I Want to Work In Library, Archive and Information Work


“Information networks straddle the world. Nothing remains concealed. 
But the sheer volume of information dissolves the information. We are unable to take it all in”

Gunther Grass

Library and information work

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.   

For a chart showing the range of jobs within the Libraries, Archives and Information sector see www.infoprofessional.co.uk/careers.aspx
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?

Working with information, knowledge and data in any setting is a lot more varied than you might think.
You've got to be a 'people person' as you'll be engaging with others and connecting them with the information they need. You will be solving problems and embracing new technology. You will need to have good communication skills and be methodical. (CILIP)

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:


Image source: Otis College of Art and Design Library.

I work at a Business School Information Centre as a senior information and library assistant. I do all sorts of things, including teaching classes of students to use library resources and other software, spending time doing in-depth enquiries, and a lot of creative marketing work too. It has been a fast learning curve and a very different environment, but I really love it! 

I am Assistant Librarian at a Cambridge college. The library team is small and so my role is very varied, my duties including all aspects of collection management, from book ordering through to withdrawal of stock, as well as working on projects to upgrade catalogue records and aiding library users. 

I'm a librarian in Leeds Public Libraries: the work is very varied and I'm enjoying it very much. I spend a lot more time than I expected on teaching basic computer skills to library users, something that I have found really rewarding. Marketing is also a big, and challenging, part of the job.

I work as a Children and Young People's librarian for Northamptonshire County Council and am responsible for children's stock in ten static and two mobile libraries. The majority of my work is based around the services which are offered to children and young adults. I am responsible for buying and allocating new stock, managing collections of audiovisual material and promotion of the library service amongst other things. 



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:


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.

Getting in

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 aid work of this nature are decreasing while volunteers are filling the gaps to some extent.    missing file



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”.

“If an item does not appear in our records, it does not exist”

is not something a good librarian or archivist would ever say!

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. http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-3YzbmdQv4yY/UmBHz50HNSI/AAAAAAAACIQ/oZaJmvMNm1c/s1600/Jocasta+new.jpg

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).

The thing I like most about being an archivist is the variety. You could be working with all kinds of media, such as diaries, photos, maps, computer programs and sound recordings. You work with researchers, members of the public and colleagues, so you must enjoy working with people. Much of the work involves discussions with researchers, donors who want to give their documents to your archives, and other staff. You must be able to express yourself clearly, both in speech and in writing, and you need strong analytical skills to identify the best ways to organise and catalogue materials. www.careerswales.com/en/case-study/6005/pdf

Getting in

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

“Information networks straddle the world. Nothing remains concealed.
But the sheer volume of information dissolves the information. We are unable to take it all in”

Gunther Grass

 Last fully updated August 2016