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The Role of the Government Librarian

A 21st Century Librarian for a 21st Century Public Service The Role of the Librarian in Government Libraries

The last decade has seen huge changes in the civil/public service in Ireland. The programme of modernisation of the public service has in turn had an impact on the provision of information services within government departments.

The public servant of the 21st century is becoming an increasingly sophisticated user of information and government librarians and information services have had to change and develop to meet these needs.

Users of government library services range from Department of Agriculture policy-makers involved in agriculture and trade negotiations and vets who help to ensure animal health and food safety through to lawyers working for the Law Offices of the State involved in drafting legislation and providing legal advice.

What unites these users is their requirement for proactive, time critical services, delivered through a variety of formats.

Government library and information units provide a wide range of services to government departments. This includes access to books, journals and databases as well as provision of current awareness services, enquiry and research services and information skills training. The running of this seamless service rests on a lot of hard work on the part of the librarians and their staff. In common with all librarians, government librarians are required to master a wide range of skills and competencies including negotiation skills for licensing and copyright agreements and securing value for money from vendors. In addition to managing the provision and development of information services, government librarians are also leading knowledge management initiatives, co-ordinating the provision of information through office intranets and internets and contributing to the overall management of government departments through their work on departmental committees and cross departmental working groups.

There are approximately 30 professionally qualified librarians currently employed in what is broadly termed the government libraries sector. As well as central government departments, there are libraries serving the legislature, the judiciary and a wide variety of other authorities, agencies and offices of the State throughout the country. Supporting staff bring the total working population of the sector to approximately 150 people.

The Government Libraries Group within the LAI seeks to promote cooperation within the government libraries. It creates an environment for the sharing of experience and expertise through regular meetings, training sessions and its journal GLINT. It has worked at the forefront of several library and information issues in recent years, and the ongoing changes to copyright law in particular.