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What Does an Acquisitions Librarian Do?

M.C. Huguelet
Updated May 17, 2024
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The job of an acquisitions librarian centers upon acquiring new materials for the library at which she works. This general objective is usually broken down into a number of different tasks, such as communicating with different library departments to determine what kinds of materials are needed, ordering, tracking, and receiving these materials, obtaining licensing for electronic materials, working with a budget, and in some cases, serving patrons and shelving books. An acquisitions librarian may be employed by several different types of public or private institutions. Those who wish to work in this field generally must complete a degree in library and information science.

In most cases, an acquisition librarian’s general role of obtaining new materials for a library breaks down into a number of separate tasks. Chief among these tasks is liaising with the heads of the individual departments within the library to decide which materials are needed. If the librarian works in a small library that is not divided into separate departments, she may be fully responsible for determining which items to order.

Once the acquisitions librarian has decided which materials her library needs, she then orders the materials. This will likely involve researching pricing for these materials at different vendors with which she has a working relationship. Next, she purchases the materials, ensures that they are received by the library, and in some cases, inspects them and prepares them for circulation. If the library is in need of an electronic item, she may be responsible for obtaining the proper licensing for that item.

Often, the job of an acquisitions librarian has a financial dimension. Specifically, she will usually need to ensure that her orders fit within the library’s budget. She may also need to process invoices and ensure that vendors are paid for orders placed by her library.

Small libraries may require their acquisitions librarians to multitask. In other words, in addition to their acquisitions duties, they may also perform other jobs as needed. This can include such tasks as assisting patrons and shelving books.

An acquisitions librarian may work for a few different types of institutions. She may, for instance, be employed by a university or a secondary school or may work for a government library. Museums with reading rooms may also hire an acquisitions librarian, as well as private corporations that have their own libraries.

Those who wish to become acquisitions librarians usually must have a degree in library and information science. In most cases, this is a master’s level degree, and thus it can be undertaken only after the completion of an undergraduate degree. Specialty libraries, such as law or medical libraries, may require their acquisitions librarians to have some background in the library’s specialty.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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M.C. Huguelet
By M.C. Huguelet
Cate Huguelet, a Chicago-based freelance writer with a passion for storytelling, crafts engaging content for a wide range of publications, including WiseGeek. With degrees in Writing and English, she brings a unique perspective and a commitment to clean, precise copy that resonates with readers. Her ability to understand and connect with audiences makes her a valuable asset to any content creation team.
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M.C. Huguelet
M.C. Huguelet
Cate Huguelet, a Chicago-based freelance writer with a passion for storytelling, crafts engaging content for a wide...
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