Librarian: How To Become A Librarian Job Outlook & Resources

Librarians are the gatekeepers to a plethora of resources. They hold the key to navigating seemingly endless amounts of information that would overwhelm the average person.

How To Become A Librarian

Career paths as a librarian involve a hearty education, substantial critical thinking skills and a focus on serving your community. Plan to spend more than a couple years in school to get the necessary credentials.

Complete an Undergraduate in What Interests You

At this stage in your education, it doesn’t really matter what you study. This as a time for exploration—the courses you take should simply be fields that interest you.

Although there are jobs out there for Bachelor-level graduates looking to become librarians, your salary will typically be much lower when compared to those with higher levels of education.

Get Your Master’s in Library Science

Oftentimes libraries will require you to study Library Science at the graduate level. The discipline is growing in popularity, so more and more schools are offering it in person and online. The University of Illinois, Syracuse University, and Rutgers University all offer virtual programs, to name a few.

Many institutions prefer your course of study to be from the American Library Association’s list of approved programs. Most only take two years to complete if you attend as a full time student.

Get Experience Before You Leave School

There’s many opportunities to get hands on involvement in a library before you graduate. Many institutions offer paid and unpaid internships. Some colleges and universities have a Student Library Association available for joining. At this stage it helps to pick an opportunity that allows you to focus on a particular niche to begin acquiring specialized knowledge.

Complete a Certification or Become Licensed

Obtaining a license is a prerequisite that varies from state to state, but typically school librarians must have a teaching license to get hired. California, Florida, and New York all allow you to send in applications online, while states like Texas have a step by step checklists of requirements for receiving the certification.

Another great way to get a leg up amidst the competition is to get certified in particular fields. Specialized librarians can be found working for art museums, publications, and even politicians.


The cost varies quite a lot with how you choose to pursue the career path. An education in library sciences at the undergraduate could cost you between $12,000 and $35,000 a year—and it can get up to $40,000 a year if it’s a private college or university.

Further up the educational ladder and you’re looking at $15,000 to $20,000 for completing one of the ALA’s accredited programs. In addition, getting certified varies quite a lot in cost, some states offer it for free, while others charge upwards of $350.

Job Description / Responsibilities

Librarians are trained professionals in the organization of information. But above all else, they serve an educational role. It’s up to them to help library goers find what they’re looking with ease using the available database resources.

  • Create and maintain databases and catalogues of different mediums of information and categorizations. Update and edit entries of any new materials entering or leaving the library. Keep up to date with newly released or published texts.
  • Assist library users with any questions about the library and the services it offers for research and pursuing particular information.
  • Supervise other library employees, recruit new staff members, and provide the necessary training. Manage the library budget and allocated resources. Motivate other staff members to stay animated with their work.
  • Guarantee the library can serve specific demographics of users, such as graduate students, businesses, disable learners, and small children. Have the appropriate resources for different age levels.
  • Publicize the library’s technological and organizational resources to promote use and general knowledge of how the systems function. Make it user friendly and approachable. Anticipate the community’s needs and proactively address them. Organize events and displays.
  • Exhibit presentation and verbal communication skills for conveying information to the general public and inquiring library goers. Have a passion for educating individuals on the acquisition of information and developing literacy.
  • Circulate library materials to other institutions that make requests to receive books or other media. File requests to receive materials from other institutions on behalf of library users.
  • Be tech savvy and familiar using the internet and computers for in depth research and access to appropriate databases and catalogues.
  • Check books in and out of library and inspecting for damaged or misused materials such as torn book pages or scratched CDs.
  • Encode, classify, and log books, publications, films, CDs, DVDs, and audiovisual aids based on library’s organizational system.
  • Have an enthusiasm and be personable with children. Engage with them as a mentor and helper, supporting their learning and development as students.

Job Outlook

The good news is librarians aren’t getting downsized with everything being digitalized. In fact, the internet has become a conduit for a growing influx of information, and as a result librarians are needed more than ever to sort through all the content.

Because parents value libraries as a tool for their children, there is an established market for the profession. Many families want their kids to be introduced to the learning materials of a library that aren’t necessarily accessible from home.

Additionally, the digitalization of information has lead to a demand for specialized librarians and those capable of in depth research. Online databases are growing exponentially, so having someone who knows their way around technological resources is valued.

However, because so many libraries rely on government funding, the possibility of getting hired as a librarians can fluctuate quite a bit. Sometimes technicians and assistants will be hired instead of those more qualified because of the more affordable pay grade.

Statistically, the industry is projected to continue growing in the next decade, although only by about 2%, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. What that translates to is only about 2,700 new positions created over the next 10 years.

Work Environment

As a profession, librarians typically spend their time in several particular institutions. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 36% of librarians work in elementary and high schools, 29% work in local government, 18% work in colleges and universities, and 5% work in other specialized workplaces.

The work itself usually consists of operating in the same space as library users—behind front desks, in open offices, and walking around the library floor. Although less common, some librarians travel or have their own private office.

Most work full time, but part time employment as a librarian does exist. It’s normal for those in the profession to work evenings, weekends, and sometimes holidays. Although, unsurprisingly, school librarians have similar hours as teachers, getting the summer off.

On a day to day basis, librarians interact with a large spectrum of library users. You come to face to face with those who require a fresh introduction to technological resources, as well as those who are accustomed to only using the internet to access information.

In the same way, being a librarian means helping those with technology in a multitude of ways. Library goers will often need help finding software, downloading files, creating documents, and more.


Listed below are a variety of online resources offering more information and opportunities for those looking to become a librarian. Learn how to get started in the industry and become part of thriving communities.

  • American Library Association: The biggest bank of information when it comes to being a librarian and learning more about libraries. It includes specifics on endorsed programs and advice for aspiring librarians. The website links to several more niche divisions of the association as well.

  • Library Journal: The world’s most well known publication on all things related to libraries and librarians. They cover policy news, review learning materials, and information on professional development.

  • International Librarians Network: A large scale program designed to pair librarians together to form mentorships and grow professionally. Expand your network of connections and learn from those more experienced than you—all for free.

  • School Library Journal: Renown publication for librarians and library related news and features. For over 60 years it’s covered information technology, literacy, and educational policy, among other related subjects.

  • Libraries Unlimited: A company dedicated to creating resources for librarians, library users, archivists, and information technology luminaries. It’s goal is to foster innovation in libraries within the private and public sector.

  • ALA’s JobList: The American Library Association’s official database of library related job listings. It covers all 50 states and a variety of information services, with links to organizations’ websites for where to apply.

  • ISTE: An organization dedicated to connecting educators and fostering a community of change, where the combination of technology and education can create a brighter future for learners. The site features coaching and consulting services, as well as online networks and event access.

  • JobZone: A site organized by the School Library Journal and Library Journal that features new job openings across the country in various information services professions. Read job descriptions, discover potential salaries, and learn how to apply to different institutions.

  • Becoming a Powerhouse Librarian: Recently published, informative book about the proper techniques for transformation and forward thinking while working in a library. Learn what skills are most important for a career as a librarian.

  • How to Teach: A Practical Guide for Librarians: Education is a key component to being a librarian. This book outlines all of the core skills that go into teaching learners of all kinds, both individually and in groups.


Work as a librarian entails a combination of interpersonal and analytical skills. Above all else, you serve the community and must interface with users constructively and positively. However, as an educator, you must be well equipped to operate and explain complex information systems.

  • Computer Mastery: Many of the library’s resources are virtually stored in databases, so an up to date familiarity with operating computers and using software is a necessity. Be able to instruct library users who aren’t familiar with how to search a book catalogue, as well as fix arising technical issues.
  • Research Capabilities: With the constant stream of information, most people don’t have a methodology for finding what they’re looking for. As a resource, you must have immaculate research skills enabling you to retrieve specifics on any topic. Someone asking about ancient Japanese martial arts? It’s your job to locate the right sources.
  • Educational Communication: One of your primary roles is an educator. Conveying instructions and new information in a digestible written or verbal format is indispensable to the job. Know how to assist everyone from 1st graders to senior citizens.
  • Mobile Knowledge: Another component of the information age is mobile devices and cloud computing. You must have a current understanding how tablets and smartphones can be used as resources and educational tools. If someone walks in with a question about accessing a database on their iPad, you better be equipped to help.
  • Educational Communication: One of your primary roles is an educator. Conveying instructions and new information in a digestible written or verbal format is indispensable to the job. Know how to assist everyone from 1st graders to senior citizens.
  • Information Management: In the modern information age, there’s too much out there for most to make sense of. As a librarian you must sift through and edit what information is the most useful, relevant, and reliable. For example, understanding how publications differ in reliability and objectivity is key to knowing which sources are noteworthy and which aren’t.
  • Marketing: Libraries have ties to many different organizations, individuals, and institutions. It is important for a librarian to have marketing skills to promote their library’s services to the community, the larger public, advertisers, and government agencies. Be prepared to expand your professional network and participate in marketing teams.
  • Project Management: There will be times when you are given a complex task or an idea to implement. It is your responsibility to know what methods to use, which departments or staffers to go to for help, and how to pitch concepts to supervisors. Need to revamp your library’s organizational system? You better coordinate with your coworkers and have a step-by-step plan.
  • Teamwork: While it is a stereotype that librarians have their noses in their books, collaborating with your fellow librarians and staffers is essential to functionality. Just as any other workplace, communication and working together is the foundation for efficiency. You can’t be afraid to reach out to an assistant for help researching a library goer’s request.
  • Love of Learning: Your job is serving those that wish to expand their knowledge base. It will be an uphill battle if you don’t enjoy helping others learn. As an educator it should be fulfilling to teach students how to read a chapter book or explain how to find that one particular CD.

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