In recent weeks I saw 3 jobs advertised for a ‘branch librarian’ in our local authority libraries in Limerick. This was exciting as the opportunities for librarians in Limerick is at best limited. So on further investigation I learned that these jobs were
in fact part-time library assistant roles, not requiring librarian qualifications. So I wondered why, and asked around my public library colleagues to try and understand more about the use of ‘branch librarian’ as a job title.
Branch librarians are recruited in our local authority libraries to carry out the following duties:
- front-line duties at public library desk
- dealing with customer queries, book requests and internet bookings
- creating new customer records & updating existing records on Library IT System
- assisting in promotion of the library service – class visits, community events & exhibitions
- compiling monthly statistical information
- any other duties as may be assigned
With retirements and non-replacement of staff still a major sore in our public services, I was disappointed to read that in fact what was being sought here was someone with essential customer service skills, some IT skills, but no professional qualification.
For the reasons set out below, I feel that this job title can not go unchecked by our profession and our professional body, the Library Association of Ireland:
- The successful candidates by virtue of their appointment achieves a higher status than the sitting staff member who may, because of seniority and experience and qualifications, be the de facto manager in the branch library
- The devaluation of librarian qualifications through the appointment of candidates who may have a good standard in general education (as set out in the job ad.).
- The inaccurate perception by the public that the local authorities are hiring ‘librarians’ when in fact they are hiring people on a payscale below that of the retiring incumbent who could have held an actual librarian grade, and qualification.
- The difficulties that arise in other sectors when qualified librarians are being recruited, by the use of ‘branch librarian’ in application forms and resumes.
I took the time to write to the LAI about this matter and am heartened by their response, whereby they committed to act upon it. A circular needs to issue to the local authorities over the continued use of the inaccurate job title of branch librarian. There are many qualified librarians in Ireland at present who need to get professional experience and not be stop gaps in our underfunded public system, bringing technical and professional expertise to a post where advancement beyond branch librarian is said to be extremely difficult.