Becoming a school librarian

Other relevant job titles: Information officer

The school librarian may be caricatured as a mousey, behind-the-scenes person but do not be fooled. The library is a big show to keep on the road and the librarian has a unique and specialist role in supporting pupils’ learning and their development into effective, independent learners and readers.

Salary expectations

Librarians are usually paid on the local authority pay scale and earn approximately £28,000 per year. Academies and independent schools may pay more.

Hours

Hours will be stipulated in your contract but beware this is unlikely to be a 9-5 job. Before and after school and lunchtimes are usually busy times for school librarians, so the working day may well extend from 8am until 4.30pm.

The school librarian should have the same entitlement to continuing professional development as teaching staff and paid holiday as required by the Working Time Regulations.

School librarian duties

  • Buy books relevant to the curriculum and what is being taught in school
  • Make displays that tie into the curriculum
  • Research and recommend relevant websites
  • Ensure that Internet access is safe
  • Keep shelves well stocked and tidy
  • Deal with readers of different ages and abilities face-to-face
  • Ensure the library catalogues are as user-friendly as possible so that readers can find the books they need.

According to the School Library Association, The school librarian should be:

  • a partner with teaching staff in the education process
  • a partner in supporting individual learning styles
  • an acknowledged expert in resource and information provision and management
  • a leader and partner with teaching staff in the collaborative design and implementation of information literacy programmes throughout the school
  • a leader in creating and developing a climate to promote and support reading for pleasure across the school
  • an acknowledged partner with all departments to effectively support and resource each key stage
  • a partner in out-of-hours learning

Skills and knowledge

  • Meticulous and precise in their work of ordering, recording and caring for books
  • Friendly and customer-oriented for the outward-facing parts of their job.
  • Passionate about reading and well-read and up-to-date both in digital and print publishing
  • Expert in the Dewey Decimal system
  • Adaptable and aware of current and emerging technologies

Qualifications needed to become a school librarian

A Chartered Librarian qualification is the norm although library assistants can train on the job through an apprenticeship scheme: the professional organisation, CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals), rewards in-job experience and offers certification.  

The upsides

“It’s a wonderful job. I love being able to recommend books that I know children will find exciting. I love children’s fiction more than adult fiction, because it’s usually better written. It has to be - it’s for a more discerning audience.” (Nikki Heath, librarian at Werneth School in Stockport and School Librarian of the Year 2008)

The downsides

Diminishing budgets and a (usually) modest salary are negatives of the job.