What Does a Technical Librarian Do?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 29 November 2019
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A technical librarian may oversee a library of technical documentation or provide cataloging and support to a library collection. These two library careers can have different job requirements. It is usually necessary to hold a master's degree, usually in library science, for this work. Some libraries also expect some experience to be considered for the job. In addition to working with books, journals, and other traditional print media, technical librarians also need to be prepared to work with multimedia and digital materials.

In the case of a technical library, the facility stores technical references, often for an organization or company. At an aerospace company, for example, engineers need to be able to access a variety of publications pertaining to their work. These can include trade journals, texts, and other information of interest. The technical librarian manages the collection and provides services to patrons who need assistance.

The work may include ordering, periodic culling of the collection, and cataloging. Technical librarians also need to maintain accurate and thorough records to assist patrons most effectively. As people enter the library seeking resources, they may need help finding them. Computer systems and other reference equipment like microfilm machines require maintenance and attention from the technical librarian, who may work with an information technology staffer to address problems.


Other libraries use technical librarians for support. They curate collections, catalog them, and make sure information in the library records is complete and up to date. Information technology support can also fall under the responsibilities of the technical librarian. The job can involve a mix of patron interactions and meetings with other librarians to address the needs of the facility.

Support staff at a library play a key role in the management of the collection. They can participate in ordering decisions, removal of outdated references, and catalog maintenance. Familiarity with the collection is critical, as is an understanding of the needs of the patrons. People visiting a community library, for example, have different expectations than attorneys visiting a law library, and the resources available need to reflect their individual requirements.

Both of these jobs involve continuing education as well as initial qualifications. A technical librarian needs to keep up with developments in the field through trade publications, conferences, and other tools. This can help librarians offer the most appropriate and effective services to patrons as well as coworkers. Some employers may pay for journal subscriptions, conference fees, and other professional development tools in the interest of keeping their staff educated and prepared for all situations.


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