Librarian Careers

How to become librarian

What does a librarian do?

Librarians plan, organise and manage library resources and services. They can work in school or college libraries, public or academic libraries, or learning resource centres. Librarians working in a commercial setting are often called information managers.

Librarians are responsible for the day-to-day running of library services and the role depends on the size and function of the library. Their duties include:

  • leading and motivating a team of library staff
  • cataloguing, classifying and indexing stock
  • promoting services to all sectors of the community or disaffected pupils in schools
  • managing information technology in a library context, eg designing search facilities
  • developing the potential of the resource, eg readers’ programmes
  • dealing with specific research enquiries
  • controlling budgets and selecting stock.

Academic librarians may also:

  • deliver information skills sessions to students
  • acquire, process and bind books and journals
  • develop resources for research projects.


What's the working environment like for a librarian?

A librarian's working day is likely to reflect the opening hours of the library in which they work. School librarians would work typical school hours 8am to 4pm, Monday to Friday. Public libraries may open until 9pm some or all evenings, and Saturdays.

Librarians are usually located at a single library but some may work in the community in mobile libraries or on cross-site projects where driving would be essential.

What does it take to become a librarian?

To work as a librarian you should:

  • have knowledge of print and electronic resources
  • have a strong customer focus
  • be highly organised
  • have a familiarity with planning and research methods
  • be a competent user of information technology, particularly databases and the internet
  • be able to supervise others and budget financial resources
  • have good communication and marketing skills
  • be self confident, motivated and able to take the initiative
  • be able to identify strategies to meet users complex information needs
  • have training and mentoring skills
  • have an understanding of a particular field of knowledge for specialist libraries.

To get a foot in as a librarian, a degree in librarianship or information management will stand you in good stead. If you didn't specifically study towards these subjects then a graduate scheme leading to a qualification in this subject is possible too. 

If you're already a library assistant you could apply for certified affiliate status, which can lead to work as a librarian. 

Librarian career opportunities

There are opportunities for librarians throughout the country in all sectors. Although the majority work in public library services but opportunities in the private sector are increasing. Positions are available in further and higher education, government, industry and commerce. CILIP publishes vacancy information for members, graduates and final year undergraduates.

Some graduate librarians may take a job as a library assistant as their first rung on their career ladder. National or local public libraries have a formal promotion structure. In larger libraries, you can be promoted to senior posts with management responsibilities, or be given responsibility for a specialist service or collection. In smaller libraries you may need to be prepared to move for promotion.

Further information

If you would like to take those steps and find out more about becoming a librarian but can't find certain information on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP)
7 Ridgmount Street
Tel: 020 7255 0500

Association for Information Management (ASLIB)
The Holywell Centre
1 Phipp Street
Tel: 020 7613 3031

Lifelong Learning UK (LLUK) (formerly FENTO)
5th floor
St Andrew’s House
18-20 St Andrew Street
Helpline: 020 7936 5798