Library & Information Work | The Careers Service Library & Information Work – Oxford University Careers Service
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About this sector

Library, Information and Archival professionals work in many sectors of the economy, although the workforce in total is relatively small.

CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) estimates that just over 270,000 people in the UK work in libraries, records, archives and information/knowledge management roles.

Information work is not limited to those working in libraries – in fact the majority of professionals can be found in business and industry (particularly law and health), in schools (nearly 3,000 librarians alone), in central and local Government (just 177 at last count) as well as in professional bodies, trade associations and the voluntary sector. CILIP estimates that of around 31,000 staff in public and academic libraries those in ‘professional’ roles number only around 7,000.

The shared aim of all in the field is to make sure information is acquired, organised and continues to be accessible to those who need it. This encompasses information in all its forms – from texts to images, films to manuscripts, databases to webpages.

Types of job

Job titles in this field include:

Academic Librarian

Works with academic staff, students and researchers to ensure that they have the material they need to access. Includes teaching information literacy skills, answering enquiries and contributing to the management of the information service.

Archive Conservator

Responsible for the preservation, repair and conservation of archive items (manuscripts, books, photos, film, recordings and more) using manual dexterity, chemical treatments, technological tools and detailed analysis.

Archivist

Works with the owner(s) of the archive to preserve and exploit the heritage and information accumulated by their work. Includes working with users as well as curatorial skills in coordinating, arranging and cataloguing archives.

Cataloguer

Creates structured descriptions of resources (from books to images to electronic resources) to enable discovery by users and accurate collections management. Increasingly technological work, working with recognised metadata standards.

Information/Library Assistant

Assists Information/Library staff in their work, which often involves the ‘grass roots’ of the information service. This could include providing customer service to users and maintaining the basic functioning of the service, such as shelving, retrieving or replacing resources.

Information Officer/Manager

Researches and sources to meet the information needs of the setting, and can include ‘packaging’ or collating the information in ways which are accessible to the end user.

Knowledge Manager

Responsible for developing and managing complex information systems. In some settings ‘Information Manager’ can be used to refer to this role too, but ‘Knowledge Managers’ may also have responsibility for data protection, or policies for knowledge management within the organisation.

Learning Resources Manager/ School Librarian

In an educational setting, this role combines aspects of an academic librarian’s work, with information officer tasks and perhaps greater responsibility for IT facilities, or budget management.

Public Librarian

Works for a government or council-funded library, open to the general public. As well as managing the development of the collection, they also work to support readers and local organisations to make the most of the resources available, which can include organising events, surveys, or partnership working with other businesses or public bodies.

Records Manager

Designs systems, processes and schedules to help an organisation maintain operational efficiency and meet legal obligations for the retention of records, as well as identifying records to be archived (but they aren’t usually responsible for the work of archiving them).

Entry points

‘Assistant’ work

It’s possible to work in the field without further study, particularly in ‘entry-level’ roles as a library assistant, information assistant, or archival assistant. To access these roles, you will often need some evidence of your communication and organisational skills – volunteering, customer service roles or work experience in an information setting can help demonstrate this. Salaries will often be relatively low – c.£16,000 -£22,000 a year, depending on the employer.

Graduate traineeships

These are not mandatory to progress in the field, but where they are offered they can provide a more structured piece of paid experience, often a one year job during which more training and support is offered than would be available to someone in an ‘assistant’ role. You can find these roles for libraries at LISJobNet. A summary list for archival roles is held by the Archives and Records Association. Oxford runs a Bodleian graduate trainee programme (closing date is usually in early February).

Graduate traineeships are offered sporadically between October and March – so it’s worth checking regularly for new opportunities.

Further study

To move on and up as a professional working in libraries, information management or archives, most staff will at some point take a professional qualification, usually accredited by either CILIP (for library or information professionals) or the ARA (for archives and records work).

More information about both is available at the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, and the Archives and Records Association  – both their Careers in Archives webpage and their Careers in Archive Conservation webpage.

The subject of your first degree is usually not relevant, but experience in the sector (usually a minimum of 4-8 weeks) is commonly cited as essential. Funding in the form of bursaries can sometimes be found; the place to look would be on the institution’s website (at the time of writing –August 2016 – neither CILIP nor the ARA offered funding, although the National Archives has in the past offered funding for some courses). Despite relatively low levels of bursaries available, many courses have part time or distance learning options, which can enable students to work to support themselves while on the course.

Skills & experience

 Skills needed

Each role will have a unique combination of skills required, and a few will have some skills that are not required in other roles (for example, chemistry knowledge for Archival Conservation).  However, in general, working in Library and Information Work requires:

  • Good organisational skills
  • Analytical thinking; the ability to synthesise ‘big picture’ issues and remember small details
  • Interest and ability in working with IT systems and tools
  • Good interpersonal skills, with a desire to help users of the information service
  • Adaptability and flexibility, particularly in response to changing user needs
  • Good communication skills, both written and oral
  • High-level accuracy and attention to detail, as well as seeing the value of precise work
  • An investigative mind which seeks to solve problems laterally and imaginatively

You don’t, however, need Latin to become an archivist. According to the ARA “whilst knowledge of Latin is undoubtedly a useful skill to have as an archivist, most medieval records have already been catalogued and translated, so it is not as essential as it may have been in the past”.

Getting experience

Libraries

There are lots of ways to get good quality work experience in libraries, and if you’re studying at Oxford you’re in an ideal place to access it. Talk to your college or department/faculty librarian about their job, and find out what the opportunities might be to get involved.

If you’re outside of Oxford, there are often ways to get involved in your local public or school libraries, either through paid work as a library assistant, or by supporting library events, groups or promotional activities.  Usually the first thing to do is to get in touch with the service to ask what might be possible.

Libraries and archives in other sectors of industry can be harder to research. Although there are strong societies for people who work in law libraries who you could contact – see the British and Irish Association of Law Libraries webpages, it’s less the case than in other industries. You could research people on LinkedIn to find out who’s working as a ‘librarian’ or ‘information manager’ within your region (and even who’s an Oxford graduate too), and these could be good people to approach about work shadowing or work experience.

A hot topic in the world of libraries is ‘job substitution’. This is where work that would previously have been undertaken by a paid staff member is now undertaken by a volunteer. CILIP campaign against this; you will find very few ‘volunteering opportunities’ promoted by professional library bodies.

Archives

Two main areas to explore when looking for archival work experience are:

  • The Archives and Records Association – which has a list of placements that is updated annually, ranging from paid one-year roles, to two-week voluntary opportunities. However, many opportunities are arranged by directly contacting an archive to ask for experience, and so…
  • The National Archives Database – can be used to explore 2,500 archives.

There is often confusion about whether you should be paid to do an internship or work experience. It will depend on your arrangement with the employer as well as on the status of the employer. To find out if you are entitled to be paid when undertaking work experience or an internship, visit the Government’s webpages on the National Minimum Wage.

Getting a job

When job hunting, either for entry level work, or post-qualification roles, combine searching for advertised vacancies with methods which increase your access to unadvertised roles:

  • Explore the ‘Sector Vacancy’ websites listed under ‘external resources’ below.
  • Join LinkedIn groups that relate to your area (often jobs are posted as discussions).
  • Make sure that those you know in the field are aware that you’re job hunting. Ask them for further advice, or even other people it would be good to contact.
  • Explore whether a specialist recruitment agency (listed under ‘external resources’) might suit your needs.

Equality & positive action

A number of major graduate recruiters have policies and processes that are proactive in recruiting graduates from diverse backgrounds. To find out the policies and attitudes of employers that you are interested in, explore their equality and diversity policies and see if they offer ‘Guaranteed Interview Schemes’ (for disabled applicants) or are recognised for their policy by such indicators as ‘Mindful Employer’ or as a ‘Stonewall’s Diversity Champion’.

In library and information work, CILIP has in the past run ‘ENCOMPASS’, a positive action training initiative, which may be revived in the future.

The UK law protects you from discrimination due to your age, gender, race, religion or beliefs, disability or sexual orientation. For further information on the Equality Act and to find out where and how you are protected, as well as what you need to do if you feel you have been discriminated against, visit the Government’s webpages on discrimination.

External resources

Associations, societies & news

Sector vacancies

Occupational information

Recruitment agencies

  • Glen Recruitment – Information sector specialist
  • Sue Hill – Information and market, insight and analysis sector specialist
  • TFPL – Information, knowledge and data specialist
This information was last updated on 13 July 2017.
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Recent blogs about Library & Information Work

EXPERIENCE THE CLASSROOM

Blogged by Julia Hilton on April 20, 2018.

Insight into Teaching provides students with the opportunity to spend three days in a school with a full programme of lesson observation, perhaps a chance to try out some teaching and join in with activities, and a pre-placement seminar to get the most out of the placement.

Placements take place over 3 days in 9th week of Trinity term and are available in a range of subjects in secondary, primary & further education, in state-maintained and independent schools across Oxfordshire and elsewhere in the UK. This year the dates are Tuesday 19 to Thursday 21 June.

Applications open in 1st week of term and close on Sunday 20 May (end of 4th week) at midnight.

If you are thinking about a career in teaching then spending time in school is extremely important, not only to help you to decide whether teaching is for you, but also to enhance your teacher training application – whether you are considering a PGCE, School Direct, Teach First or another route into teaching. A participant on the programme last term said:

‘I really enjoyed interacting with students in the lower school, particularly helping students who came to the math’s clinic one lunch time. It was nice to feel useful. I previously was sure I wanted to teach sixth form but I enjoyed this aspect so much I am rethinking this.’

Literary Agency Work Experience – Carole Blake Open Doors Project

Posted on behalf of Blake Friedmann. Blogged by Polly Metcalfe on April 20, 2018.

The Carole Blake Open Doors Project, is a programme specifically aimed at encouraging candidates from a diverse range of backgrounds to enter the publishing industry.

The Carole Blake Open Doors Project will offer ten days of work shadowing at Blake Friedmann’s book agents to a selected applicant over a two-week period, including funding for travel and up to twelve nights’ accommodation in London. The programme, which will run twice a year, will include close mentorship with Blake Friedmann’s book agents, the opportunity to attend selected meetings with editors and clients, and the chance to be involved in every aspect of day-to-day life as an agent. It is intended that candidates will come away from the project with varied knowledge of working for a leading literary agency, the beginnings of new and essential relationships in the publishing industry, and some excellent experience to include on their CVs.

“Carole offered me my first internship in publishing at Blake Friedman. She was a formidable figure, yet warm and funny. She was deeply encouraging to me as one from a diverse background based on my age, class and race – though it was our mutual love of a great pair of shoes that really sealed the deal!  An unforgettable, truly phenomenal woman.” – Valerie Brandes, Founder & Publisher, Jacaranda Books, and former BFA intern

Carole Blake and the Blake Friedmann team have always placed great value on diversity and openness, in the company’s client list as well as its hiring practices. We aim to build on this foundation and be proactive about drawing from a wider pool of talented applicants who are passionate about books and ambitious about getting a job in publishing.

Read an account of taking part in the project from our first Open Doors intern Ada Igwebu. 

Applications are now open for the Carole Blake Open Doors project and the deadline is 18 May.

Resources and opportunities for early career researchers

Blogged by Rebecca Ehata on April 19, 2018.

The Early Career Blog: Specialist careers advice for PhDs and postdocs

Have you had a look at our blog for early career researchers yet? This joint initiative with Cambridge has over 40 posts dealing with topics such as networking, academic applications and getting funding, making it a great resource whether you’re set on staying in academia or looking for fresh pastures. A new post on the blog looking at Non-academic employers’ perspectives on researchers will be of interest to any ECRs who are toying with the possibility of a move beyond academia.

You can browse the range of posts already available at any time, and don’t forget that you can send suggestions for further topics by tweeting them to @EarlyCareerBlog!

The Researcher Consultancy is back!

Following the successful pilot of the Researcher Consultancy in Michaelmas and Hilary terms, we’re delighted to announce that a new round of the programme has now launched! Whether you’re considering consultancy as a longer-term career move, you want to develop key employability skills such as self-management, team working, business and customer awareness, problem solving and communication, or wish to boost your understanding of the commercial sector and gain hands-on experience of tackling real-world strategic problems, this may be a perfect opportunity for you. Whatever your career plans, including further research and academia, participants can benefit significantly from the programme.

So how does it work?

Participants volunteer some of their own time to work in small teams, over a 4-month period, to address a strategic issue or business opportunity for a client organisation. Our clients list includes start-ups, businesses, local and international charities, community organisations, University departments and Government agencies.

Want to know more?

For more information see CareerConnect or contact Lili Pickett-Palmer. The closing date for applications for the Spring-Summer programme is 30 April 2018.

Careers in the Heritage and Museum Sectors

Posted on behalf of Heritage Pathway. Blogged by Polly Metcalfe on April 18, 2018.

Careers in the Heritage and Museum Sectors hosted by Heritage Pathway

  • When: Thursday 17 May, 15.00-17.00
  • Where: 3rd Floor Seminar Room, Radcliffe Humanities Building, Woodstock Road
  • Book: Booking is essential for this event

The ‘Heritage Pathway’ is one of seven training pathways offered to graduate students and Early Career Researchers in the Humanities Division. A year-long programme of workshops, site visits and networking opportunities provides the skills and knowledge required to engage successfully with partner organisations in the heritage sector, whether through commercial or research-based collaborations.

Three speakers reflect on their own career paths and offer top tips as to how to develop your career:

  • Emily Knight (Assistant Curator of Paintings, V&A)
  • Dr Danielle Thom (Curator of Making, Museum of London)
  • Dr Jane Eade (Curator, National Trust)

Trinity micro-internships have now launched!

Blogged by Rosanna Mills on April 18, 2018.

It’s the time of year to be thinking about work experience, and to help you on your way our Trinity term Micro-Internship Programme has now launched! If you have a busy academic schedule but you are still looking for work experience, or want to gain some professional skills and extra points for your CV, then look no further. This programme is open to both undergraduates and postgraduates, and here are some of the placements on offer in weeks 9 and 10:

  • Conduct research with the University’s Heritage Partnerships Office for the Hidden Objects Project
  • Gain insight into an independent consultancy and the world of politics with BlondeMoney
  • Hands-on scientific research and analysis with Adapt Immune
  • Assist with the pre-production stage of a film with Daria Martin – Fine Art Films
  • And much more!

Keep an eye out for our sector lists over the coming days!

In brief… What are micro-internships?

2-5 day work experience placements each term during weeks 9 and 10, exclusive to Oxford students (matriculated students are eligible to apply). Although voluntary, host organisations must reimburse local travel and lunch expenses on production of receipts. Full programme information can be found on our Micro-Internship Programme webpage.

How do I apply?

You can view and apply to all micro-internships on CareerConnect, submitting a one-page CV and 300-word personal statement. The deadline this term is midday, Thursday 3 May (please note that this is earlier than usual due to the bank holiday).

Can I get help with my application?

Absolutely! Please see our Internship Office Application Support Document and Employer Feedback on Student Micro-Internship Applications. Up until the deadline, we will be running Application Support Sessions for CV and personal statement advice – view and book on CareerConnect.

Any questions? Get in touch by emailing micro-internships@careers.ox.ac.uk

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