Librarians help people find information and conduct research for personal and professional use. Their job duties may change based on the type of library they work in, such as public, academic, or medical libraries.

Duties

Librarians typically do the following:

  • Create and use databases of library materials
  • Organize library materials so they are easy to find
  • Help library patrons to conduct research to evaluate search results and reference materials
  • Research new books and materials by reading book reviews, publishers’ announcements, and catalogs
  • Maintain existing collections and choose new books, videos, and other materials for purchase
  • Plan programs for different audiences, such as story time for children
  • Teach classes about information resources
  • Research computers and other equipment for purchase, as needed
  • Train and supervise library technicians, assistants, other support staff, and volunteers
  • Prepare library budgets

In small libraries, librarians are often responsible for many or all aspects of library operations. In large libraries, they usually focus on one aspect of the library, such as user services, technical services, or administrative services.

The following are examples of types of librarians:

Academic librarians assist students, faculty, and staff in postsecondary institutions. They help students research topics related to their coursework and teach students how to access information. They also assist faculty and staff in locating resources related to their research projects or studies. Some campuses have multiple libraries, and librarians may specialize in a particular subject.

Administrative services librarians manage libraries, prepare budgets, and negotiate contracts for library materials and equipment. Some conduct public relations or fundraising activities for the library.

Public librarians work in their communities to serve all members of the public. They help patrons find books to read for pleasure; conduct research for schoolwork, business, or personal interest; and learn how to access the library’s resources. Many public librarians plan programs for patrons, such as story time for children, book clubs, or educational activities.

School librarians, sometimes called school media specialists, work in elementary, middle, and high school libraries and teach students how to use library resources. They also help teachers develop lesson plans and find materials for classroom instruction.

Special librarians work in settings other than school or public libraries. They are sometimes called information professionals. Businesses, museums, government agencies, and many other groups have their own libraries that use special librarians. The main purpose of these libraries and information centers is to serve the information needs of the organization that houses the library. Therefore, special librarians collect and organize materials focused on those subjects. Special librarians may need an additional degree in the subject that they specialize in. The following are examples of special librarians:

  • Corporate librarians assist employees of private businesses in conducting research and finding information. They work for a wide range of organizations, including insurance companies, consulting firms, and publishers.
  • Law librarians conduct research or help lawyers, judges, law clerks, and law students locate and analyze legal resources. They often work in law firms and law school libraries.
  • Medical librarians, also called health science librarians, help health professionals, patients, and researchers find health and science information. They may provide information about new clinical trials and medical treatments and procedures, teach medical students how to locate medical information, or answer consumers’ health questions.

Technical services librarians obtain, prepare, and organize print and electronic library materials. They arrange materials for patrons’ ease in finding information. They are also responsible for ordering new library materials and archiving to preserve older items.

User services librarians help patrons conduct research using both electronic and print resources. They teach patrons how to use library resources to find information on their own. This may include familiarizing patrons with catalogs of print materials, helping them access and search digital libraries, or educating them on Internet search techniques. Some user services librarians work with a particular audience, such as children or young adults.

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Work Environment

Librarians held about 134,800 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of librarians were as follows:

Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private 33%
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 31
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private                         18
Information 7

Most librarians typically work on the floor with patrons, behind the circulation desk, or in offices. Some librarians have private offices, but those in small libraries usually share work space with others.

Work Schedules

Most librarians work full time. Public and academic librarians often work on weekends and evenings and may work holidays. School librarians usually have the same work and vacation schedules as teachers, including summers off. Special librarians, such as corporate librarians, typically work normal business hours but may need to work more than 40 hours per week to help meet deadlines.

Education and Training

Librarians typically need a master’s degree in library science. Some positions have additional requirements, such as a teaching certificate or a degree in another field.

Education

Librarians typically need a master’s degree in library science (MLS). Some colleges and universities have other names for their library science programs, such as Master of Information Studies or Master of Library and Information Studies. Students need a bachelor’s degree in any major to enter MLS programs.

MLS programs usually take 1 to 2 years to complete. Coursework typically covers information such as learning different research methods and strategies, online reference systems, and Internet search techniques.

The American Library Association accredits master’s degree programs in library and information studies.

Special librarians, such as those in a corporate, law, or medical library, usually supplement a master’s degree in library science with knowledge of their specialized field. Some employers require special librarians to have a master’s degree, a professional degree, or a Ph.D. in that subject. For example, a law librarian may be required to have a law degree.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Public school librarians typically need a teacher’s certification. Some states require school librarians to pass a standardized test, such as the PRAXIS II Library Media Specialist test. Contact your state department of education for details about requirements in your state.  

Some states also require certification for librarians in public libraries. Contact your state’s licensing board for specific requirements.

Personality and Interests

Librarians typically have an interest in the Helping, Persuading and Organizing interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Helping interest area indicates a focus on assisting, serving, counseling, or teaching other people. The Persuading interest area indicates a focus on influencing, motivating, and selling to other people. The Organizing interest area indicates a focus on working with information and processes to keep things arranged in orderly systems.

If you are not sure whether you have a Helping or Persuading or Organizing interest which might fit with a career as a librarian, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Librarians should also possess the following specific qualities:

Communication skills. Librarians need to be able to explain ideas and information in ways that patrons and users understand.

Computer skills. Librarians use computers to help patrons research topics. They also use computers to classify resources, create databases, and perform administrative duties.

Initiative. New information, technology, and resources constantly change the details of what librarians do. They must be able and willing to continually update their knowledge on these changes to be effective at their jobs in the varying circumstances.

Interpersonal skills. Librarians must be able to work both as part of a team and with the public or with researchers.

Problem-solving skills. Librarians conduct and assist with research. This requires being able to identify a problem, figure out where to find information, and draw conclusions based on the information found.

Reading skills. Librarians must be excellent readers. Those working in special libraries are expected to continually read the latest literature in their field of specialization.

Pay

The median annual wage for librarians was $59,050 in May 2018. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $34,630, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $93,050.

In May 2018, the median annual wages for librarians in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private                     $64,130
Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private 60,780
Information 56,970
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 53,060

Most librarians work full time. Public and academic librarians often work on weekends and evenings, and may work holidays. School librarians usually have the same work and vacation schedules as teachers, including summers off. Special librarians, such as corporate librarians, typically work normal business hours but may need to work more than 40 hours per week to help meet deadlines.

Job Outlook

Employment of librarians is projected to grow 6 percent from 2018 to 2028, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Communities are increasingly turning to libraries for a variety of services and activities. Therefore, there will be a need for librarians to manage libraries and help patrons find information. Parents value the learning opportunities that libraries present for children because libraries have information that children often cannot access from home. In addition, the availability of electronic information is also expected to increase the demand for librarians in research and special libraries, where patrons may need help sorting through the large amount of digital information.

Job Prospects

About 14,700 openings for librarians are projected each year, on average, over the decade.

Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who exit the labor force, such as to retire, and from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations.

A degree from an American Library Association accredited program and work experience may lead to job opportunities. Candidates who are able to adapt with the rapidly changing technology will have the best prospects.

For More Information

For more information about librarians, including accredited library education programs, visit

American Library Association

For information about medical librarians, visit

Medical Library Association

For information about law librarians, visit

American Association of Law Libraries

For information about many different types of special librarians, visit

Special Libraries Association

 

FAQ

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The career information above is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This excellent resource for occupational data is published by the U.S. Department of Labor every two years. Truity periodically updates our site with information from the BLS database.

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