Rare Book Librarian

Updated: 2 months ago
Location: Durham, ENGLAND

Rare Book Librarian (
Job Number:
Grade 6: - £27,116 - £33,309 per annum
Fixed Term - Full Time
Contract Duration: Two years from start date
Contracted Hours per Week: 35
Closing Date
: 05-Jun-2022, 6:59:00 PM 

Shortlisting is anticipated to take place around the end of June. 

When appointing to this role the University must ensure that it meets any applicable immigration requirements, including salary thresholds which are applicable to some visas.

The Department and role purpose:

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

The postholder also contributes to the delivery of the public service in the search room at Palace Green Library to facilitate research access to the collections

Core responsibilities:

  • Experienced service practitioner, planning and co-ordinating of projects and work streams with inter-related activities.
  • Plan and organise own workload with or without involvement with project work streams.
  • Specialist support with problem solving and query handling.
  • Reactive and proactive service provision with others to deliver an excellent stakeholder experience.
  • Relationship building, network participation internally and externally to build and update knowledge and skills.
  • Resolve queries and requests for information and advice and escalate more specialist and complex queries or issues to more experienced team members.
  • Work collaboratively across the organisation and/or externally with colleagues and stakeholders to deliver a service.
  • Engage with external peers and specialists to exchange knowledge and information.
  • Supervises service users and stakeholders undertaking activities, events, project work and exhibitions.
  • Interpret, curate, design and present artefacts, information, data, equipment and resources, for example for teaching and community engagement purposes
  • Implement and monitor protocols, procedures, processes and regulations.
  • Monitor and report incidents.
  • Carry out more in-depth investigations, searches and research information and data to identify trends and patterns in the field of rare books librarianship and metadata management
  • Take responsibility for day to day decision making within own area of responsibility for operational aspects of service delivery, translating external requirements into practical application and advice.
  • Implement and monitor recognised procedures to ensure compliance and meet University values of inclusion, diversity and participation.
  • Contribute to business meetings, working groups and committees to help shape service delivery and stakeholder expectations.
  • Support the capture of business requirements from users and work with colleagues to translate these into recommendations for future service provision.

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.

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.

Depending on the needs of the business and the job role, Durham University is piloting hybrid working for all Professional Services colleagues in the academic year 2021/2022, which may include the opportunity to work both on and off campus and to flex working hours.  If appointed to the post, your line-manager will discuss the specific arrangements with you.  Any hybrid arrangements are non-contractual and may change within the pilot and when the pilot ends.

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


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

Recruiting to this post

In order to be considered for interview, candidates must evidence each of the essential criteria required for the role in the person specification.  In some cases, the recruiting panel may also consider the desirable criteria, so we recommend you evidence all criteria in your application.  

Please note that some criteria will only be considered at interview stage.

Please note that candidates applying via redeployment are only eligible to apply to a post at the same Grade or one Grade lower. 

How to apply 

We prefer to receive applications online.

Please note that in submitting your application Durham University will be processing your data. We would ask you to consider the relevant University Privacy Statement https://www.dur.ac.uk/ig/dp/privacy/pnjobapplicants/ which provides information on the collation, storing and use of data.

Information if you have a disability

The University welcomes applications from disabled people. We are committed to ensuring fair treatment throughout the recruitment process. We will make adjustments to support the interview process wherever it is reasonable to do so and, where successful, adjustments will be made to support people within their role.

If you are unable to complete your application via our recruitment system, please get in touch with us on e.recruitment@durham.ac.uk .

What you are required to submit 

1. A CV; 

2. A covering letter which details your experience, strengths and potential in the requirements set out in the essential and desirable criteria;

3. Completion of a Word document, with examples of how you satisfy the person specification and the Realising Your Potential Approach criteria.  Please ensure you give detailed examples of how you meet these criteria if requested.  

Please ensure that you submit all documentation listed above or your application cannot proceed to the next stage.

Contact details 

For further information regarding this post, please contact;  Dr Danielle Westerhof, Rare Book Collections Manager at danielle.m.westerhof@durham.ac.uk

Contact information for technical difficulties when submitting your application

If you encounter technical difficulties when using the online application form, we prefer you send enquiries by email.  Please send your name along with a brief description of the problem you’re experiencing to e.recruitment@durham.ac.uk

We will notify you on the status of your application at various points throughout the selection process, via automated emails from our e-recruitment system.  Please check your spam/junk folder periodically to ensure you receive all emails.

At Durham University, our aim is to create an open and inclusive environment where everyone can reach their full potential and believe our staff should reflect the diversity of the global community in which we work.  We welcome and encourage applications from members of groups who are under-represented in our work force including people with disabilities, women and black, Asian and minority ethnic communities.

As a University we foster a collegiate community of extraordinary people aligned to the University’s values .  Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) are a key part of the University’s Strategy and a central part of everything we do.  At Durham we actively work towards providing an environment where our staff and students can study, work and live in a community which is supportive and inclusive, and in doing so, recruit the world’s best candidates from all backgrounds and identities. It’s important to us that all of our colleagues are aligned to both our values and commitment to EDI.


Person specification - skills, knowledge, qualifications and experience required

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.
  • Desirable Criteria 

  • Evidence of personal development to maintain skills. 
  • Relevant experience in a similar role / environment.
  • Ability to effectively network and exchange advice and information for development purposes. 
  • Ability to contribute to planning at operational level.
  • Realising Your Potential Approach 

    The Realising Your Potential Approach clarifies the behaviours expected to be demonstrated by all staff across Professional Services in the University regardless of their role. Along with the core responsibilities, role responsibilities and the person specification, the Realising Your Potential Approach behavioural indicators are used to inform the recruitment and selection process. Further information on the Realising Your Potential Approach is available here.

    • Finding Solutions

    Working creatively and collaboratively on solving issues and making improvements, both within and across teams

    • Working together as part of a team

    Communicating effectively and working collaboratively towards achieving team goals

    • Respecting others

    Acting fairly and respectfully towards others, without judgement

    • Providing excellent user services and professional support

    Delivering consistent service standards and fostering continuous improvement

    Job Family: Community, Participation and Engagement Services

    OUR CHARACTERISTICS: We are a globally outstanding centre of teaching and research excellence, a collegiate community of extraordinary people, in a unique and historic setting.    

    OUR VALUESWe are inspiring, challenging, innovative, responsible and enabling.

    Durham University

    Durham University is one of the world's top universities with strengths across the Arts and Humanities, Business, Sciences and Social Sciences. We are home to some of the most talented scholars and researchers from around the world who are tackling global issues and making a difference to people's lives. 

    The University sits in a beautiful historic city where it shares ownership of a UNESCO World Heritage Site with Durham Cathedral, the greatest Romanesque building in Western Europe. A collegiate University, Durham recruits outstanding students from across the world and offers an unmatched wider student experience.

    Durham University seeks to promote and maintain an inclusive and supportive environment for work and study that assists all members of our University community to reach their full potential. Diversity brings strength and we welcome applications from across the international, national and regional communities that we work with and serve.

    It is expected that all staff within the University:

    • Contribute to our learning culture by engaging in mentoring, training and coaching.
    • Positively contribute to fostering a collegial environment; as well as demonstrating commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion.
    • Have due regard to Health and Safety requirements appropriate to grade and role.

    Family key attributes

    Roles in this family provide an excellent stakeholder experience for our diverse and supportive community.   

    Overall family purpose

    • Provide excellent student support services, development and extra-curricular activities.
    • Align and deliver programmes and activities to meet operational and strategic objectives to enhance the stakeholder experience.
    • Respond to stakeholders at the point of service delivery, either in situ or remotely.
    • Facilitate the development of excellent colleague and academic engagement.
    • Provide a stakeholder focussed service designed to increase widening participation and diversity.
    • Promote the Durham reputation by establishing and broadening national and international community links to enhance the cultural and economic viability of the City and region.
    • Enhance the Durham wider student experience by developing extra-curricular activities.
    • Contribute to and enhance active, inclusive and supportive communities of stakeholders.
    • Work collaboratively and network across the University with staff in other families to ensure a smooth, timely and high-quality delivery of service.
    • Engage with suppliers, consultants and specialist professionals to deliver programmes and activities to enhance the stakeholder experience.
    • Engage and encourage outreach and participation with external professionals, schools, alumni and donors.
    • Engage and network with both internal and external stakeholders to facilitate knowledge exchange and impact through local, national and international communities.  

    Link to key strategic plan

    • An economically and environmentally sustainable approach to delivering stakeholder focussed services across the University;
    • A world-class student, alumni and donor experience;
    • Focussed on the needs of all users working together to deliver front-line services as part of the Wider Student Experience;
    • Learn from and match best practice in the Wider Student Experience around the world;
    • Opening up our world-class sporting facilities to local clubs and athletes;
    • Support and facilitate activities as part of the Widening Student Experience at Durham;
    • A stakeholder-focused orientation, offering satisfying careers to all staff;
    • Ensure that an increasingly diverse workforce is treated equally, fairly and with respect, and that all staff are demonstrably valued and actively engaged.

    DBS Requirement: Not Applicable.
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