of ‘essay-deadline-terror’ on their face.
Working in university and college libraries, these marvellous people help students, postgrads and lecturers to conduct their academic research by managing library collections, liaising with book suppliers, and making sure library users have access to e-journals and other internet resources.
Working as an academic librarian is not just about stamping books with a satisfying thud, arranging titles in alphabetical order, and charging hapless students through the nose for returning books too late. If you enter this line of work, you will have a diverse range of tasks to complete on a daily basis.
Part of an academic librarian’s time is spent helping library users understand how the library’s catalogue system and e-journal repositories can be used to find relevant resources. Furthermore, academic librarians will be responsible for updating and maintaining database systems, such as online catalogues.
Finally, most academic librarians also have a number of different duties which don’t relate directly to books and other academic resources, including: facilities management, team management and procurement.
Salary & benefits
Assistant librarians tend to earn between £19,000 and £23,500 per annum, while entry-level salaries for full-on academic librarians range from £21,000 to £25,000.
Chartered librarians can earn annual salaries of up to £35,000. Some professionals who reach the level of information director can earn over £50,000 a year.
Academic librarians tend to work from nine-to-five, but evening and weekend work might be required from time to time, especially in libraries that are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
You can begin a career as an academic librarian with a degree in any discipline. However, a degree in information management, information science or librarianship will really set you apart from the rest of the pack.
It’s possible to secure a role as a library assistant without a degree or HND; however, if you want to become a full-on academic librarian, an undergraduate degree is the minimum requirement.
If you have your heart set on becoming a member of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), you will need to complete a postgraduate qualification in information management, information science or librarianship. You will also need to gain sufficient experience of working in a library.
Training & progression
The majority of your initial training will involve getting to grips with in-house processes and online catalogue systems. Once you have settled into your role, you may have the opportunity to attend training courses offered by organisations, such as the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) and the Association for Information Management.
After gaining several years of experience, the majority of academic librarians become chartered members of CILIP and some even go on to become chartered fellows of the organisation. This professional status is vital for progressing up the career ladder.
Some academic librarians use their transferrable skills to move into other areas of information management, working for government departments, judicial organisations, hospitals or private companies.