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Careers Centre

Libraries and information management

Sector Overview

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.

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.

Libraries & Information Management attributes profile

Key attributes needed for the roleWhere you could develop these skills or attributes
Ability to think analytically, exercise initiative and independent judgement This is most likely to be developed and evidenced through your academic studies.
IT skills, along with accuracy and speed in typing Taking advantage of the University’s subscription to the Microsoft IT Academy can help you develop your IT skills.  You may also be able to undertake the Microsoft Office Specialist Qualification, offered as part of CAPOD’s Professional Skills Curriculum
Flexibility and responsiveness to change

CAPOD regularly runs courses covering these skills within its Professional Skills Curriculum.

Taking on positions of responsibility in student-run societies will give you the chance to put them into practice.

Good organisation, evaluation and time-management skills

Good communication skills, both written and spoken

Social media and blogging

  Other key attributes demanded for the role: do you possess them?
  • A detective’s skills – the ability to think laterally and imaginatively when responding to queries
  • Good interpersonal skills, with a positive attitude and a desire to meet and serve the library’s user community
  • Often, the ability to lift up to 20 kilos

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.

There is a wide variety of positions for librarian and information professionals, with opportunities to specialise increasing with experience. Job profiles describing the main roles in the library and information sector can be found on the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) and Prospects websites.

Many different areas of the legal sector are open to 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.

Networks - why and how to use them

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:

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

How to gain experience/internships

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.

The National Archives website lists archives in the UK and beyond, along with contact details.

The Archives and Records Association 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.

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 graduate trainee position 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. Graduate traineeships tend to be offered between October and March.

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.

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:-

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.

Key UK links and resources

Careers Centre

Use CareerConnect, your central careers hub, to:

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Professional Bodies, Trade Organisations & background information

 

USA resources

Vault

The USA job market and recruitment timetables, for both internships and graduate jobs, for sectors of employment often differ from the UK.

The Careers Centre subscribes to the reputable independent USA careers information and vacancy provider Vault. The links below will take you directly to Vault subscription resources which cover this sector. You may find further useful and relevant resources linked from there as well.

 

Internships in the US - Library & Information Management

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