Library careers: routes in and what does this type of work actually involve?

This post is part of 23 Things for Professional Development.

I participated in the Library Routes project in 2009:

Library Routes – How I became a librarian

I have taken part in the Library “Day in the Life” project twice.  Many people blog, tweet or otherwise record their day in terms of how long they spent answering emails etc, but I wanted to take a difference approach in which I blogged about a specific aspect of my job each day.

Round 5, July 2010

Welcome to Laura’s Dark Archive! – in which I launched this blog, described my current role and explained my route into working in libraries

In print or on screen? Investigating the reading habits of undergraduates using photo-interviews – the summary of a presentation I had attended

Library Day in the Life round 5, day 1 – on the theme of  “what else do librarians do all day?”

Visit from another college librarian – explaining the context of the library I work in and the importance of professional networking with colleagues from other libraries

Collection management – outlining the balance between acquisitions coming into the library and the need to weed the collections

Project Management – describing the various projects I had on the go in the library that summer and how their timescales fitted together

“Chips and Mash” Mashed Libraries event, Huddersfield, 30th July 2010 – summarising an event I had attended

Round 6 – January 2011

Gather ye data while ye may – to highlight the importance of data gathering and monitoring

Library Committee – explaining the formal meetings I have each term in which library policies and procedures are ratified or changed

One-to-one meetings – to highlight the importance of my role as a manager within my job

Knowledge capture – explaining the importance of shared information in any team

Philip Pullman adds his voice to the campaign to defend public libraries – libraries in the news

Top tips for getting things done – some advice for how to work efficiently


I don’t think my path into librarianship was unusual: there is quite a lot of cross-pollination between careers in libraries and education – but I find that I am unusual in having a background in science.

If you’re considering a career in libraries, try to offer as wide a range of skills as you can.  Customer service is important, as are numeracy and skills in strategy, analysis and planning.  Being a manager of other people is a part of most jobs above a certain grade level, and it’s a great opportunity for your own development too.  I would like to see more people coming into the profession with a positive attitude to one day being a manager.

Librarianship as a career

This post is part of 23 Things for Professional Development.

This week’s cpd23 Thing 10 and Thing 11 are about routes to becoming a qualified librarian and mentoring within the profession.

My career path since school:

1996-1999 B.Sc. (Hons) Physiological Sciences (Newcastle University)

1999-200o PGCE Secondary Science (Biology) (Northumbria University)

2000-2005 Teaching in high school and secondary schools in north-east England

Career crisis!  Do I want to carry on marking, report-writing, doing parents’ evenings, chasing homework, preparing lessons most evenings and at least one day every weekend, not being able to choose when I go on holiday…?

Er, no.  Much as I loved teaching and enjoyed wrangling teenagers, I longed for a more 9-5 job that would allow me to fit in some living around my work.  My mum is a librarian, and my maternal grandmother also worked in libraries, so my genetic profile naturally led me to:

2005-2006 MA Information and Library Management (Northumbria University)

I studied full-time for a year, which I really enjoyed as I could experience being a student again and appreciate the luxury of having so much time to commit to learning.  I also worked part-time in a university library throughout that year.

Librarianship proved an irresistible combination of orderliness, record-keeping, technology, data, interaction with people both as customers and within a library team and cardigans.  Many of the skills involved are directly transferable from teaching.  And I can go home most days without taking any work with me!

Since my library degree, I have had the following jobs:

I’m working towards Chartership and hope to submit my portfolio in the next couple of months.  I have a mentor who helps me through the Chartership process and we meet by phone every few months.  I don’t have a local mentor as such – any offers?

Recruiting the next generation of librarians

Yesterday I took part in a school careers evening and talked to many students about what a career in information means nowadays.

Many thanks to Ned Potter for allowing me to modify his original If you want to work in libraries presentation.

Although most of the young people I spoke to told me that they wanted to be a doctor, architect or primary school teacher, I hope I managed to dispel some myths and maybe in years to come they might remember this interaction and give librarianship a second look.

Welcome to Laura’s Dark Archive!

Library “Day in the Life” starts again tomorrow, so I am preparing to record what I do at work this week in the hope that it will be useful and interesting to other people who work in libraries, and help anyone considering librarianship as a career to see how varied the job can be.

My current job involves running a library which serves the following community:

  • 400 undergraduate students, across a wide variety of subjects
  • 200 postgraduate students, some on taught courses and some on research courses
  • over 100 university Fellows, tutors and lecturers who teach the students mentioned above as well as pursuing their own research interests
  • a small number of visiting readers who wish to consult a specific book, or use the college archives
  • plus anyone else from the college’s non-academic staff

I have two full-time assistant librarians in my team and two part-time shelving assistants.  Our library is open 24/7, almost all year except a break at Christmas.

My previous jobs have been:

  • Deputy Manager of Staff Development, Bodleian Libraries [blog]
  • Electronic Resources Senior Assistant, Bodleian Libraries [blog]
  • Assistant Librarian, St Clare’s, Oxford
  • Information Assistant, Northumbria University Library

… and before all of that, I was a secondary school science teacher.  My skills in teaching have been enormously helpful in all my jobs in libraries.

I enjoy the range of tasks I encounter in my job as a librarian, and the opportunities to help people find information are often found away from the enquiry desk or library office.  I look forward to recording what I do at work this week and hope that you will find it as interesting as I do!