Libraries & Information Management

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Sector Overview

This page has been written by Shona Mach, the relevant Careers Adviser for this occupational area. To see how you can meet Shona, or any of our advisers, go to our website to view how and when you can meet them. 


Is it right for me? - further information on this career area, including skills/attributes required and tactics for success (pdf)



Information and knowledge is a valuable resource for both organisations and individuals, but only if it can be found. The need for excellent information resources and the ability to access them has never been greater, with an increasing recognition across government, education and business of the pivotal role they can play. The role of the professional Librarian or Information Manager is to ensure that information is acquired, organised and is accessible to the people who need it. Most roles in a library involve working with information in all its forms, increasingly with digital resources such as databases and e-publications as the job becomes more IT-oriented.

Range of jobs in the sector

‘Librarian’ is not the only job in a library, just as there are many different types of library to work in. As well as a hierarchy of roles from shelf stackers to the head librarian, there are a host of other positions vital to the maintenance of the library. These include customer service managers and IT service desk operators, information officers and scientists, and information and knowledge managers, among others.

Similarly, the blanket term ‘information management’ refers to largely the same functions for those in the sector, though the actual materials that they deal with are enormously varied. For instance, one worker might manage documents and files relating to human health, another might deal with statistics, and another might deal with legal cases. As a result, information professionals work in many sectors of the economy including business and industry, schools, further and higher education, central and local government, the health service, professional bodies and trade associations, the voluntary sector and national public libraries.

There are a wide variety of posts for the qualified librarian and information professional with opportunities to specialise increasing with experience. The Prospects website has a good resource of detailed job profiles in the information management sector.

This is not a large profession and it can therefore be hard to gain promotion by remaining in the same locality. Salaries are not particularly high, with relatively higher salaries often available in business and industry than the public sector. Conditions of employment, however, are usually good. The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) website has careers information on the information profession.

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Nature of Sector or Roles

In most library and information management positions a high level of communication and interpersonal skills are required, as is the ability to work confidently and professionally as part of a team. Good customer service will also be a prerequisite. It would boost your chances of success during the application stages if you have varied examples of when you demonstrated these skills as part of a job or extracurricular activity.

As mentioned above, there are a multitude of different environments for a trained librarian or information manager to operate in. For specific information on working in health services see the following links.

Many different areas of the law sector are open to legal information professionals whose specialities can range from academic law librarians, librarians in court service, librarians that work in a government department, information officers that work for a specific law firm, to knowledge managers or document and record and archive managers. The core work of all of these roles is to discover, document, and maintain material and information, often from a wide range of sources, including electronic and print resources. In many organisations the work of the legal information professional is of paramount importance as the knowledge that they provide can often determine the actions and proceedings of their colleagues, whether it be in the court room or on a national issue. With such an important job, the legal information professional must have a keen interest in and knowledge of current affairs, and must have a workable familiarity with different computer programmes. An interest in law is also essential and, given that they are required to pass information on to colleagues and clients in the most accessible and coherent manner possible, good interpersonal and communication skills are a prerequisite.

Network with alumni

Networking is particularly important and can really help you succeed with your applications. If you have been in contact with someone working for an organisation you are applying to you will have extra information to back up your case for why they should employ you.

Use social media sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to keep up-to-date with employers and the sector.

St Andrews graduates have gone on to work in many major and not-so-major companies in the UK and around the world. These alumni can make extremely useful contacts, giving you an "edge" with your applications and interviews. There are several ways to make contact with alumni:

  • Saint Connect - the new networking platform which allows you to connect with University of St Andrews alumni
    • Join the Information and Library Management Group to find mentors and receive sector related news
  • LinkedInAlumni Tool. This feature shows the career paths of over 30,000 University of St Andrews alumni, searchable by location, employer, industry and academic subject.
  • Graduate recruiters - ask if they can put you in touch with any alumni now working for their company
  • Friends and family - ask around your immediate social network for any contacts in organisations which interest you.
  • Our own Robert Gelb has made a helpful video on how to find alums through LinkedIn.
  • This networking video produced by Cass Business School gives excellent tips on effective networking.
  • LISCareer - networking advice for the introvert.

Have a look at the Network with Alumni section of our website for more advice and information.

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Getting Experience

During your studies it is worthwhile gaining library experience which will provide an insight into the work - this might be paid or for a short period of work shadowing. Bear in mind that securing paid work in the sector during university can be difficult and it is much more likely that you will end up working voluntarily and purely for the experience.

  • Approach the University Library or local public library for work experience.
  • The St Andrews Summer Internship Scheme has offered University Library placements in the past
  • Keep a look out in the Job Shop for part-time jobs in the University Library
  • Make speculative applications to other libraries for work experience during vacations
  • Otherwise look for some work that will give you experience delivering a front line service to customers.

Archon Directory lists different museums, archives, and libraries nationwide and gives their contact details. Could put this with a note on speculative applications so that students have a list of contact details for where to send their applications.

Archives.org Has a downloadable list of voluntary and paid placements for graduates seeking work experience prior to the Diploma/MA in Archives and/or Records Management. This page also offers advice on how to find placements and offers applicants the chance to contact the archives team for more guidance.

Case study by a St Andrews student during their work experience at the library.

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How to Get a (Graduate) Job

Most library and information management professionals have a relevant undergraduate or postgraduate qualification. CILIP accredits a number of full-time, part-time and distance-learning Diploma and Masters programmes with a wide range of titles reflecting course and module content.  Details of these can be found on the accredited courses page of the CILIP website, along with suggestions of financial assistance for study.

Having experience of working in a Library environment would be advantageous before applying to a PG course. As a potential librarian you can apply for a one-year training post in a library, which will give you helpful pre-course experience and also help you to ensure that you have made the right choice to embark on a full-time library or information programme. A number of charities, law and commercial organisations also offer opportunities to gain experience. It is sensible to check the work experience requirements of the library and information courses of interest to you. Each year CILIP publishes a Directory of Graduate Training Opportunities throughout the UK for graduates who want a library and information career but have little or no relevant experience.

Increasing numbers of graduates are undertaking their Diploma or Masters courses in part-time or distance-learning modes whilst in relevant employment, often supported by their employer.

Graduate traineeships are not always necessary to either begin a career in libraries or to progress in the field, but they can often enhance career prospects and help students decide exactly what area of the sector they would like to work in. Paid and normally lasting up to 12 months, the specification of the traineeship and its wage will vary depending on the host organisation, but typically a trainee will receive more help, support and training than someone in who went straight into an ‘assistant’ role. The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals points out that after your work experience you will study for a Masters-level qualification. Graduate traineeships tend to be offered between October and March.

Alternatively, many graduates enter the library and information management professions by taking on assistant work. This type of work often has a low salary and successful applicants will need to show they have experience in similar roles.


Library and information management vacancies can be found in a variety of sources:-

For some general advice on getting a career in archives and what to expect, have a look at the Archive.org website.

Case study of former student Anna Moles who went on to work as a Library Research Assistant.

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Relevant Postgraduate Study

Most library and information management staff will attain a professional qualification in order to enhance their prospects and to progress upwards in the library hierarchy. Though a postgraduate qualification isn’t strictly essential, applicants with a relevant Masters or PhD are looked upon favourably, as in any other career sector. As with competition for jobs, competition for postgraduate qualifications is also tough and demanding, as they might require an excellent first degree and an amount of relevant experience before even considering your application.

  • CILIP has a list of accredited qualifications.
  • Archives.org - Careers in archive conservation work with postgrad qualifications.
  • Archive.org - Careers in archives with postgrad qualifications.
  • Prospects can help you find full-time, part-time and distance learning postgraduate courses all over the world and can also help you find funding.
  • Funding Postgraduate Study. Have a look at the Careers Centre’s comprehensive list of available postgraduate bursaries, awards, studentships and grants.

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Key Links and Resources

Careers Centre

Online

  • The Careers Centre subscribes to Going Global, a specialist website with information and job vacancies worldwide, found via Access MyCareer on the Careers Centre website.

Professional Bodies, Trade Organisations & background information

USA

Internships in the US - Library & Information Management

This list is by no means exhaustive. It is simply designed to serve as a starting point:

  • Library of Congress Internships There are many internship, fellowship, and volunteer program opportunities throughout the Library. Non US applicants must be eligible for US visas.
  • The Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC), located at the Washington Navy Yard, offers a variety of internship opportunities including archivist, collections management, curatorial (museum and Naval Art Collection), historian, librarian, museum education, and public relations areas. The program is a partner with the US Department of State's Visitor Exchange Program that allows successful non-resident, non-US citizens to receive the pre-J-1 visa document free of charge. Online application form.

Vacancy websites

  • American Library Association (ALA) JobLIST
  • Archives Gig: useful blog about careers, jobs, and internships in the world of archives & records management
  • INALJ Jobs: 'I need a library job' - written and maintained by volunteers in the sector
  • LIBGIG: site for information professionals and information workers. Core focus is jobs for librarians of all types and levels; also includes postings for jobs related to information
  • LibraryJobline: jobs and links to resources for job seekers
  • Library Job Postings: comprehensive guide to library job sites
  • Special Libraries Association (SLA) Career Center
  • Jobs Zone Library Journal. Job postings in North America and Canada for librarians.
  • LibGig. American careers resource for employers and job seekers.
  • Interest group of the Association of College and Research Libraries. Advertises job listings and has a resource section that includes a discussion thread.
  • Library Careers.org this page has some sections that provide informative expositions of different jobs in a library. It also has a ‘Become a Librarian’ section.
  • American Library Association. Masters programmes in Library and Information Studies in the US.
  • Mr Library Dude provides good, informal advice on what to expect during an interview for a library position. It also gives good tips, potential questions and more.
  • School Library Journal some practical advice when searching for jobs.
  • Hiring Librarians includes useful links about what questions might be asked of you and what you could ask interviewers, based on the experience of others. It also has a section with suggested books for those studying or considering studying information management or library studies, those looking for jobs in this subject area, and those wishing to improve their career in this subject area.

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