Applying for public library jobs in the U.K. – What to expect

by Suzanne Schultz Pick, Head Editor, INALJ UK

Applying for public library jobs in the U.K. – What to expect

Suzanne Schultz PickThere are lots of fellow librarians on social networks such as Twitter, and Facebook. Plenty of librarians can give you insight on what hiring libraries may be looking for in a new employee.

I asked public librarians on Twitter to give some advice about what essential criteria makes a candidate stand out.

Here are the results:
ICT experience
Customer Service and Customer Care experience
Love of books and literacy and the ability to portray that to their patrons.

Some public library jobs are internal, and many jobs may have limited hours. Any job that can get your foot in the door gives you more and more essential experience.

I was also given the advice that even if a job requires more years experience than you currently have, it’s best to apply for the job anyway. Some librarians claim that many jobs their library posts will have little to no applicants just because potential candidates are put off by the personal specifications for the position.

Checking job sites such as INALJ, or having job alerts sent to you via email is a great way to look through local council jobs that post jobs for your library.

Some positions do not require a degree or will only offer a few hours a week. This should not deter you from applying for the position. Again, this can be an exceptional way to gain experience that a future job would require.

Many jobs posts require personal statements. They are essential in getting you that interview after the hiring staff has gone through lots of applications.

For example, the Surrey County Council asked the following on their application for a Library Assistant:

In order to help us short-list for this position please use this section to provide details of how you meet the criteria outlined in the Job Profile. Please make reference to your career history, skills and experience in support, and provide detailed examples of how you meet the criteria. Please do not use more than 2000 words.

The above job listing indicated, once again, that their potential new hire would “enjoy meeting people as much as you enjoy reading and talking about books.” The emphasis is on experience and the love of books that we all share – that’s why many of us go to library school in the first place, so make sure explain that in your personal statement.

Aside from computer skills and good communication skills, the public library may ensure that you have a “positive attitude towards training and personal development from induction onwards.” Make sure to mention how you love learning in webinars, scholarly articles, and workshops. If they know you are keen to be a lifelong student in the world of public libraries, the more your application will stand out among other potential applicants. There will be a section to list and professional development training you have done.

Sometimes public libraries also need volunteers – it’s just a matter of investigation. Some libraries thrive on volunteering by those who can help out an hour in the building, or even by making deliveries to patrons who are homebound. All of this experience counts!

Here is a list of libraries in the UK that are volunteer run. If one is near your home, it can’t hurt to enquire about helping out in order to gain experience.

A word of advice about contacting establishments via email – it’s convenient, but many, many times the email can get lost in the shuffle. Many times establishments would much rather see you in person, so dropping in to ask about volunteering is the best option by far.