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What Does a Research Librarian Do?

By M. Kayo
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A research librarian is responsible for organizing and maintaining vast amounts of information for a company or organization. He or she is usually quite adept at helping people to use and get the most from all the facilities and services offered by a library. The main responsibility of a research librarian is to make sure individual users are aware of the many resources a modern library has to offer. Research librarians typically have a master's degree in library science or other related field and some previous experience working in a library. Keeping up with the ever-changing information technology used in libraries and library databases is also a big part of this job.

Some research librarians work in law or medical libraries and assist students or other professionals in the use of all facilities and services. These librarians use their technological skills and knowledge to meet the specific research needs of individuals. A research librarian may analyze many different types of information for consulting firms, colleges, universities, government agencies, or even non-profit organizations in order to help individual users find what they need. For example, a research librarian working at a research facility may assist a team of engineers in locating specific information regarding a project on which they may currently be working. This assistance may be in the form of helping users locate and retrieve information on the web, from digital media, or from standard publications.

Most research librarians have earned an advanced degree in library and information science; in the US, this will typically include a master's from a degree program accredited by the American Libraries Association (ALA). They typically also have at least two or three years prior experience working as a professional librarian. Many have studied the various aspects of technical and scientific librarianship both from a traditional and technological standpoint. Research librarians have been trained in the methods needed to electronically manage and deliver all library services and resources to end users. A research librarian may serve as liaison to many different academic or scientific groups, and some have acquired specialized training to be able to provide the special needs of a technical or research staff.

Due to the wide variety of new information and storage technology, continuing education and training is also important for a research librarian. Some companies or organizations may find it challenging to locate a research librarian who can handle all the traditional library duties and have a working knowledge of emerging information technology as well. Successful librarians are well-versed in handling materials and information in traditional formats as well as working with newer technological tools. For example, a research librarian may know all the ins-and-outs of the card catalog as well as being responsible for creating and maintaining information databases which hold large amounts of data.

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