Careers

Opportunities to work with rare book and special collections arise in many kinds of libraries. Specialist independent libraries – such as those concerned with law, medicine, astronomy, beekeeping, architecture or accountancy, to name but a few – with current material in their subject areas sometimes also have older material, and working with this will usually form part of one librarian’s responsibilities.

In a few cases the stock of a specialist library may fall almost entirely into the special collections category and its care may require a full-time special collections librarian. There are many rare book and special collections in the public library sector which are managed alongside current collections.

This applies particularly to local studies collections which frequently hold, for example, unique copies of early local printing and sometimes whole collections (on any subject) gifted by local collectors. Cathedral libraries hold a large amount of early material, including local studies resources.

There are also special collections in national libraries and many university and other research libraries, requiring part-time special collections librarians or, in some cases, one or more full-time special collections librarians.

The wealth of rare books and special collections in the UK – and thus the range of opportunities for librarians interested in this work – can be appreciated from the listing in the Group's publication A Directory of Rare Book and Special Collections in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, 2nd edition, ed. B.C. Bloomfield (London, 1997).