Appointment of the Chief Librarian

Appointment of the Chief Librarian

Dear Candidate,

Thank you for your interest in joining the V&A as the new Chief Librarian of the National Art Library.

The National Art Library is the UK’s most comprehensive reference library for the fine and decorative arts, holding nearly a million printed, manuscript and digital items. It is also the V&A’s curatorial department of the art of the book, actively collecting, researching and making accessible our rare and distinctive collections. Incredibly wide-ranging, these include illuminated manuscripts, the Codex Forster (five of Leonardo’s notebooks), the most substantial collection of Charles Dickens’ literary oeuvre, 20th– and 21st-century artists’ books, comics and children’s literature, and much more.

Since its founding, the National Art Library has embraced a spirit of openness, welcoming all users as well as supporting V&A staff, students and researchers. The library plays an important role in museum programming, hosting events, undertaking outreach and contributing to learning and research programmes, and identifying library materials for inclusion in exhibitions at the V&A and elsewhere.

The new role of Chief Librarian has been created following a significant restructure intended to position the V&A for the future, which has brought together the NAL and Archives under the V&A Research Institute, positioning the library and archives at the heart of the Museum’s research community. It also follows a comprehensive review of the NAL and Archives, which has produced a substantive report and recommendations for our future direction of travel.

We are seeking a visionary and experienced leader to join us at this exciting moment and lead the Library into its next phase. You will be responsible for leading the development of the NAL’s collections – reference and special, physical and digital – and services to a wide variety of users. You’ll lead a team of librarians and curators, and will play a key role as part of the VARI, NAL and Archives leadership team, contributing to the development of this new department and a new strategy that will draw research, the library and archives closer together, maximising the potential of our collections and research resources, and making them accessible and meaningful for as wide a public as possible.

If you are excited about the prospect of joining the V&A, then we do hope you will express an interest in the Chief Librarian role.

You can find out more about us and the role on this site and our advising consultants at Anderson Quigley would be pleased to discuss the role with you.

Joanna Norman
Director of the V&A Research Institute, National Art Library and Archives

About us

The V&A is the world’s leading museum of art and design, housing a permanent collection of over 2.8 million objects, books and archives that span over 5,000 years of human creativity. The museum holds many of the UK’s national collections and houses some of the greatest resources for the study of architecture, furniture, fashion, textiles, photography, sculpture, painting, jewellery, glass, ceramics, book arts, Asian art and design, theatre and performance.

For over 170 years the V&A’s mission has been to promote art and design for all, building a peerless collection to showcase human creativity and ingenuity, and to inspire the designers and makers of today and tomorrow. We are at an exciting time in the Museum’s history, working to take that mission to new audiences of all ages and backgrounds, online and in person, and redefining the role of the V&A as a 21st-century museum.

We are currently undertaking a generational transformation of access to our collection and its many meanings. Over the next three years we are reinventing the Museum of Childhood as Young V&A and opening two new sites in east London: the V&A East Storehouse (a publicly accessible collections and research centre) and the V&A East Museum, a platform for new kinds of creative excellence. Alongside these new initiatives, we continue to deepen our relationship with V&A Dundee and foster new research into the V&A Wedgwood Collection, as well as developing a vibrant exhibitions and public programme at South Kensington and all our sites, and transforming online access to our collections and research resources.

The National Art Library (NAL) is located at V&A South Kensington, in beautiful and historic reading rooms overlooking the John Madejski Garden. It holds the UK’s most comprehensive public reference collection of literature on the fine and decorative arts, including books, journals, exhibition catalogues, auction house sales catalogues, comics, e-resources and much more. Some library materials, including children’s books and the Theatre and Performance library, will be housed at the V&A East Storehouse, alongside the V&A’s archive collections, when it opens in 2024.

In 2021 the National Art Library and Archives became part of the V&A Research Institute, with the intention of maximising the library and archives’ research potential. Following the re-opening of the National Art Library in January 2022 after a period of closure, we are now embarking on a transformation programme to take the library and archives into a new phase, at the heart of the V&A’s research ecosystem. You can read more about this here.


The role

Job Title: Chief Librarian
Division: Collections
Dept: VARI, NAL, Archives
Reports to: Director, VARI, NAL and Archives
Duration: Permanent
Hours/FTE: 36 hours per week (full time)
Direct Reports: Senior Librarian (Collections and Content),
Senior Librarian (Systems and Services), Operations Coordinator


This is one of a number of new leadership roles in V&A’s Collections Division that has been established after a significant restructure intended to position the museum for the future. The restructure has merged the National Art Library and the Archives under the V&A Research Institute. The main purpose of the Chief Librarian role is to work with colleagues in the NAL, Research and Archives to set the strategy for the National Art Library and its associated study facilities and to oversee the delivery of services that sit at the heart of the V&A’s research ecology. A key objective is to transform the utilization of the NAL’s collections as research assets, developing new research projects in collaboration with VARI colleagues and working with colleagues to deepen knowledge in areas covered by the collections. A further key priority is to adapt library services to operate across a future multi-site operation. In short, the Chief Librarian will have responsibility for:

  • Developing and managing the National Art Library and related collections.
  • Deepening knowledge through the utilization of the collections as research assets.
  • Ensuring access to collections and knowledge and resources related to the V&A’s collections is optimized through the combination of onsite and online services and facilities.
  • Establishing and nurturing collaboration and partnerships internally and externally
  • Developing programming and outreach, and working with colleagues across the museum to ensure that the NAL plays its part in educating, enriching and enthralling audiences of all kinds and inspiring creativity.
  • Evaluating impact, innovating services and generating income.
  • Managing the Library team, resources and driving change.

The postholder will play a significant leadership role, advocating for the National Art Library internally and externally, forging the change in culture and practice necessary to the enactment of a new strategy, leading planning, budgeting and risk management for the NAL, building the strengths of the team and contributing to department, division and organization-wide objectives.



  • Leading and delivering an ambitious vision and strategy for the NAL as part of the new VARI, NAL and Archives department.

Developing and managing the National Art Library and related collections

  • Working with the Director of VARI, NAL and Archives, Keepers and the Director of Collections to contribute to the V&A’s Collection Development Policy.
  • Leading the development of the NAL Collections Development Policies for both special and documentary collections.
  • Enacting these policies within the Department, reviewing collections, identifying and seeking out potential acquisitions, ensuring familiarity with formal and informal publishing on a global level, operating in a networked content environment, identifying and pioneering resource sharing opportunities, maintaining good relations with lenders and donors, taking responsibility for disposals.
  • Ensuring that the relevant collections are cared for and displayed to the V&A’s highest standards; working closely with CCA colleagues to ensure appropriate storage and conservation plans are in place.
  • Taking responsibility for the Department’s prioritization and delivery of documentation and digitization outputs as part of the museum’s strategic priorities, ensuring an appropriate approach is adopted for bibliographic control and processing.
  • Contributing to the loans programme and ensuring that the curatorial elements of all loans in and out within the Department are in line with Museum policy and procedures.

Deepening knowledge through the utilization of the collections as a research asset

  • Being personally active in research in own field; publishing in this field; being an active contributor to the V&A’s research culture.
  • Taking intellectual responsibility for the scholarship of the Library, in collaboration with the Director of VARI, NAL and Archives and VARI colleagues: leading and managing research activities of the Department, ensuring that the Department’s scholarship takes account of the latest scholarly research and contributes to the V&A’s research priorities, while deepening understanding of the subjects covered by the NAL’s collections.
  • Supporting the V&A’s research, research-led HE programmes, Learning and Academy programmes, contributing teaching modules and support in the development of collections-based learning and information literacy.
  • Working with the V&A Research Institute on academic collaboration with university and other partners.

Ensuring access to collections and knowledge and resources related to the V&A’s collections is optimized through an array of onsite and online services and facilities

  • Ensuring familiarity with the principles of access and resource sharing that characterize world-leading librarianship, and the potential barriers to this.
  • Overseeing the effective delivery of a body of on site and online services to a diverse group of readers.
  • Taking responsibility for ensuring that all specialist enquiries and requests for advice received by the Department are managed and dealt with effectively by the correct staff, and that appropriate access to the collections and curatorial knowledge is provided; dealing with specialist enquiries, export license applications, acceptance in lieu and valuations for loan and for indemnity and export review cases.
  • Managing study facilities and working in collaboration with wider museum colleagues to develop these in line with the strategy for the NAL.
  • Planning for a multi-site V&A and adapting services and facilities accordingly.

Establishing and nurturing collaboration and partnerships internally and externally

  • Fostering cooperation between the NAL and the V&A’s departmental libraries.
  • Expanding access to knowledge and resources through partnership and collaboration.
  • Cultivating the team’s capacity for investigating resources and partnerships, understanding where collaboration yields impact that is superior to what can be done alone, costing out opportunities and assessing risks.
  • Advocating for NAL’s interests in these internal and external partnerships and negotiating collaboration.

Developing programming and outreach, and working with colleagues across the museum to ensure that the NAL plays its part in the educating, enriching and enthralling audiences of all kinds

  • Taking overall responsibility for the National Art Library’s storytelling across the different elements of V&A’s programming (exhibitions, displays, live events, publications, learning programmes, social media).
  • Overseeing the contribution of NAL collections to permanent and temporary displays across V&A sites and the delivery of dedicated NAL displays.
  • Overseeing the NAL’s participation in exhibition-making at the V&A; proposing, supporting and curating NAL exhibitions as appropriate.
  • Making sure that relevant displays and exhibitions are appropriately interpreted for visitors in the galleries and in other media; taking responsibility for, and contributing to, the Library’s output through print and digital publication.
  • Leading the Library’s collaboration with Learning, ensuring that curatorial expertise and content is responsive to colleagues’ and audiences’ needs and shared to reach a wide variety of audiences; taking an active role in the V&A’s public programmes.
  • Contributing regularly to national and international conferences and colloquia and representing V&A through lecturing, broadcasting, publications and through peer relationships with museums and academic institutions nationally and internationally.
  • Working with colleagues in V&A’s communications team to lead NAL’s storytelling on social media.

Evaluating impact, innovating services and generating income

  • Establishing an approach to monitoring and evaluation that can be used to assess the effectiveness of services and the delivery of team priorities.
  • Using data to create a culture of continuous improvement and innovation to develop efficiency and effectiveness.
  • Understanding museum policies, strategies and priorities and contributing to the development of new policies and plans as required; ensuring cascade of, and adherence to, museum policies, strategies and priorities within the Department.
  • Understanding the suite and scope of museum projects and public programmes and contributing as required; ensuring cascade of, and departmental involvement in, museum projects and public programmes as required.
  • Leading the NAL’s participation in National and International programmes and partnerships.
  • Leading the NAL’s contribution to fundraising and income generation, including by participating to funding bids, liaising with Development and VARI colleagues and stewarding prospects and donors

Managing resources and driving change

  • Leading Library planning and budgeting and adherence to V&A processes; taking responsibility for budgets and other resources allocated to the Department; taking responsibility for continuous improvement in the Department’s work.
  • Managing and leading a team of Librarians and support colleagues, to create a high performing team: creating a vibrant and progressive culture, understanding and commitment to Departmental and organizational priorities and programming; adopting a management style to suit the circumstances and diversity of the team; sharing knowledge, expertise and best practice with others to help them develop and perform; caring about the needs of the team; listening to, and acting on, feedback; challenging underperformance, clarifying expectations of good performance and stretching good performers.
  • Leading the Library’s fundraising activities, working with and through colleagues in VARI and Development.
  • Taking responsibility for the Department’s understanding of, and adherence to, relevant legislation.
  • Undertaking, as a senior member of the Collections Division team, projects or managerial responsibilities as delegated by the Director of Collections which will change from time to time.

The above job description is intended to be an outline of the duties and responsibilities for this role. This is not exhaustive, and it is likely to change over time. You may be expected to undertake other duties that are commensurate with this role.


Job Specification

  • Significant track record of research and scholarship in an area relevant to the V&A and NAL.
  • Extensive senior management experience in the development, delivery and management of library services, preferably in a museum or research library setting.
  • Extensive experience of collection development, care and documentation; knowledge of formal and informal publishing and experience of working in a networked content environment.
  • Experience of designing and implementing transformational change in the delivery and management of library services; a track record in, and creative approach to, the utilisation of library holdings in different settings, for different audiences and across different platforms; demonstrable knowledge of library best practice, service design and systems.
  • Familiar with current and emerging issues and debates relating to digital content and services; experience in driving digitization programmes and in building innovative digital content and services for the benefit of library users.
  • A demonstrable interest in, and enthusiasm for, telling stories about book and manuscript collections through temporary and permanent collection displays, exhibitions, publications, learning and engagement; a track record in innovative display and exhibition curating, and working with Learning, content producers, marketing and communication specialists; a creative approach to the ways in which the museum might develop in this field.
  • Excellent communicator, with the ability to communicate knowledge of specialist field to a wide audience while maintaining high scholarly standards; a good public speaker and lucid writer; a credible representative of the museum, effective in influencing within and beyond the institution.
  • Demonstrable ability to contribute to the wider work of an institution, whether in developing policy, contributing to projects or national and international programmes or partnerships or generating income: ability to propose and implement innovative ideas.
  • Demonstrable management and leadership skills: evidence of leading a high performing team, ability to lead on planning, budgeting and people management and development; ability to promote a positive environment that supports equality and values diversity; experience of leading change.


  • Excellent standard of written English and highly numerate with the ability to carry out complex numerical analysis.
  • Significant interpersonal and consultative skills, including the ability to communicate, present, negotiate, influence and build credibility with colleagues and external parties.
  • Ability to manage complex budgets and resources.
  • Proven ability to manage a high workload and multiple priorities whilst meeting deadlines.


  • Respects others’ expertise, time, perspectives and contribution.
  • Takes responsibility for delivering on actions, achieving high-standards and learning from mistakes.
  • Open to change, new ideas and suggestions; looks for opportunities for improvement and self-development.
  • Works with others, including outside their own department, in a collaborative, understanding, and, engaging way.
  • Actively leads and manages others, taking ownership of corporate decisions and role models positive behaviours.


  • A formal qualification in library/information management.


Terms of appointment

  • Base salary of £65,000-£70,000
  • Bonus scheme
  • Enhanced Pension scheme (Aviva)
  • Life assurance benefit
  • 28 days annual leave plus bank holidays
  • Free access to V&A exhibitions
  • Free access to London Museums and exhibitions
  • Local discounts
  • EAP programme

Optional Benefits via Payroll:

  • Ride to work
  • Childcare vouchers
  • Rental deposit scheme
  • Give as you earn

How to apply

Anderson Quigley is acting as an advisor to the V&A. An executive search process is being carried out by Anderson Quigley in addition to the public advertisement.

Should you wish to discuss the role in strict confidence, please contact our advising consultants at Anderson Quigley:

The closing date for applications is Monday 20th October 2022.

Applications should consist of:

  • A full CV.
  • A covering letter (maximum of 2 pages) setting out your interest in the role and details of how you match the knowledge and qualifications criteria of the person specification.
  • Please include current salary details and the names and addresses of two referees. Referees will not be approached until the final stages and not without prior permission from candidates.
  • Please complete the following online Equal Opportunities Monitoring Form.

Completed applications should be uploaded at using the reference AQ1553.