What Does a Document Librarian Do?

Maggie Worth
Maggie Worth
Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

A document librarian is a professional responsible for a collection of documents that often are comprised of a variety of physical and online formats. Such librarians are responsible for maintaining the collection and for assisting patrons with research and similar activities. They may work at a traditional or college library, at an archives facility or museum, or in the documents department of a governmental or corporate entity.

Many libraries contain special collections of documents, including historical records, government papers and research reports. These documents could be bound or unbound, and may be in paper or electronic form. They are rarely in circulation, meaning that they cannot be checked out and must be used within the library, and sometimes only in special reading rooms. While these documents might be of significant interest and use to patrons, their unusual format can make them hard to search. A document librarian typically is responsible for helping patrons find what they need and, in some cases, translating the information presented.

In most cases, the document librarian will also be responsible for ensuring that patrons do not take materials with them and that they observe all regulations about use. This might include prohibiting food and beverage in rooms approved for use with materials and ensuring that no one folds, tears or marks the documents. The document librarian may also be responsible for maintaining the collection when it is not in use. For example, old or damaged documents may require special care, such as humidity and temperature control.

Similar duties arise when the document librarian works for a museum or archival facility. Such libraries may or may not be open to the general public, and may be restricted to researchers or scholars. Some also prohibit handling of the documents, in which case the librarian will take research requests, find the information herself and return the data to the requester.

In a government or corporate setting, access is usually strictly limited. A document librarian may only field requests from principles or related departments. In government settings, such librarians may be required to obtain various levels of security clearance as well.

While the term was originally coined to refer to a human professional and remains in standard use as such, a document librarian can also be a computer program. This type of program is generally installed on a computer or server in order to manage stored documents. Such programs often offer search, share and archive functions.

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