Rare Book Librarian

  • Job Reference: 00001547-1
  • Date Posted: 5 May 2022
  • Recruiter: Durham University
  • Location: Durham
  • Salary: £27,116 to £33,309
  • Sector: Higher Education
  • Job Type: Contract, Full-time
  • Duration: Fixed term for two years

Job Description

The Department and role

In January 1833 Bishop William van Mildert donated 160 volumes to found the University Library, located on Palace Green and in the same year Durham’s first university museum opened to the public. Today the University Library and Collections offers spaces, collections, expertise and services supporting education, research, the wider student experience and cultural and educational outreach. Collections and services operate across a wide estate of libraries, archives, museums, galleries and exhibition spaces, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site on Palace Green. Our nationally and internationally recognised collections span early books, archives and manuscripts, museum objects and art, print and electronic materials and include a repository of digitised materials, research outputs and research data. Our users encompass anyone engaging with our collections, services and facilities in person or remotely, this includes university staff, researchers from around the globe, students in higher education from Durham and other universities, school pupils and teachers, Durham’s local residents and tourists.

We are an ambitious and developing team with a focus on providing the best experience for our students, researchers and the wider community. We are valued partners working with students, professional services and academics across the University, and professionals and organisations regionally, nationally and internationally.

The University Library and Collections is made up of six sections: Collections; Customer Services; Education, Learning and Engagement; Research and Systems; Museums, Galleries and Exhibitions; and Finance and Administration. Staff work flexibly between the sections, 7 enabled by cross-cutting groups, Collections, Education, Engagement, User Experience, Operations, Research, Staff Development and a Programme and Project Steering Group.

The Collections team, under the leadership of the Head of Collections, has broad responsibility for the acquisition, cataloguing, management, preservation and conservation of collections, including modern print and electronic collections, archives, and rare books. Their work also includes the administration of reading lists, inter-library loan, and the provision of search-room and enquiry services for archives and special collections. Their expertise and collections knowledge (alongside colleagues across the department, for example in our museums team) are used in support of learning, teaching, research and public engagement activities.

The Archives and Special Collections at Palace Green Library comprise exceptionally rich and varied material, dating from early medieval to modern, and including manuscripts, archives, rare and open access books, maps, prints, photographs, born-digital and digitised material and some objects.

The Rare Books Specialist/Librarian helps to facilitate access to the collections through:

  • Creating and enhancing early printed book catalogue records to full DCRM(B) standard, incorporating copy-specific information to enable a rich understanding of the significance of collections and individual items; 
  • Supporting the maintenance of collections care, in collaboration with colleagues in Conservation; 
  • Supporting the Rare Book Collections Manager in the development and ongoing management of the printed book collections at Palace Green Library;
  • In cooperation with senior colleagues, providing advice to users from the academic and wider public research communities on the services and collections available;
  • Facilitating and enhancing access through contributing to the development and delivery of events and resources to support research, educational and engagement activities, including tours, ‘show-and-tells’, exhibitions, and social media channels;
  • Supervising and training others to ensure maintenance of cataloguing standards and promote best practice

You will also contribute to the delivery of the public service in the search room at Palace Green Library to facilitate research access to the collections.


Role responsibilities:

  • Contribute to frontline stakeholder services in a variety of different buildings and environments and outlets across the University, especially Palace Green Library.
  • Collaborate within the service team and across other services to ensure the seamless provision intellectual and physical access to the collections
  • Carry out internal and external presentations and public relations events promoting the Durham reputation, and encouraging participation and income generation.
  • Gather, record and analyse customer feedback from all service users.
  • Identify potential service improvements and make recommendations, particularly in the area of printed collections management
  • Develop, plan, promote, deliver, and teach classes, events and activities for students, staff and visitors, including routine lectures and workshops, to raise awareness of the printed book collections
  • Contribute to service user engagement, promotion and communication activities, events and presentations with or without team members, for example through exhibitions development activities, and the creation of online resources, including social media posts, focusing in particular on the printed book collections.
  • Responsible, alongside the Rare Book Collections Manager, for curating the set-up, order, display and information pertinent to the service area and / or activity.
  • Work with other functional areas and families across the University to ensure the most diverse and accessible promotion of collections, services, events and activities.
  • Prepare written reports for consideration by management where required.
  • Any other reasonable duties.


Essential Criteria:

  • Excellent oral and written communication skills and the ability to develop effective working relationships, both internally and externally.
  • Proven IT skills, including use of Microsoft Office and Library Management Systems (especially Alma and Primo)
  • Educated to degree level (or equivalent experience)
  • Professional qualification in library and information studies (or equivalent experience)
  • Proficiency in MARC21 book cataloguing and subject indexing, and rare book cataloguing to AACR2/RDA and DCRM (B) standards, including the ability to interpret and accurately describe copy-specific elements such as historical bindings and provenance information
  • Basic proficiency in one or more European languages
  • Good understanding of the Western European history of the printed book from the 15th to the early 20th century
  • Demonstrable ability to provide advice and guidance to a range of customers and colleagues.
  • Ability to solve problems as part of a team and resolve issues, plan solutions and make pragmatic decisions.


Specific role requirements

The role is based mainly at Palace Green Library but working at other University sites may also be required.

There may be a requirement for the post holder to work evenings, weekends and bank holidays, as business demands.


Working Arrangements

At Durham we recognise that our staff and students are our greatest asset and we want to support the health and wellbeing of all.  Hybrid working supports this ethos and provides many benefits to our colleagues, including empowering people, where their role allows, to work in a manner which is more suitable for them, whilst encouraging our commitment to environmental sustainability.

The post is full time, fixed term for a 2-year period and may be offered on an internal secondment basis subject to the agreement of the current line manager.


Reward and Benefits

To support the delivery of the University's People Strategy to attract, retain and reward the very best, we offer a fantastic range of rewards and benefits to our staff, including:

  • 27 days’ annual leave, plus 4 customary days and 8 bank holidays (pro-rata for part time) and the option to purchase additional leave;
  • Automatic enrolment into a pension scheme;
  • Corporate and local discounts;
  • Wellbeing resources and discounted health benefits;
  • Health discounts on sports and activities at Maiden Castle Health and Activity Centre;
  • Reward and Recognition Schemes;
  • Personal and career development;
  • And SO much more, with further information available here


To apply, please visit our website.

Closing date: 5 June 2022.

Interviews are anticipated to take place around mid-late July.