Library & Information Work
Library and information professionals work in a variety of organisations including law firms, public libraries, the government, schools, prisons, the health service, industry, universities and financial institutions.
You will need the ability to: develop the specialised subject knowledge of the sector you work in; understand and use appropriate technology and systems to select, organise and find material relevant to your users; keep up to date with advances in technology and social media; develop the information literacy of your users; produce information alerting services; work as part of a team; use effective communication and interpersonal skills; and deliver high levels of customer service.
You will be able to offer employers the skills that are vital to any organisation’s success whether they are in the public or private sector.
Roles in library and information management are wide ranging. The following occupational profiles come from AGCAS (the professional body for higher education careers advisory services) and provide an idea of the type of work available to library and information professionals. They have been written and researched by staff working within careers services across the country. They contain a lot of useful information that will help you with your initial research. These are just a sample, you can look for more on the Prospects website.
|Careers information officer|
GCHQ is one of the three UK Intelligence Agencies and forms a crucial part of the UK’s National Intelligence and Security. GCHQ roles exist for information staff but due to the nature of their business you won’t find too much information made available about these roles and what is done on a day-to-day basis. It is a long process from application to starting in a role at GCHQ. Take a look at the GCHQ website for more details.
There are a range of opportunities available within information management and technology or ‘health informatics’ (HI) as it is known in the NHS. There are four main specialist health informatics groups:
- Information and communication technology (ICT) staff
- Libraries and knowledge management staff
- Information management staff
- Clinical informatics staff
The entry requirements vary depending on the role and although it may be possible to enter a career in HI with no formal qualifications, some roles may require very specific professional qualifications. See the NHS Careers site for more details.
Sources of vacancies
The CILIP Update with Gazette publication advertises jobs for library and information professionals. The jobs are also published on the Lisjobnet.com website. The majority of these vacancies are likely to be within academic or public libraries but you may also find a few NHS or legal librarian posts.
There are recruitment agencies which specialise in information and libraries, details of which you can find on the CILIP website.
The jobs.ac.uk site allows you to search for jobs within academic institutions, and you can specify ‘Information Management and Librarianship’ as a subcategory to search for jobs within that specific area and you can even narrow the results down further by location.
The following websites might be useful for you if you are looking for a job within a health or law library:
- http://www.jobs.nhs.uk/This site lists more than just library and information roles so try to narrow down your search by looking for keywords, such as ‘information’ or ‘librarian’ in the title of the role advertised.
- http://www.nhscareers.nhs.uk/This site gives you detailed information about a range of careers in the NHS.
- http://www.biall.org.ukThe British and Irish Association of Law Librarians (BIALL) site contains useful information about becoming a law librarian.
The CILIP graduate training opportunities scheme
There are over 70 employers registered with CILIP Graduate Training Opportunities and they advertise vacancies throughout the year. You can check the ‘Directory of CILIP Graduate Training Opportunities’ for current vacancies. University courses accredited by CILIP view these traineeships very favourably as the graduate has gained work experience and has also been given training.
You may be able to find some advertised volunteering opportunities that would help you to learn more about a career in the sector and give you some valuable work experience which could help with getting a paid role in the future. The website www.do-it.org.uk also holds details of many opportunities and you can search by postcode or town for these.
The CILIP website also provides details of some organisations that can offer opportunities to gain experience in library and information work.
The BBC offers a range of career opportunities – look at their site for full details. You can search and apply for placements online. You can use keywords, such as “Information and Archive” to find out details of placements in this area.
As a library or information specialist you may find work in a variety of organisations. Directories, such as the ones listed below can be useful to discover contact details:
- Libraries and information services in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland: 2010-2011 is available in the Careers Centre at Queen’s Campus and in the Bill Bryson Library in Durham.
- The online Health Library & Information Services Directory (HLISD) covers the whole of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland and all sectors, whether NHS, Further or Higher Education, professional bodies, voluntary organisations or patient information.
Many higher level library roles will specify the need for a Masters degree in a subject that is related to Information & Library Management. Having said this, however, you may find that you can get a job as an information assistant/library assistant or similar and work your way up within an organisation. You may also find that public libraries are less specific about employing librarians with Masters degrees than academic libraries are.
A certain length and type of previous experience in order for you to be accepted onto a course may be specified. The following information, for example, comes from the MA Librarianship course at The University of Sheffield: "Entry requirements: You’ll need a first degree in any subject plus 12 months' relevant work experience."
There are a wide-range of postgraduate courses available in this field. Some are quite general in coverage (but you may be able to choose more specific modules as part of them). Others are very much geared towards a certain area of information and library work. For example, you may find details of courses entitled:
- Information Science
- Records & Information Management
- Health Informatics
You can find out details of all the CILIP accredited courses on their website.
The Prospects website has a search tool for finding postgraduate courses in the UK. You can search by keyword, subject area, region and mode of study (full-time, distance learning etc.). As there are some many variations on what the course might be called, you might find it most useful to start you search by browsing the Information Science and Librarianship subject area rather than typing in specific keywords.
Find a Masters is another website that you might wish to take a look at to find relevant courses.
University course web pages usually have details of any funding available but you can also investigate external funding in ‘The Grants Register 2012 (The Complete Guide to Postgraduate Funding Worldwide)’ which is available in the Careers Centre’s Postgraduate Study section. Also see the website www.postgraduatestudentships.co.uk on which you can perform subject specific searches.
The main professional body for this sector within the UK is the Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals (CILIP). Their mission states that CILIP exists to:
- Promote and support the people who work to deliver this vision.
- Be the leading voice for information, library and knowledge practitioners, working to advocate strongly, provide unity through shared values and develop skills and excellence.
Their website contains a lot of information that could be useful to you if you are considering a job in information or library work.
Other professional bodies which may be relevant
There are other professional bodies/organisations which may be relevant to you if you are considering library or information work in a specific area.
- ARLIS (UK & Ireland) - the Art Libraries Society is the professional organisation for people involved in providing library and information services and documenting resources in the visual arts.
- BIALL (British & Irish Association of Law Librarians) – professional body for the UK and Ireland for information professionals working with legal information.