Careers in Rare Books and Manuscripts: Frequently Asked Questions / Job Resources / Types of Positions
Types of Positions
What types of positions are available in the field?
A wide variety of library or archive positions will allow you to work with rare books and manuscripts. In general, each of the functions necessary in any other library setting is also performed in a special collections repository; these include:
- Public services: Reference Librarians, Reference Archivists, Public Services Librarians
- Technical services: Processing Archivists, Rare Book Librarians, Digital Resource Librarians
- Collection development: Curators, Collection Development Librarians/Archivists, Records Managers, Subject Specialists
- Preservation: Preservation Librarians, Conservators
However, these positions will require special training in how to work with and care for rare materials. They may also require specialized subject knowledge. (see: What education is required to obtain a job in rare books or manuscripts? Is a second advanced degree required?).
It is also worth noting that many special collections professionals must fill multiple professional roles. For example, catalogers may also do reference; curators may catalog; archivists may do preservation; and so on. In smaller institutions, a single professional may be responsible for a large range of duties including supervision of support staff and budgetary management. In terms of formats, a special collections professional may work with everything from rare books to archives to digital materials. Special collections professionals often perform a wide variety of functions and need multiple sets of skills, including solid technical skills.
It is also possible to work with rare materials in non-library settings. For example, many people are employed in the rare book and manuscript trade. People who work in the trade often must have both cataloging and sales skills. Associations for rare book and manuscript dealers include:
Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America (ABAA)
International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB)