Job titles in the information field can be confusing and not always very informative! Librarian, information officer, knowledge manager, learning resources manager and information scientist are just a few of those you may come across.
All these roles can be defined as “information professionals” and there is much overlap between them. The job title may depend on the place of work: people employed in libraries tend to be referred to as librarians even though their work goes far beyond the traditional role of managing books. Those employed in other settings may be more likely to have an alternative job title, even where their responsibilities and qualifications are similar.
Whatever your formal job title, you could work in a university, a public library, a business, a school, a prison, a law firm, a historic building, a research centre, a newspaper, a government department, an international organisation, a hospital, a charity or many other locations.
What do Librarians do?
Like all information professionals, librarians have a broad range of responsibilities. This will vary according to their place of work and the library users but is likely to include:
- Managing the library’s collections, including purchasing : books, journals, DVDs and other electronic media and specialist materials;
- Organising these collections to enable users to access the materials they need;
- Assisting users with enquiries;
- Deciding on the acquisition of new materials;
- Organising training and other activities – this can be anything from university inductions to children’s story times
- The Library and Information Association CILIP Career profiles
- Public Librarian Prospects ; Target
- Academic Librarian Prospects; Target
What do Librarians do? Borrowing books can and does help people transform their lives but there is much more to the job hear from the Voices for the Library
What do Information Officers do?
The work of information officers overlaps to a considerable extent with that of librarians, and movement between the two fields of work is quite common. In general, information officers work in specialised organisations and manage information related to its activities. These employers may be in sectors such as:
- Medical and scientific research
As well as managing resources and assisting users, information officers may also be responsible for research and current awareness: updating other staff in the organisation with information relevant to their work.
Job titles vary, so it's important to look beyond the title to the actual work involved in the role. Related roles include: information specialist; internet librarian; careers information officer; information scientist; knowledge assistant; information manager.
- Job profile of an information scientist from the TARGET Jobs website
- Job profile of an information officer from the Prospects website
What do Archivists do?
Archives are defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “a collection of historical documents or records providing information about a place, institution, or group of people”.
People often think of these documents and records as being medieval manuscripts, dusty parchments and collections of letters. In fact, archives today are collections of information of any kind and come in many additional forms such as reports, minutes, maps, photographs, films, sound recordings and digital files.
Records management is a more modern and all-embracing term for the range of materials handled. What they have in common is that they are intended to be kept permanently in order to preserve the past and allow others to discover it. Archives may be held by religious and government bodies, local authorities, universities, hospitals, museums, businesses, charities, professional organisations, families and individuals.
It is the job of the archivist to preserve and exploit this archival heritage and the information contained within it. This includes assisting users and answering enquiries, promotional work including exhibitions, presentations or media work, as well as the curatorial skills of selecting, arranging and cataloguing archives. In addition, archivists at a more senior level will also carry out management tasks as they take control of budgets, staff and strategy. Good people skills are therefore essential.
Archivists’ work can involve handling items of historical significance, some hundreds of years old and some relating to ongoing events and living individuals. Preserving these for the future and widening access to heritage is a major source of job satisfaction.
Records managers tend to deal with current records, managing them throughout their lifecycle, from creation or receipt, through active use and the maintenance and storage phases, to the records’ eventual destruction or archiving. They support and drive their organisations in the appropriate management of the records they create and use in the course of their business and advise the organisation on how to manage their records” (Archives and Records Association).
More job information
- Job profile of an archivist from the Prospects website
- Job profile of an archivist from the TARGET Jobs website
- Job profile of a records manager from the Prospects website
- Job profile of a records manager from the TARGET Jobs website
- The modern archivist: working with people and technology
- A film archivist profile
Find out more
Getting in (Libraries)
A number of academic, specialist and large public libraries offer graduate traineeships. These are usually one-year posts designed to give new graduates experience of library and information work before they go on to a Masters in Librarianship.
These graduate traineeships are popular and competitive: an alternative route would be to get experience as an unqualified library assistant before applying for a Masters.
However, with many libraries facing budget cuts, opportunities for work of this nature are decreasing while volunteers are filling the gaps to some extent.
- Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) - careers advice and job listings, including training vacancies
- London Research Libraries Trainee Blog set up by library trainees at the School of Advanced Studies and other London libraries
- British & Irish Association of Law Librarians – advice on the work and training of legal information professionals
- British Library careers
- ARLIS - information on being an art librarian
- SCONUL - Society of College, National and University Libraries. Includes list of members
- Pharmaceutical Information and Pharmacovigilance Association - Careers in medical information
- Volunteering in Kent Libraries
- Libraries and knowledge management in the NHS
Getting in (Archives)
The training paths for archivists and records manager are similar to those of library and information staff. A Masters in archive and records management is normally a requirement, and there are a small number of formal one-year traineeships designed to give new graduates experience of this work prior to a Masters. Alternatively, you can gain experience of archives through volunteering. Accredited Master’s courses are available at the Universities of Aberystwyth, Dundee, Glasgow, Liverpool and at University College London.
Archives and Records Management Links
- The Archives and Records Association - information on careers, jobs and courses.
- Business Archives Council - advice on this aspect of the profession
- The National Archives - offers some unpaid internships in archives and collection care
- Information and Records Management Society
- Archives Hub - a major national gateway to archives held in UK universities and colleges
- Canterbury Cathedral Archives
- Kent History and Library Centre
- Medway Archives and Local Studies Centre
- Find an archive
- Archives Aware - a blog hosted by the Society of American Archivists for professionals and students engaged in all aspects of archival work to share their experiences of and ideas for raising public awareness of archives and the value that archives and archivists add to business, government, education, and society as a whole.
- The Digital Curation Centre
- Film Archives UK
- Scientific Archivist Group