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Novel careers at HK libraries

Public libraries hold a special place in the heart of the Hong Kong community, where over four million regular users borrow more than 58 million items a year.

As part of the human interface for the system’s variety of services, Glendy Lee, senior public librarian for the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) – which operates all of the city’s public libraries – says her work is constantly evolving.

“The desire among people to use public library services to gain access to information through technology is one of the biggest developments we are experiencing,” she says.

According to the latest figures, the Hong Kong Public Libraries website received more than 153 million visits over the last 12 months. The website currently allows users to reserve books, renew loans and request research and reference assistance.

Hong Kong public librarians operate and manage a network of 67 static libraries and 10 mobile libraries. They also co-ordinate projects with the Education Bureau, schools and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). “Librarians advise on and help to co-ordinate numerous community projects that offer library services to the elderly and NGOs,” says Lee.

With the library network providing about 12.6 million items of printed and multimedia material, including 130,000 e-books, free to the public, Lee says librarians need the knowledge, tools and experience to categorise items and help users find what they are looking for.

“Communication skills are extremely important for a librarian. It is part of our job to promote and encourage the use of public library services,” Lee says. She adds that front-line staffers need to assist everyone from young children and students to readers with specialist interests and academic researchers.

Lee, who joined the organisation as an assistant librarian, explains that those who join the service usually hold degrees in one of a wide range of subjects and start their career at the assistant-librarian level. To move up to librarian, senior librarian and chief librarian, workers must continue their studies to gain a diploma and master’s in library studies or information studies.

In-house programmes and on-the-job learning also play an important role in career development. Librarians can choose to specialise in a number of subjects including children’s library needs, technology, and reference and research.

Lee says one of the most satisfying aspects of her work is seeing children continue to use public library services as they become teenagers and adults. “It really is like planting a small seed and watching it grow and flourish,” she says.

For those interested in working in a library, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s Pao Yue-kong Library is currently looking to hire an assistant librarian. The successful applicant will be required to participate in the development of online information literacy programmes, as well as serving as a school librarian and supporting faculty users to assess information for their teaching and learning programmes. Further responsibilities include preparing subject guides, database guides, information signposts, point-of-use assistance and instructional materials in various formats.

Job candidates should have a recognised degree with a postgraduate qualification in library science or information science and at least five years of relevant experience in reference or information work in an academic library setting. Preference will be given to those with proven experience in designing and creating programmes using Flash, Dreamweaver, Camtasia, SnagIT, HTML, JavaScript and CGI, with demonstrated knowledge and ability of instructional design.

Lingnan University, meanwhile, is in the market for an assistant library officer. The appointee will need to work with information-services librarians to develop and maintain the contents of the Lingnan Library website and tend to the information desk and other service counters. Beyond contributing to the general services and office duties within the information-services team, the chosen candidate will also assist in the creation and uploading of archive records and institutional repository contents.

Applicants should have a good honours degree and a good command of English and Chinese. Experience with web-development software and social networking sites will also be advantageous.

An assistant librarian is also wanted at the Hong Kong University Graduate Association College. Duties include circulation, acquisitions, resource maintenance and student supervision. Candidates should have a working knowledge of Microsoft Office and good general computer skills. Familiarity with student literature and the ability to communicate in both English and Cantonese are also advantages, as is prior working experience in a library setting.