Jamie Allison talks to Nick Little, community librarian at the Forum in Norwich, about his career.

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Jobs24 factfile: librarian

Training

Being a community librarian is a people profession; a librarian’s job is to connect people with the information they are seeking, whatever format that may take. If anyone ever thought they’d become a librarian because they liked books or reading, they would be sorely disappointed if they did not like people too. It is a university-based route to become a professional librarian. You can either complete a degree in librarianship or information management or a degree in any subject, followed by a post-graduate qualification. You then spend
a further year working towards gaining professional status (chartership). The role of a library assistant does not need
pre-existing formal qualifications other than a good standard of education, usually at least five GCSEs (A*-C). You are able to gain the para-professional status of certification through this route.

Timescale

Degree courses usually take three years. You may be able to study part-time, but this will take longer.

Local training

There are no local providers of a degree in librarianship, but you could complete a degree in any subject, followed by a post-graduate qualification completed on a distance learning basis. The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals accredits undergraduate and postgraduate courses and its website details providers across the country.

Further information:

Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals.
Information on careers, qualifications and graduate training schemes.
www.cilip.org.uk.

Salary range

Library assistants can earn around £15,000-£18,000 per year. Professional chartered librarians earn from £25,000- £32,000 per year.

Belle Jones

Why is it a good profession to get into?

It’s incredibly varied work. Lots of people think that if you work in a library all you do is stamp books and put things on the shelves; but the amount of the work that the service offers is huge.

I’d say the best thing about working at the library is the range of opportunities that it provides – it’s far more than just books.

I finished work at the council and wasn’t sure what to do. I knew I wanted to work with people and do some kind of community work. It’s a good place to work if you don’t know what to do as it has a broad range of subjects. You’d get something from it to help your career, so it’s very worthwhile.

What does the work involve?

There are lots of elements to it, but really it’s working with the community. So working with projects that might involve a specific group of people, or developing a new area of the service for everybody. There is a diverse range of people that all have different needs and they want different things from their library service. It’s about engaging with people and finding out how they use the library whilst finding ways to serve people who have more complex needs. I work with a very wide range of adults mainly: refugees, asylum seekers, people with learning difficulties, people with disabilities and people with challenging backgrounds.

What are the positives/negatives of the profession?

Positives for me personally, I work with a huge range of people which has given me the opportunity to learn a lot about society and communities, how they work and what areas need to be improved. Hopefully my efforts can make a contribution. There’s nothing I don’t like about it, but that’s very much down to the very forward-thinking managers in Norfolk.

Is there much local demand for people trained in this area?

To be a community librarian in Norfolk you don’t need any formal library qualification. However, since I’ve been in the job, I have started those. We’re looking at a service that offers volunteering opportunities, but they have to be in areas that don’t duplicate the role of a staff member. There is volunteer work with specific events and promotions. It’s very popular; everyone wants to work in libraries.

What would employers look for in someone applying for a vacancy?

Enthusiasm! If you are enthusiastic about something, that will shine through. Everyone is asked to recommend a book at their interview, I know someone who recommended a cookery book but they did it with such passion and enthusiasm that they were successful.

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