National and international charities employ Library and Information Professionals to organise, catalogue and manage information, just as other large organisations do. Depending on the kind of work performed by the charity, the Librarian might do anything from sending reports and statistics to aid workers abroad to promoting literacy in the local community.
Working in the (relatively small) charity and voluntary sector can be challenging, because of potentially limited funding and resources. However, librarians in this sector develop highly specialised skills and knowledge which are incredibly important to the work of their employer organisations.
Librarians working in charities may be supported by teams of library volunteers.
Librarian, Centre for Literacy in Primary Education, London.
I have always been an avid user of my local library services and spent a good deal of time at the university library during my time in academia, but before I became the librarian at CLPE (the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education) a career in librarianship was not something I had actively considered.
I had previously worked as a bookseller for over five years in both commercial and independent bookshops, specialising in children’s literature, so when a vacancy appeared at CLPE’s Literacy Library – a reference library of over 23,000 books showcasing the very best of children’s books – I was confident in my knowledge of the sector and accustomed to working in a customer-facing environment, despite not having worked in either the education or charitable sectors before, so I made my application. Any skills or experience you have may well be applicable to a librarian role!
As a new librarian, you’re coming into a space that has been formed and melded by years’ worth of experience and expertise from others – I decided to be excited by this, rather than daunted, and keen to discover how I could contribute to an established, yet ever-changing space, while adapting to new ways of working brought on by the pandemic. I was happy to have the support of my wonderful colleagues – and I remain in contact with the previous librarian – in getting to know the role, while simultaneously making it my own.
In the short time, I have been in this role I have been pleasantly surprised by how varied and social a career in librarianship can be. As with a bookshop, the space is never static; old titles are weeded and new ones continually published – it’s like a living organism. A number of similarities have emerged between my current role and my previous in bookselling: I find myself chatting enthusiastically with colleagues about new and upcoming releases; welcoming visitors, hearing about their needs and interests and offering recommendations; and maintaining a strong link with the publishing industry.
A career as a librarian can be whatever you wish to make of it, so keep an open mind, and keep reading.