If you love books, you might want to learn how to become a librarian. There can be a bit of confusion with this career choice, however. Some think you will just be the person helping others check out books at a library.
Before you follow the career path of a librarian, it’s a good idea to understand the job duties. You want to make sure this is a career you will truly love. Let’s look at the job duties and how to become a librarian a bit closer.
Job Duties of a Librarian
Yes, checking out books might be a part of your job, but a librarian does so much more. You will be a manager of the library operations. This includes educational programs and much more. As a librarian, you will be in charge of the budget, the library materials, the equipment, and much more.
Librarians manage a staff of workers and volunteers. They may work in multiple settings, depending on where the library is found. Some of the common job duties include:
- Handling and helping with research in specific fields
- Teaching courses about the research process, databases, and library resources
- Helping those in the library find books, films, articles, magazines, and more
- Keeping all library materials properly organized and displayed
- Assisting with the checking out process and returning process of library materials
- Preserving archives and digitize resources including newsreels, local history, and artifacts
- Managing a staff and volunteers
Your job duties may vary a bit, depending on where you work. Librarians can work as academic librarians, school librarians, law librarians, medical librarians, or public librarians. While the core job duties will remain the same, your actual duties may vary.
How To Become a Librarian in 5 Steps
Step #1 – Complete High School
The first step to becoming a librarian is to complete high school. You want to do well in high school so you can get into a good bachelor’s degree program. It’s also helpful to score high on the SAT or ACT. With a good test prep program, you can increase your SAT or ACT score.
Getting into a good bachelor’s degree program is where it all starts. The better the undergraduate program you can get into, the better chances you will have of landing a prime librarian job.
It’s also a good idea to shadow a librarian while you’re in high school. This will give you a look at what they do with their day. If you want to become a librarian, make sure this is the career for you by shadowing someone in the field.
Step #2 – Choose a Type of Librarian
There are several different types of librarian specialties. The one you choose will help to determine the educational path you go down. The most common types of librarians include:
- Technical Services Librarian– If you want to order, prepare, and organize materials for a library, you want to become a technical services librarian. You will also be in charge of archiving library materials when needed.
- User Services Librarian– You will help patrons do research and find both printed information and information online. It’s possible to specialize in a specific age group as a user services librarian, such as teenagers or children.
- Public Librarian– A very common type of librarian, a public librarian is someone that helps patrons find books, works with students and helps to plan events for the library. They often work with children and teens.
- Administrative Services Librarian– This type of librarian will manage the library and oversee the human resources process. You will likely be in charge of the budget and the fundraising for the library.
- Special Librarian– As a special librarian, you might work in many different settings. This type of librarian is often called an information professional. You might work for a government library, corporate library, medical library, or law library.
- Academic Librarian– If you work at a college or university library, you are an academic librarian. You will help teachers find the necessary resources for studies and projects.
- School Librarian– Often, this type of librarian will work for a high school or middle school. They will teach students how to use the library and they will also assist teachers with finding materials. Sometimes, a school librarian is called a school media specialist.
Choosing the type of librarian you want to become will determine your education and training path. There are some specialties within some of these general options, as well.
Step #3 – Complete Your Bachelor’s Degree
A bachelor’s degree in education, English literature, or another field is common for a librarian. If you plan to become a law librarian, medical librarian, or another specialty, it might make sense to match your bachelor’s degree major to the specialty you’ve chosen.
For example, if you want to be a medical librarian, it makes sense to get a chemistry degree. Those seeking to become law librarians may want to study pre-law or criminal justice.
Step #4 – Get Your Master’s Degree
Most librarians will be required to get a Master of Library and Information Service (MLS) degree. Some employers may hire those with bachelor’s degrees, but this is rare. If you don’t get a Master’s degree, you will likely need the right certification and experience.
You can earn an MLS in a general area or in a specific area of concentration. Matching your MLS degree with the type of librarian you want to become makes sense. If you plan to work in a specialized field, such as law or medicine, you may need an additional degree.
Step #5 – Gain Certifications (Optional)
you don’t have to have certifications to work as a librarian. However, some states will require licensure or certification. If your state requires specific certifications, you will need these to work as a librarian.
You might need to be a licensed teacher to work in a school library, for example. Each state is a bit different. You can also earn voluntary certifications to help you land a higher-paying job. These include:
- Library Support Staff Certification– If you want to become a public or academic librarian, this is the certification for you. It includes three core competencies, which are technology, library science, and team communication. You will also need to complete three elective competencies, too.
- Certified Public Library Administrator– You will need three years of experience in a supervisory position to get this certification. It will also require you to pass seven of nine topics. The four core competency topics of this certification include personnel administration, library finance, planning of buildings, and technology management.
Both of these certifications can help you advance your career. They are offered by the American Library Association (ALA).
Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Librarian
What type of salary will I earn as a librarian?
When you decide to become a librarian, you will likely start as an assistant librarian. This is the entry-level position for those with less than one year of experience. Assistant librarians make about $13.50 per hour, on average. This salary can be higher or lower based on your location and the type of library you work at.
After gaining at least one year of experience, you can work as a librarian. The average salary for a librarian is about $31 per hour. You can make more with more experience, or by working for the right employer. Some employers pay as much as $66 per hour for librarians and several will pay more than $45 per hour.
Senior librarians with even more experience can earn a higher wage. Some senior librarians will earn more than $70K per year, depending on your location and the type of library you work at.
What type of benefits do librarians often receive?
It’s common for a librarian to receive paid time off, health insurance with dental and vision, and loan forgiveness. In some cases, you will get other benefits, such as adoption assistance and an employee assistance program.
Can I earn my MLS degree online?
Yes. There are many accredited MLS programs you can complete online. Many librarians will work as assistant librarians while earning their MLS degree online. It’s common for this type of program to be offered, but an on-campus program is also an option.
What type of hours do librarians work?
It’s common, as a librarian, to work full-time. While there are some part-time positions, these are usually taken up by students working towards a Master’s degree. Public and Academic Librarians often work nights, weekends, and holidays. School librarians have similar work hours to teachers. If you work in a special type of library, your hours will likely follow normal business hours. Overtime is not common for librarians.
Becoming a librarian can put you in a very rewarding career. It is a good fit for many people and a higher-paying career than many others. If you want to work in a library, use the knowledge you now have about how to become a librarian. It might take a few extra years of schooling, but it will be worth it.