Librarian

What does a librarian do?

Librarians (also referred to as information professionals) design, develop and manage collections of recorded material and the delivery of information services to users. Library collections can include books, magazines, computer games and software, photographs, journals, maps, microfilms, CDs, e-books and other digital information. Many librarians work with the public, while others work behind the scenes in technical support and acquisitions or in administration. They may also work in specialist libraries, including corporate, legal, medical or school libraries.

The tasks and duties of librarians may include the following: select, classify and index library and information resources; develop, manage and digitise collections; assist users to identify or interpret information; conduct training programmes to assist library users; communicate and conduct library services through websites and social media; train and supervise staff; create and maintain databases; develop relationships with communities, such as faculty, not-for-profit organisations, learning providers, authors and publishers; plan and select computer systems for the library.

Interview with a librarian

Katherine Moon | LIBRARIAN: PERFORMING ARTS & MUSIC | Central Library, Cape Town

Why did you become a librarian?
I have always loved books and believe that knowledge, information and education should be freely available to everyone, no matter whether they are rich or poor, and this is the purpose of a public library.

Where did you study?
I did a BA degree at the University of Cape Town, followed by a postgraduate two-year Advanced Diploma in Remedial Music (Music Therapy) and then a postgraduate Higher Diploma in Librarianship. I had also studied violin, piano and singing (Royal School of Music), and ballet (Royal Academy of Dance). I am a specialist librarian in the Performing Arts and Music section of the Central Library.

Describe a typical day
There are no ‘typical’ days when one works with the public – there is a lot of variation! This Friday, for example, I did the banking for the library and attended a staff meeting. After that, I catalogued some CDs and books. After lunch, I went ‘on desk’ to help the public. I helped an elderly lady to choose audiobooks, a UNISA student to find pieces of contemporary classical music, and gave school students a template for doing a film review for a project. I also helped a drama student decide which songs she would sing for her exam, and how she would present them. At the same time, I was issuing and returning books, CDs, DVDs and audiobooks.

Experience vs training?
Yes, one needs the formal training, but nothing prepares you for dealing with the various educational and recreational needs of people until you actually do it. You often have to think up new and enterprising ways of getting the job done.

What do you enjoy most?
The interaction with people, and the fact that one is constantly learning. The public actually expect a librarian to know everything, so I am always trying to add to my knowledge. I love it when I get to introduce people to stuff that they had no idea existed – such as different kinds of music, films or books. What I enjoy most is when students come back to me and say ‘I really did well/passed/got the job/found that math was fun because you helped me’.

Career highlight to date
When my library received a huge grant of money from the Carnegie Foundation and we were able to buy books and audiovisual material that we’d only dreamed about. It was so much fun doing the ordering and buying, and even more fun to see how happy the patrons were when they found that we had a lot more stock!

Describe a successful librarian
One needs infinite patience and plenty of empathy and kindness! We deal with approximately 3 000 people a day, and most of these people need one-on-one time, plus help with many diverse subjects. A lot of people are not even sure what they are looking for and one has to ask questions in order to narrow down the query to a specific topic. A good sense of humour is a must! Do not do this job if you have a short temper.

WHAT QUALIFICATIONS DO I NEED?

Some librarians begin their career by getting a job as a library assistant and doing work-based training, though the advancement of information technology has increased the need for formal qualifications. Most librarians do a diploma or a degree in library and information science, and gain the necessary practical experience by working in a library or other appropriate place. A National Senior Certificate that meets the requirements for a diploma or degree course is a prerequisite for attending a programme at a university or college. Graduates can register as a member of the Library and Information Association of South Africa once qualified.

WHAT SUBJECTS DO I NEED?

Contact each institution for their specific requirements, but these subjects are recommended: 
• Mathematics
• Languages
• Computer Applications Technology

WHERE CAN I STUDY?

UNISA
Bachelor of Information Science
www.unisa.ac.za

University of the Western Cape
Bachelor of Library and Information Science
www.uwc.ac.za

University of KwaZulu-Natal
Bachelor of Library and Information Science
www.ukzn.ac.za

Durban University of Technology
National Diploma: Library and Information Studies
www.dut.ac.za

University of Zululand
Bachelor of Library and Information Science; Diploma: Specialised Education (School Library Science)
www.uzulu.ac.za

University of Cape Town
Bachelor of Information Systems
www.uct.ac.za

University of Pretoria
Bachelor of Information Science
www.up.ac.za

University of Stellenbosch
Bachelor of Information Science
www.sun.ac.za

Tshwane University of Technology
National Diploma: Library and Information Studies
www.tut.ac.za

WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFO?

Library and Information Association of South Africa – www.liasa.org.za
National Research Foundation – www.nrf.ac.za
SABINET – www.sabinet.co.za

Sources:
www.careerplanning.about.com
www.myfuture.edu.au