Librarians (NOC 5111)

About this job

Librarians select, develop, organize and maintain library collections and provide programs, instructions and advisory services for users.

See what a day in the life of this job is like—watch WorkBC’s Career Trek video about this occupation.

Source: WorkBC’s Career Trek

People in this occupation:

  • may work in public, academic, school or special libraries
  • often work in managerial positions
  • also work as research or information officers for organizations and businesses
  • may be self-employed
  • need to have good instructional, communication, organizational and computer skills
  • must have the ability to understand research methods
  • must also be customer-service oriented, culturally sensitive and have the ability to work independently
Common job titles
  • iconographer
  • librarian periodicals / reference
  • librarian resource sharing / inter-library
  • librarian, documentation
  • librarian, liaison
  • librarian, music / science / scientific
  • iconographer
  • librarian periodicals / reference
  • librarian resource sharing / inter-library
  • librarian, art / health / law / medical
  • librarian, associate / supervisor
  • librarian, circulation / bookmobile

Duties

Librarians perform some or all of the following duties:

  • recommend acquisition of books, periodicals and audio-visual, interactive media and other materials for inclusion in library collection
  • provide reference services
  • select, classify, catalogue and weed library materials
  • prepare bibliographies, indexes, reading lists, guides and other finding aids
  • develop systems to access library collections
  • perform manual, on-line and interactive media reference searches to assist users in accessing library materials and arrange for interlibrary loans
  • develop taxonomies using various information and data sources
  • provide specialized programs for children, seniors and other groups
  • conduct library information and orientation training programs and tours
  • perform related administrative duties and supervise library technicians, assistants and clerks.

Work environment

Librarians typically work in libraries. They may often work independently, however, they may also frequently interact with staff or community partners, working as part of a team to develop new services and programs.

Full-time librarians typically work a regular 35- to 40-hour workweek. However, because some libraries are open during evenings and weekends, librarians may also be required to work during these periods.

The working conditions for librarians can vary, depending on the type of job. Librarians in "user services" work at a desk or counter and interact directly with library patrons. These workers may also interact with people looking for information using an interactive online medium.

Librarians in "technical services" typically spend the majority of their time at a desk or using a computer.

As a result of sitting or using a computer for extended periods of time, these workers may have eyestrain, wrist strain or a sore back. On rare occasions, librarians may experience risk from verbally abusive or physically violent users. 

Insights from industry

Most of the job openings over the next few years will come from the need to replace those who retire.

Technological advances and increasing library computerization mean that librarians must have increasingly advanced computer skills. Familiarity with computerized cataloguing, electronic records management and multimedia services will be increasingly important. As well, familiarity with software that supports chats, wireless networks, blogs and podcasting is becoming a requirement. Other skills that may be increasingly needed include multicultural librarianship, marketing and electronic records management.

Technological advances may also have a negative impact on this occupation, as the trend toward online collections (downloadable music, spoken word, ebooks) may result in fewer library staff since these tend to be self-serve collections. The titles offered in online collections are usually selected by the company offering the service, with a possible further impact on staffing levels. In addition, work that used to require the specialized knowledge of librarians can increasingly be done by the average person. For example, only experts used to be familiar with search techniques and databases. However, now most library users can do adequate searches on their own.

Work for librarians has traditionally been concentrated in public and academic libraries. A new trend is emerging that offers private sector opportunities for those willing to work as information specialists. A growing number of jobs are opening as non-traditional employers such as corporations, consulting firms and information brokers seek skilled information managers. The fields of information brokering, consulting (information access and validation) and database marketing may provide growth in new job opportunities for librarians.

Industry sources report that librarians' duties are increasingly moving away from only providing user or technical services to doing a wide range of duties. Many of the technical services that librarians provided can now be automated and/or outsourced, so libraries have reduced the number of in-house technical services librarians.

Industry sources also report that there is currently a short supply of graduates in select areas, including management, specialized subject background knowledge, technological skills, children's librarians and multicultural librarians. Also, new graduates may consider looking for work in rural communities to gain experience since these areas typically have a more difficult time filling vacancies.

Career paths and resources

Career paths

New graduates typically find part-time or casual employment as reference librarians.

Librarians with experience may progress to senior management positions, including branch manager, department head, senior administrator, chief librarian or director. Additional career paths for librarians include working in the for-profit sector, managing library associations or organizations, and senior management positions within the post-secondary sector and government.

Additional resources