Job as a librarian

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Martin Pope, who works in a reference library, is just as likely to be helping someone use the internet as checking in books or tidying bookshelves all day long.

Why did you choose a job as a librarian?

Actually, I'd never thought about it when I was at school. But I went on the New Deal programme and did a voluntary job in the library for a year. I enjoyed it so much, I applied for the first permanent job that came up.

What's involved in your job as a librarian?

Once we open the doors at 9.30 a.m. my job is mainly working on the enquiry desk to book people on to the internet and help with customer enquiries.

I open the post, which can take a couple of hours and I have to stamp the day's newspapers with the library stamp, record that we've received them and then put them out into the public areas. Other tasks involve ordering stationery and dealing with new books and directories. And, of course, there's a lot of putting books back on shelves in the right place.

What sort of enquiries do you get?

People have all sorts of different questions and want all kinds of information. It might be the address of an organisation, back copies of a newspaper or details of a book they're looking for. Some people are unsure about how to use the library, so I might need to show them the shelves or section they need.

Are computers a big part of your job as a librarian?

Quite a lot of time is spent helping people use the computers, send faxes, do photocopying and so on. We are part of the People's Network, so we have 22 computers with high-speed internet connections. We use a special computer system to book people on to available machines. People use the PCs to go on the internet, send emails or do word-processing for things like letters and CVs.

What are your working conditions like?

I work part-time – 20 hours a week over three days. There is quite a lot of lifting and walking around. Some jobs can be surprisingly dirty too!

The library is quite light and we have air-conditioning. Other information and older copies of things are kept in special rolling shelves in a basement where it's cool and dry.

What do you like about your job as a librarian?

Working with people. We get all kinds of people making use of the library – children, the elderly, and a lot of foreign visitors during the summer.

What's the hardest thing about being a librarian?

Managing the workload. I might be busy with a job and then have to break off to help someone with a question or on the computers. You have to put down what you're doing and remember where you'd got to when you come back to it.

How important is communications?

You need to explain things to a variety of people and be able to find things quickly and interpret the information. In our library service, everyone has to gain the European Computer Driving Licence certificate, so that they have a basic knowledge of computers. You also need to be friendly, helpful and approachable.

Martin's route to his job as a librarian

  • GCSEs and A levels including English literature.
  • Started on New Deal and got a voluntary job with the library service.

Martin's librarian tips

  • Library jobs don't come up very often, so it can be a good idea to get experience – perhaps working voluntarily to get known and show your skills.
  • You might need to start work parttime and keep an eye out for other vacancies.

Librarian related jobs

  • Customer services assistant
  • Indexer
  • Information officer
  • Information scientist
  • Librarian
  • Tourist information centre assistant

Salary of a librarian

  • Salaries vary according to your employer, the size and type of library and your responsibilities.
  • New entrants start at around £10,250 to £13,500.
  • Experienced assistants can earn between £14,000 to £17,600 with senior assistants between £17,800 to £22,800.

Job as a librarian

  • Most employers expect you to have at least five GCSE/S grades (A-C/1-3), or equivalent, including English language.
  • In industrial or commercial libraries particularly, you may need A levels/H grades or equivalent such as BTEC/SQA national certificates/diplomas or vocational A levels/GSVQ Level 3.
  • Some employers may accept fewer formal qualifications if they feel you have the right personal skills or experience.
  • Training is usually on the job, but there are also a range of qualifications you can take, including: City & Guilds Library and Information Progression Award (7371). NVQs/SVQs at Levels 2, 3 and 4.
  • SQA National Certificate and Higher National Certificate in Library Science (Scotland).
  • European Computer Driving Licence certificate.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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