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Libraries & Archives: Sector Overview

Libraries & Archives

Sector Overview

What jobs are available and how to get them

Facts and Figures


Number of public libraries closed in 2012


Estimated number of full time librarians in the UK

£682 million

Amount spent on resources by academic libraries, 2010-11

Sources: SCONUL, Loughborough University

Library Trends

Sector Overview

Work in this sector is very varied, and needs to be broken down into three smaller categories: libraries, museums, and archives


  • The majority of librarians work in higher education and public libraries, but librarians are also found in schools, legal firms, newspapers, cruise ships, and in many other organisations
  • As well as looking after books, librarians do research work, teach people to find information, and manage online resources such as e-books
  • Many higher level library jobs require an MA in Library Science or Information Studies


  • Archives maintain collections of materials, often on a topic or from a particular institution
  • An Archives MA can be necessary for higher level jobs in this sector
  • Just under half of Archivists in the UK work for local government
  • Self-employment is rare, but there are growing opportunities for this


Academic and public libraries are the most common employers of librarians but librarians can also be found in private companies, law firms, hospitals, prisons, cruise ships, newspapers, art galleries, and private collections.

What Work Involves

These job roles are common in this sector. It is possible to specialise in one of these roles, however in smaller organisations they may all be done by one person

  • Outreach & Promotion - This involves marketing the collection, and finding ways to make it available to new audiences
  • Preservation - As well as maintaining old materials, it is increasingly important to ensure that information is digitised and that digital records are maintained
  • Cataloguing & Classification - Writing about objects in the collection is often a highly technical skill
  • Collection Development - Acquiring, removing, and protecting items is usually very important
  • Advocacy - With funding for museums, libraries and archives at risk, it is increasingly important to be able to justify the institution to funding bodies
  • Management - organising teams of staff and volunteers


Archivists can be found in a wide variety of organisations

They differ from librarians in that their priority is the conservation and cataloguing of a wide number of different items