What Are Common Librarian Duties?

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  • Written By: C. Mitchell
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 13 November 2019
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Shelving, organizing, and sorting books are among the most common librarian duties, though the job also includes research skills, Internet database work, and often also business management. In most libraries, librarians are in charge of managing all aspects of day-to-day happenings. A lot of these things are seen by patrons, but many of them happen in back offices or over the computer, as well. Librarian duties cover everything about running a library, from creating a hospitable environment to ensuring that bills are paid, books are ordered, and information networks are operational.

The most recognizable librarian duties center on the aesthetic presentation of books. In their most basic sense, libraries are vast collections of books and related media like films, sound recordings, and magazines. It is the librarians’ job to ensure that all materials are organized in such a way that patrons can easily locate them. A librarian must catalog volumes according to an organized system, and re-shelve material that has been misplaced or temporarily removed from circulation.

Librarians must also check materials out and in. This usually involves using a computer scanning system, but is also sometimes done by hand, using a ledger to record the patron’s name and the materials borrowed. Librarians usually also set and assess late fees for items that are returned past due.


Catalog maintenance is another common librarian duty. Librarians must manage subscriptions to magazines and other periodicals, for instance, to ensure that the most recent issues have been received. Books that are damaged or lost must usually also be replaced, and new releases and current best sellers must be procured. Libraries are valuable in part for their archive qualities, but also for their selection of current and cutting edge information. Ensuring a proper balance is one of the most important, yet often overlooked, librarian jobs.

In many places, librarians must also be research experts. Librarians are often called upon to assist researchers and library customers. Sometimes this involves answering factual questions, but it often requires help locating or suggesting specific resources. A librarian career often centers on a comprehensive knowledge of what books are available, how to find them, and where.

Many librarian duties are more managerial, as well. Librarians are often charged with organizing library events and must also keep track of scheduling and managing common spaces. Community libraries often have conference rooms that can be rented or reserved, for instance, just as many academic facilities have study rooms. When there are computers available for public use, librarian duties include regulating patron time online and monitoring to ensure appropriate access.

Librarians also tend to be business-savvy. They are often in charge of the library’s accounting and may even be responsible for proposing and authoring budget reports. Managing a library’s expenses and operating costs is one of a librarian’s least glamorous, but often most important, duties.


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