Contrary to popular belief, not all public librarians shuffle around in moth-eaten cardigans, shushing everything and everyone that moves. Public librarians are actually highly-trained and experienced professionals, instrumental to running a successful public library.
Public librarians are at the heart of the community and maintain, develop and distribute a vast treasure trove of information. Not only do they organise and catalogue resources such as books and music, but they also acquire and promote resources.
They play a key role in helping the local community access the information they need. Public librarians don’t just dole out books, but provide information on community, business, careers, surrounding area and community, and learning.
Most librarians are not only highly literate, but also incredibly I.T. literate. Forget books – the computer is a public librarian’s real friend. Computers help libraries keep an eye on their stock, and librarians use computer systems to catalogue, classify, locate and index resources.
Librarians will also spend plenty of their time with the public, helping them find resources, assisting a diverse range of social groups, encouraging use of library services and promoting the library. They ensure the library is stocked with all the information that the community needs and actively encourage members of the public to get stuck in and involved.
This profession has suffered some setbacks with the closure of many public libraries, but there are still jobs out there. If you become a public librarian, you might be working in a large central library, a smaller branch library or even one of those dinky little mobile libraries.
Salary & benefits
We can safely say people don’t enter this profession for the money. £19,000 to £23,000 is the average starting salary, whilst an experienced chartered librarian might earn between £23,000 and £29,500 a year.
Those in more senior managerial roles might get paid more, but you’ll rarely find a public librarian earning more than £37,000 a year.
Working hours are usually relative to library opening hours. Most libraries aren’t open past six in the evening, but librarians might be expected to work weekends.
This career is open to all graduates, but students might want to take a degree in librarianship, computer science, information science or software to improve their chances.
Library assistant posts are open for non-graduates, but you will need certain qualifications and experience to become a public librarian. Candidates must have a postgraduate diploma or MA/MSc in information science, information management or librarianship if their first degree is not in librarianship or information studies.
Pre-entry experience is essential for postgraduate courses, so competition is fierce for library assistant positions and graduate training schemes. You can find training vacancies through the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP).
Otherwise, wannabe librarians should be looking to develop strong ICT, organisational and management skills. They’ll need top-notch communication and interpersonal skills to thrive in the role, and plenty of enthusiasm.
Training & progression
Most public librarians aim for a chartered status through membership of Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals. This is usually achieved two or three years after graduating.
Then they might aspire to a fellowship status. Public librarians might take further courses to improve skills in areas such as cataloguing and classification, library and information management and marketing.