Librarian

Job Description

Librarian helping student with research in school library
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Librarians select resources, organize them, and then teach people how to use them effectively. Many work with the public, while others are behind the scenes in technical support and acquisitions or in administration. Although librarians traditionally worked with printed resources, they have kept up with ever-evolving technology and for the past few decades have incorporated electronic resources including including the Internet, computerized databases, and ebooks into their purvue.

Librarians are also referred to as information professionals.

When most people envision working in a library, they think of the public library they spent time in as a child or perhaps, the school library. Librarians have 

Quick Facts

  • Librarians earn a median annual salary of $58,520 (2017).
  • This occupation employs about 138,200 people (2016).
  • Most work in school, public, and academic (college) libraries.
  • Jobs are usually full-time, but about a quarter of them are part-time.
  • The job outlook for this occupation is stable. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) prediction, employment will grow as fast as the average for all occupations between 2016 and 2026.

A Day in a Librarian's Life

What are some typical job duties of librarians? These are from employment announcements on Indeed.com:

  • "Respond to information requests that are in person, over the phone, via chat, or other virtual media to answer questions, locate information, and train the public in using the library's resources"
  • "Teach a variety of skills to students, including direct instruction of research skills"
  • "Create & publish Web-based content: research tutorials, subject guides, course guides, promotional spots, information pieces"
  • "Manage patrons’ access to all online resources"
  • "Weed collection per guidelines established by the Collection Development Coordinator"

    Education, Training, Licensing, and Certification

    Most librarian jobs in public, academic, or special libraries require a Master's Degree in Library Science (M.L.S.) from a program accredited by the American Library Association (ALA). Librarians employed by the Federal government must have an M.L.S.

    Expect to spend from one to two years in "library school," as these masters programs are commonly known. If you plan to teach in a librarian education program or aspire to a top administration position in a college or university library, you will need a doctorate in library science.  Some librarians, especially those who work in academic settings, have an additional degree in the area in which they specialize.

    Most states require public librarians to be certified. Certification for school librarians (also called school media specialists) vary by state. Some states require them to be certified teachers, others stipulate that they have a  master's degree in education with a specialization in library science, and yet other states require only an M.L.S. Many librarians take continuing education classes to keep up with changing technology. To learn about the requirements in the state in which you plan to work, use the Licensed Occupations Tool from CareerOneStop.

    What Soft Skills Do Librarians Need?

    In addition to the hard skills you will acquire in school, there are specific personal qualities, called soft skills, that contribute to your success as a librarian. To adapt to the rapid changes in technology, you must be an active learner. Strong communication skills, including listening, speaking, and interpersonal skills, will allow you to interact with clients as well as function as part of a team. You must also be able to work independently. Excellent problem solving and reading comprehension skills are also essential.

    What Will Employers Expect From You?

    Job announcements on Indeed.com revealed that employers will only consider individuals with the following qualifications for employment:

    • "Familiarity with library trends and issues"
    • "Ability to work collegially within a small unit that is flexible and extremely responsive to student and faculty needs"
    • "Working knowledge of general library practices, acquisitions, and supervision of library staff"
    • "Attention to detail & strong customer service & communications skills"
    • "Willingness and ability to be flexible, creative and innovative"
    • "Ability to plan and assign work to paraprofessional and clerical library staff"

    Is This Career a Good Fit for You?

    Always consider your interestspersonality type, and work-related values—which a self assessment can help you discover—when choosing an occupation. Those who have the following traits have a greater chance of being satisfied with a career as a librarian:

    Take a Quiz: Should You Become a Librarian?

    Occupations With Related Activities and Tasks

     DescriptionAnnual Salary (2017)Educational Requirements
    ArchivistPreserves records and documents for an organization$51,760Master's Degree in History, Library Science, Archival Science, or Records Management
    Library TechnicianOrganized and lends resources to patrons in a library; works under a librarian's supervision$33,690H.S. Diploma to specialized post-secondary training

    Museum Technician

    Care for objects in museum collections; may be called a registrar$40,670Bachelor's Degree in Art History, History, or Archaeology

    Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,  Occupational Outlook Handbook; Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor,  O*NET Online (visited April 23, 2018).