What do public library staff do?


Public library work is often portrayed in the media as quiet and old-fashioned.  In reality, public library work is almost entirely in the view of the public, is increasingly varied and reliant on information technology. The list below was created by Lauren Smith and others.

  • Dealing With Library Users:
    – Suggesting a book for anyone from an 8 year old boy who never reads to a 70 year old woman who has read everything;
    – Being unfazed by complex enquiries which could be of a sensitive nature;
    – Understanding how to help people with computers who have zero confidence/experience and believe they can’t use them;
    – Dealing with abusive visitors;
    – Dealing with young people behaving badly – police have been called to library branches when young people have been climbing on bookshelves, causing problems, refusing to leave premises etc;
    – Dealing sensitively with people who have mental health problems or learning disabilities and may be challenging to help properly;
    – Keeping user information confidential;
    – Huge training requirement around legal/ethical issues;
    – Understanding the issues around safeguarding children and the elderly;
    – Providing a safe, friendly space that welcomes everyone;
    – Directing homeless people to the nearest shelter;
    – Helping people with little or no English to use the library service by translating, using translation services or taking special care and attention to ensure people understand information;
    – Collecting knives and guns;
  • Helping People Find Information:
    – Information literacy i.e. teaching people how to research, study and helping people develop lifelong learning skills essential for an informed citizenship;
    – Understanding what users need and how they go about finding it (and working out where the problems are);
    –  Teaching people how to search effectively;
    – Helping people organise information effectively;
    – Helping people assess which information is reliable, for example the NHS expect patients to use online sources to find out about healthcare, but a lot of information on the internet is not reliable and can misinform people;
    – Showing people how to find information about legal issues;
    – Helping businesses find business information;
    – Helping people research their family history or local history;
    – Unearthing the needed information from the mounded heaps of print and electronic, free and subscription services, efficiently and accurately;
    – Ensuring that less easy-to-find materials are available for particular groups – community langs, LGBT, people with/ disabilities etc;
    – Being able to interpret research requests – working out what people want when they’re not sure how to explain
    – Providing pointers on free and paid resources;
    – Knowing how to do proper subject searches and suggest unthought of sources of information;
    – Signposting to a huge range of services &say what they can offer: advice/help on immigration, debt, tax, legal, benefits, housing;
    – Providing specialist information i.e. market research/patents/EU/law/health;
    – Helping people if the library doesn’t have what they need;
    – Understanding the need for access and negotiating access to information that may be blocked by council filters;
  • Research Help:
    – Teaching people how to research properly;
    – Current awareness services, all types of research;
    – Personal training sessions on resources;
    – Filtering materials for relevance;
  • Internet/Technology Support:
    – Teaching people to use the internet;
    – Helping people set up email accounts;
    – Showing people how to use online job boards;
    – Showing people how to use online council & government services;
    – Teaching people to use online resources e.g. e-books, e-journals;
    – Giving people login details for library computers and helping them when they have problems/forget passwords etc.;
    – Providing technical support on systems and tools (i.e. loading ebooks from something like Overdrive on to a ereader);
    – Helping people use the photocopier/printer/fax machine;
    – Showing people how to Integrate emerging technologies into their daily lives;
    – Helping people with online council housing lists;
    – Explaining how wifi works;
  • Organising and Running Events and Activities:
    – Organising/promoting events for kids/teens/adults that promote a love of reading;
    – Rhyme time and story time sessions, increasing childhood literacy and promoting reading;
    – Children’s activities;
    – Visiting authors and poets;
    – Book festivals;
    – Gigs (Get It Loud In Libraries);
    – Helping with homework and school projects;
    – Book groups;
    – IT classes;
    – Doing the risk assessments needed to make sure everyone is safe and secure at events;
    – Dressing the library for events, making it look attractive and impressive (professional);
    – Organising school visits
  • Partnership Work with Schools and Other Organisations:
    – A working and up to date knowledge and understanding of the curriculum and the way schools function (see this comment for much more detail);
    – Working with teachers to improve reading skills;
    – Working with schools & other community groups to promote the library and showcase all it has to offer;
    – Visiting schools, talking to parents to promoting a lifelong love of reading with parents and children;
    Giving talks on request from teachers on referencing and the importance of bibliographies for GCSEs/A levels;
    –  Working with U3A and other community groups to help public with online information;
  • Library Management:
    – Understanding how libraries work together, dealing with interlibrary loans and the British Library;
    – Data protection;
    – Reporting on library use and user needs;
    – Using statistics to identify trends and assess levels of use;
    – Managing electronic resources;
    – Ordering databases;
    – Paying invoices;
    – Getting value for money via professional management, organization and promotion of resources;
    – Promoting and marketing the libraries, including using social media to promote the library service;
    – Attending training and events to make sure that the library service is keeping up with developments;
    – Dealing with legislation including reproduction and attendant copyright law: photocopying/scanning for personal use, hi-res resources for publication/TV;
    – Maintaining and building technical solutions for users’ needs;
    – Maintaining a safe, interesting quiet environment;
    – Being a premises controller: be responsible for a large public bldg, know what to do when heating breaks down, roof leaks etc;
    – Training for fire marshals etc;
    – Reporting to local Councillors, showing how libraries meet the wider council aims;
    – Managing budgets and staffing, liaising with those who provide the funds;
  • Collection management:
    – Promoting/displaying/ weeding/ordering stock;
    – Making sure the books and other items in the library are ones that users want/need/will benefit from;
    – Reader and community development – encouraging people to read more widely and helping communities build knowledge and skills – matching resources to people’s needs;
    –  Describing/cataloguing/arranging physical or digital material in useful ways so that people can find it;
    –  Chasing and collecting books back and enforcing fines;
    – Matching stock held with local community group(s) needs;
    – Dealing with stock management / complaints etc. in accordance with international agreements on intellectual freedom;
  • Archives and Special Collections:
    – Digitisation and digital preservation, making sure information will be accessible in future;
    – Storing and conserving media (including old/rare books);
  • Other Council Services Provided Through Libraries:
    – Dealing with people paying council tax and parking fines;
    – Giving out condoms and bin bags;
    – Issuing firearms certificates;
    – Selling charity xmas cards;
    – Issuing blue badges;
    – Issuing over 60s bus passes.
  • #1 written by Tabitha
    about 11 years ago

    As as Library worker, I did all that Yesterday.A briilant joblist.If only Ed V could pop in one day!

Leave a Reply