What Does a Public Librarian Do?

Christina Edwards

A public librarian is a librarian who works in a public library. These types of librarians may specialize in certain departments or help run the entire library. They are typically responsible for helping library patrons, organizing books, and keeping computers up and running properly. Book ordering and money managing may also be part of a librarian's job description.

Public librarians must ensure books are shelved in the correct order.
Public librarians must ensure books are shelved in the correct order.

Librarians keep books and other reference materials organized and easily accessible. A public librarian works in a public library. Very large public libraries may have several librarians who specialize in different departments, such as reference or children's books. Small public libraries, on the other hand, will usually only have a few librarians who all help with the day-to-day running of the library.

A public librarian may assist patrons with locating specific books.
A public librarian may assist patrons with locating specific books.

Customer service is usually one of the duties of a public librarian. These librarians will usually need to help library patrons with a variety of tasks. They will usually need to check out books for card holders, for example, and they will often need to help patrons find library items, like books or magazines.

Public librarians might help children to access computers.
Public librarians might help children to access computers.

Organization is also a big part of librarian's job. Fiction books, for instance, are typically placed on the library shelves alphabetically, according to the author's name. Nearly all libraries also use something called the Dewey decimal system to organize non-fiction books. This system invented by Melvin Dewey, an American librarian in the late 1800s, assigns each book subject a three-digit number. To make finding non-fiction books simple, a public librarian must place each of them on the shelves according to this system.

In most libraries, old fashioned card catalogs have been replaced with computer systems.
In most libraries, old fashioned card catalogs have been replaced with computer systems.

Library patrons can easily find books of a certain subject by using something known as a card catalog. Today, most card catalogs are electronic card catalogs. These computers must be running properly, and any problems with them should be addressed as soon as possible. Any other computers in a library, such as those used to access the Internet, should also be working properly. For this reason, a modern public librarian should have decent knowledge of computers, how they work, and how to fix them.

A public librarian is also responsible for keeping books and other library materials stocked and available to library patrons. Public libraries often obtain many of these materials through donations. Occasionally, however, a librarian must still order and purchase certain materials, such as magazine subscriptions and newly released books.

Budgeting and money management also are important responsibilities of a public librarian. Most public libraries only have a certain amount of money allotted to them each year, usually from government funding. To keep a library running properly, a public librarian must be able to distribute this money properly. Since this money is often not enough, a public librarian will also usually need to organize fundraisers, such as book sales.

Librarians may host informal seminars on subjects patrons will find useful.
Librarians may host informal seminars on subjects patrons will find useful.

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