Becoming an art librarian
This page aims to provide some useful information about how to become a qualified art librarian or information professional. Contact details for the ARLIS Students and Trainee Committee are included at the bottom of the page, for any further enquiries.
Where do I start?
CILIP (The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) provides lots of useful information on routes to becoming a qualified librarian.
To specialise in art librarianship, it is not essential to have a degree in an art-related subject, as long as you can demonstrate a genuine interest in the subject. After graduating, many people spend a year gaining paid experience as a Graduate Trainee in a library or information service. CILIP provides a list of current Graduate Trainee opportunities, including many placements in art institutions, such as art colleges, galleries and museums.
Graduate Trainee opportunities may also be advertised on CILIPīs jobs website LisJobNet, as well as on its site for temporary vacancies, LisJobTemps.com, for which registration is required.
How do I become qualified?
To progress to a professional role as an art librarian or information professional, it will be necessary to gain an undergraduate or postgraduate qualification in Library and Information studies, or a related subject.
ASLIB (The Association for Information Management) offers a list of information studies-related courses in the UK and Ireland. Please note that these are not necessarily accredited by CILIP.
For a list of CILIP-accredited courses in the UK, go to:
Most, but not all, courses require previous experience in a library or information service. There are also different course durations and modes of study to choose from, including full-time, part-time and distance learning.
There are currently no courses specialising in art librarianship, but students can choose to focus their coursework and/or dissertation on art-related topics and contexts.
How can I demonstrate my skills and interests in art librarianship to admissions tutors or potential employers?
Itīs important to keep up-to-date with current issues and developments in the field of information studies, by reading journals, such as ARLISī Art Libraries Journal and CILIPīs Library & Information Update magazine.
Getting involved in ARLIS and taking advantage of its networking and training opportunities is an excellent way to gain extra experience and knowledge in the field of art librarianship. Joining the ARLIS discussion list, ARLIS-LINK, enables users to find out more about current issues in the field by reading questions from other colleagues or posting their own. There is also an art librariansī discussion list specifically for students and trainees, ARLIS-STC.
ARLIS organises a varied programme of events including visits to libraries and archives, talks by information professionals, workshops, an annual conference and internal ARLIS meetings that may be of interest. A full calendar of events and details of how to book are available at the Events section of the ARLIS website.
The Students and Trainees Committee (STC) organises an annual event for anyone considering becoming an art librarian or information professional: īTaking the Plunge: art librarianship as a career optionī. This includes presentations from professionals working in diverse roles within the sector and is an ideal opportunity to ask questions and meet other people with similar interests.
It is also very useful to be able to demonstrate a current awareness of the art world, by visiting exhibitions, attending gallery talks and reading journals, such as The Art Newspaper or Museums Journal.
ARLIS STC runs an excellent annual workshop, īAn Introduction to Art & Design Reference Resourcesī which introduces delegates to the varied art-specific resources available to them and offers a practical workshop to try them out.
How do I find a job once Iīm qualified?
Job vacancies for qualified art librarians and information professionals will be advertised directly on the websites of employers (such as art colleges, galleries, museums and other arts organisations) and often on the following sites as well:
CILIPīs jobs website, LisJobNet lists vacancies for library and information professionals at all kinds of institutions and organisations, including art-related opportunities.
Guardian Jobs lists all types of job vacancies including art-related opportunities for library and information professionals.
The Information Management section of Jobs.ac.uk includes vacancies at art-related academic institutions and organisations.
The Jobs page of the Museums Association website includes vacancies at art galleries and museums, for which you will first have to register.
Vacancies are also often advertised via the ARLIS-LINK discussion list.
If you have any further questions about becoming an art librarian or information professional, please contact the Chair of the Students and Trainees Committee, Peter Winning.
You may also like to visit the ARLIS Students and Trainees blog, which includes discussion areas, photos of our events and insights into what real art librarians get up to on an average working day.