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Academic librarian: Job description

Academic librarians work in higher education, further education and research institutes attached to academic institutions. They may also be known as subject librarians and they manage, organise, evaluate and disseminate information, providing support to members of an academic community including students, researchers and lecturing staff.

Academic librarians may be responsible for a specific academic subject, developing specialist knowledge and other functions, such as resource ordering, loans, specialist collections, ICT systems and library projects.

A main role involves facilitating and supporting learning by teaching information retrieval skills to students and staff within classrooms or virtual learning environments. Academic librarians spend considerable time working with electronic resources, involving database management and web page development. The role is also very customer-focused.

Job titles vary, so it's important to look beyond the title to the actual work involved in the role. Related titles include learning resources manager and learning centre manager.

Typical work activities 

Academic librarians often have specialist responsibility for an academic subject or function, even at basic-level posts. Other librarian roles include research, electronic, resources, systems, and other professional posts within the fields of acquisitions and cataloguing.

The following tasks are typically undertaken within the role:

  • developing and managing collections of books and journals (both paper and electronic), as well as websites;
  • managing buildings, furniture and equipment;
  • carrying out staff management, which may involve recruitment and selection, appraisals, support and development, disciplinary action, staff rotas and training, as well as allocating daily tasks;
  • dealing with budgets and, in some cases, purchasing resources;
  • maintaining relationships with external bodies, such as suppliers;
  • contributing to academic course development and liaising with academic departments;
  • managing and supporting the provision of reading lists and allocating length of loans;
  • creating, updating and managing information resources, both electronic and printed;
  • selecting, acquiring and cataloguing information using library and information software;
  • assisting researchers with literature searches using databases, printed resources and the internet;
  • delivering information and learning skills courses for students and staff;
  • dealing with user enquiries, which may involve one-on-one advice sessions;
  • keeping up to date with relevant professional developments in the library sector;
  • participating in professional groups or networks.

Some senior librarians may be involved in additional activities such as:

  • managing and motivating a team of staff who could be working in several libraries;
  • overseeing the building of new libraries or the refurbishment of existing libraries.

There are 36 jobs available in information, research and analysis

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Written by AGCAS editors
November 2013

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