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Working as a Librarian

What Does a Librarian Do

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, school, and medical libraries.

Duties

Librarians typically do the following:

  • Help library patrons conduct research and find the information they need
  • Teach classes about information resources
  • Help patrons evaluate search results and reference materials
  • Organize library materials so they are easy to find, and maintain collections
  • Plan programs for different audiences, such as storytelling for young children
  • Develop and use databases of library materials
  • Research new books and materials by reading book reviews, publishers’ announcements, and catalogs
  • Choose new books, audio books, videos, and other materials for the library
  • Research and buy new computers and other equipment as needed for the library
  • Train and direct 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. They may manage a staff of library assistants and technicians.

In larger libraries, librarians usually focus on one aspect of library work, including user services, technical services, or administrative services.

The following are examples of types of librarians:

User services librarians help patrons conduct research using both electronic and print resources. These librarians also 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.

Technical services librarians obtain, prepare, and organize print and electronic library materials. They arrange materials to make it easy for patrons to find information. They are also responsible for ordering new library materials and archiving to preserve older items.

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

Librarians who work in different settings sometimes have different job duties.

Academic librarians assist students, faculty, and staff in colleges and universities. 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.

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 other 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. Law firms, hospitals, 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. The following are examples of special librarians:

  • Corporate librarians assist employees in private businesses in conducting research and finding information. They work for a wide range of businesses, including insurance companies, consulting firms, and publishers.
  • Government librarians provide research services and access to information for government staff and the public.
  • Law librarians help lawyers, law students, judges, and law clerks locate and organize 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.

How To Become a Librarian

Most librarians 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

Most employers require librarians to have a master’s degree in library science (MLS). 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 selecting library materials, organizing information, research methods and strategies, online reference systems, and Internet search methods. 

A degree from an American Library Association accredited program may lead to better job opportunities. 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.

Librarians working in a special library, such as a law, medical, or corporate 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 or a librarian in an academic library may need a Ph.D.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Public school librarians typically need a teacher’s certification. Some states require librarians to pass a standardized test, such as the PRAXIS II Library Media Specialist test. A list of requirements by state and contact information for state regulating boards is available from Libraries Unlimited. 

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

Important Qualities

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

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.

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

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Average Salary$53,759
Job Growth Rate6%

Librarian Jobs

Librarian Career Paths

Top Careers Before Librarian

Top Careers After Librarian

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Average Salary for a Librarian

Librarians in America make an average salary of $53,759 per year or $26 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $70,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $40,000 per year.
Average Salary
$53,759

Best Paying Cities

Average Salary
Salary Range59k - 91k$74k$73,815
Salary Range54k - 89k$70k$69,748
Salary Range50k - 83k$65k$64,830
Salary Range51k - 76k$63k$62,622
Salary Range46k - 76k$60k$60,036
Salary Range52k - 68k$60k$59,912
$36k
$91k

Recently Added Salaries

Job TitleCompanyCompanyStart DateSalary
Librarian, Senior (Youth Services)
Librarian, Senior (Youth Services)
Lee County, Florida
Lee County, Florida
10/30/2020
10/30/2020
$46,83410/30/2020
$46,834
Librarian
Librarian
Geo Group Inc.
Geo Group Inc.
10/30/2020
10/30/2020
$104,35010/30/2020
$104,350
Librarian I
Librarian I
City of Bozeman
City of Bozeman
10/30/2020
10/30/2020
$46,14410/30/2020
$46,144
Local History Librarian-S/Week
Local History Librarian-S/Week
Greene County Public Library
Greene County Public Library
10/29/2020
10/29/2020
$32,26510/29/2020
$32,265
Librarian II
Librarian II
The City of Houston
The City of Houston
10/28/2020
10/28/2020
$48,75010/28/2020
$48,750
See More Recent Salaries

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Librarian Demographics

Gender

female

64.1%

male

30.5%

unknown

5.4%

Ethnicity

White

79.6%

Hispanic or Latino

7.8%

Black or African American

6.6%

Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

38.7%

French

14.2%

Chinese

7.2%
See More Demographics

Librarian Education

Degrees

Bachelors

41.2%

Masters

28.0%

Associate

11.3%

Top Colleges for Librarians

1. New York University

New York, NY

Tuition and fees
$51,828
Enrollment
26,339

2. University of Maryland - College Park

College Park, MD

Tuition and fees
$10,595
Enrollment
30,184

3. University of Washington

Seattle, WA

Tuition and fees
$11,207
Enrollment
30,905

4. SUNY at Buffalo

Buffalo, NY

Tuition and fees
$10,099
Enrollment
21,404

5. Syracuse University

Syracuse, NY

Tuition and fees
$51,853
Enrollment
14,759

6. University of Iowa

Iowa City, IA

Tuition and fees
$9,267
Enrollment
23,410

7. Louisiana State University and A&M College

Baton Rouge, LA

Tuition and fees
$11,950
Enrollment
23,468

8. Drexel University

Philadelphia, PA

Tuition and fees
$53,244
Enrollment
15,557

9. Simmons University

Boston, MA

Tuition and fees
$40,850
Enrollment
1,790

10. St. John's University

Queens, NY

Tuition and fees
$41,760
Enrollment
11,907
See More Education Info

Entry Level Jobs For Becoming A Librarian

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Full Time
Part Time
Internship
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Top Skills For a Librarian

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 34.9% of librarians listed library materials on their resume, but soft skills such as reading skills and communication skills are important as well.

  • Library Materials, 34.9%
  • Collection Development, 6.1%
  • Customer Service, 5.1%
  • Reference Services, 3.8%
  • Literacy, 3.8%
  • Other Skills, 46.3%
  • See All Librarian Skills

Best States For a Librarian

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as a librarian. The best states for people in this position are California, West Virginia, Montana, and Alaska. Librarians make the most in California with an average salary of $72,223. Whereas in West Virginia and Montana, they would average $65,419 and $65,025, respectively. While librarians would only make an average of $64,720 in Alaska, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. Montana

Total Librarian Jobs:
9
Highest 10% Earn:
$89,000
Location Quotient:
3.94
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. California

Total Librarian Jobs:
108
Highest 10% Earn:
$110,000
Location Quotient:
1.22
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. Alaska

Total Librarian Jobs:
6
Highest 10% Earn:
$83,000
Location Quotient:
4.78
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
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Librarian Resumes

Designing and figuring out what to include on your resume can be tough, not to mention time-consuming. That's why we put together a guide that is designed to help you craft the perfect resume for becoming a librarian. If you're needing extra inspiration, take a look through our selection of templates that are specific to your job.

At Zippia, we went through countless librarian resumes and compiled some information about how best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

Learn How To Write a Librarian Resume

At Zippia, we went through countless librarian resumes and compiled some information about how best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

View Detailed Information

How Do Librarian Rate Their Jobs?

What do you like the most about working as Librarian?

I'm an academic librarian, so helping students learn about information and research, teaching classes about same, and the intellectual aspect of working with information access around colleagues who are smart and kind. I've also been a teacher and a sales and marketing executive, but librarianship is by far my most rewarding career. Show More

What do you NOT like?

The pay. The stereotypes. The people who ask, "do they even still have libraries"? Show More

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Top Librarian Employers

1. New York Public Library
4.4
Avg. Salary: 
$40,467
Librarians Hired: 
27+
2. Laboratory For Physical Sci
4.5
Avg. Salary: 
$53,601
Librarians Hired: 
16+
3. MD Anderson Cancer Center
4.7
Avg. Salary: 
$48,955
Librarians Hired: 
15+
4. Michigan State University
4.6
Avg. Salary: 
$47,047
Librarians Hired: 
15+
5. University of Iowa
4.6
Avg. Salary: 
$53,305
Librarians Hired: 
12+
6. University of California Press
4.1
Avg. Salary: 
$48,267
Librarians Hired: 
11+

Librarian Videos

Recently Added Librarian Jobs