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Librarian

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What Librarians and Library Media Specialists Do About this section

librarians image
Librarian's job duties vary based on the type of library they work in, such as a public, school, or medical library.

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

Duties

Librarians and library media specialists 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, these workers 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 and library media specialists:

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 library media specialists, typically work in elementary, middle, and high school libraries. They teach students how to use library resources, including technology. 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.

Work Environment About this section

Librarians
Librarians plan outreach programs targeted toward different groups, such as story time for children.

Librarians held about 146,500 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of librarians were as follows:

Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private 34%
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 29
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 17
Information 7

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

Work Schedules

Most librarians and library media specialists work full time, although part-time work is common. Public and academic librarians often work on weekends and evenings and may work holidays. School librarians and library media specialists 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.

How to Become a Librarian or Library Media Specialist About this section

Librarians
Some librarians assist patrons with research.

Librarians typically need a master’s degree in library science (MLS). School librarians and library media specialists typically need a bachelor’s or master’s degree in a related field, along with a teaching certificate; requirements vary by state.

Education

Librarians typically need a master’s degree in library science. 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 or similar 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.

Requirements for public school librarians and library media specialists vary by state. Most states require an MLS or a bachelor’s or master’s degree in education, often with a specialization related to library media.

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 and library media specialists 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.

Important Qualities

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

Initiative. New information, technology, and resources constantly change librarians’ and library media specialists' duties. Workers must be able and willing to continually update their knowledge of these changes to be effective at their jobs.

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

Organizational skills. Librarians and library media specialists help patrons research topics efficiently. They should be able to direct the logical use of resources, databases, and other materials.

Problem-solving skills. These workers need to be able to identify a problem, figure out where to find information to solve the problem, and draw conclusions based on the information found.

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

Pay About this section

Librarians and Library Media Specialists

Median annual wages, May 2019

Librarians and media collections specialists

$59,500

Librarians, curators, and archivists

$49,030

Total, all occupations

$39,810

 

The median annual wage for librarians and library media specialists was $59,500 in May 2019. 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 $33,820, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $94,520.

In May 2019, 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 $64,750
Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private 60,940
Information 58,140
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 53,950

Most librarians and library media specialists work full time, although part-time work is common. Public and academic librarians often work on weekends and evenings, and may work holidays. School librarians and library media specialists 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 About this section

Librarians and Library Media Specialists

Percent change in employment, projected 2019-29

Librarians and media collections specialists

5%

Total, all occupations

4%

Librarians, curators, and archivists

3%

 

Employment of librarians and library media specialists is projected to grow 5 percent from 2019 to 2029, faster than 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 and learning materials that children often cannot access from home. In addition, the availability of electronic information and media materials is expected to increase the demand for these workers in research and special libraries, where patrons may need help sorting through the large amount of digital information and collections materials.

Job Prospects

About 13,800 openings for librarians and library media specialists are projected each year, on average, over the decade.

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

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.

Employment projections data for librarians and library media specialists, 2019-29
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2019 Projected Employment, 2029 Change, 2019-29 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Librarians and media collections specialists

25-4022 146,500 153,800 5 7,300 Get data

Contacts for More Information About this section

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

American Library Association

For more information about becoming a school librarian or library media specialist, contact your state board of education.

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

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Audio-Visual and Multimedia Collections Specialists

Librarians

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