How to Become a Librarian

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6 Steps to Becoming a Librarian

Step 1 Conduct thorough research

Learn about library science, what being a librarian entails and all the potential career paths available to librarians. Some common options include k-12 school librarian, public librarian, law librarian, university librarian, digital librarian and branch management. Knowing this in advance can help determine what undergraduate degree and/or master’s degree to pursue further down the line. A Master’s in Library and Information Science (MLIS), also known as MLS, is a popular choice for aspiring librarians.

Step 2 Earn a bachelor’s degree

This can be in any field but choosing an undergraduate degree that will complement a MLIS degree will only help down the road. For example, those interested in becoming a school librarian can get a bachelor’s degree in education, along with teaching credentials. Undergraduate degrees in library science are available, but not required, so really, any bachelor’s degree can provide a foundation for building a librarian career.

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Step 3 Research MLIS programs diligently

Since programs may vary in focus, it’s important to be sure the program aligns with your career goals. For instance, if a program focuses on youth services, but you want to be a librarian in a science library, you may want to keep looking. Some MLS programs don’t have a special focus or may offer a general MLIS degree with specific areas of concentration, which may be the best choice for students who plan on specializing in one of the offered concentrations.

Step 4 Get a job in the public library

Many libraries have part-time positions and may also be willing to work around an employee’s schedule. While this step isn’t necessary, it’s an excellent way to gain valuable work experience, network with other people in the field and possibly work up the ladder while earning a MLIS degree. If this isn’t an option, volunteering is also a great way to get a foot in the door.

Step 5 Find out what certifications and credentials may be needed

In addition to the MLIS degree, as this may vary from state to state. Some states, like New York, require testing and certification after degree completion, while other states don’t, or may only require certain types of librarians to be certified, such as k-12 librarians. Certification may be required for a variety of reasons, such as keeping public funding or working with children.

Step 6 Earn a MLIS or comparable degree from an ALA accredited college

This type of education is what many employers are looking for when hiring a librarian. Although there are other avenues to becoming a librarian, an MLIS degree is a direct path and will qualify graduates for many different types of librarian jobs.

FAQ on Earning Your Librarian Degree

  • Yes, this degree can be earned 100 percent online, depending on the college. Earning an MLS degree online is very popular, since local on-campus programs aren’t always available. There are several top-quality online programs, plus it allows students with outside obligations such as family and work to have a flexible school schedule.

  • It is possible, depending on the state, type of library, experience and what your degree is in. For example, the local public library system might hire someone as a librarian who has a master’s degree in management combined with library experience, since a librarian often takes on management tasks. However, earning the MLIS degree gives graduates a leg up on the competition while offering the most career options, as many libraries will require their librarians to have this degree.

  • Continuing education credits are not typically required for librarian positions. Often librarians are required to attend mandatory staff trainings throughout the year and may also be expected to attend seminars, professional and leadership development courses and workshops that are related to their areas of interest or expertise.

  • Figuring out what type of library you want to work for is the first step. Having a combination of experience and proper education is important and will vary from library to library. Earning a MLIS degree is one of the most direct ways to becoming a librarian and will be the most marketable. It may also help to talk with local librarians and ask about their educational background to get a better idea of what is expected in your area.

  • This varies considerably, based on the type of library. For example, an elementary school librarian will have different duties compared to one working in a law library. Some common responsibilities include finding requested information, organization and maintenance of information, assisting patrons with technology, creating programs for the community and overseeing other library employees.

  • Securing employment in a local library, attending professional development events, joining online special interest groups such as those through the ALA, social media groups for librarians and college student organizations are great ways to network. Talking with local library staff can be helpful as well to see how they went about building their library careers.

Librarian Salary & Job Growth

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the expected employment growth rate for the next few years (2016-2026) for librarian positions is at nine percent, which is close to the average growth rate for all occupations. The following section provides information on the average salaries for librarians by state, what the growth outlook is for the industry and what the job growth outlook looks like for librarians.

Salaries differ for librarians based on variables such as geographical location, years of experience, the type of librarian position and employer. For example, a reference librarian in a public library will most likely have a different salary than one working for a corporation. Salary.com has the median annual salary listed for librarians currently at 62,000, with a range of about 53,000-73,000. Librarian salary increases can be based on experience, automatic annual merit increases, job performance and promotions.

Alabama Mean wage annual: $53,460
Currently Employed: 2,170
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 5%
Alaska Mean wage annual: $70,920
Currently Employed: 420
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 1%
Arizona Mean wage annual: $47,450
Currently Employed: 1,530
Change in Employment (2016-2026): N/A
Arkansas Mean wage annual: $52,630
Currently Employed: 1,300
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 9%
California Mean wage annual: $76,940
Currently Employed: 8,940
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 10%
Colorado Mean wage annual: $67,780
Currently Employed: 2,140
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 13%
Connecticut Mean wage annual: $70,230
Currently Employed: 2,180
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 4%
Delaware Mean wage annual: $69,520
Currently Employed: 380
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 5%
Florida Mean wage annual: $59,130
Currently Employed: 5,390
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 14%
Georgia Mean wage annual: $58,270
Currently Employed: 2,680
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 14%
Hawaii Mean wage annual: $65,750
Currently Employed: 500
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 6%
Idaho Mean wage annual: $40,450
Currently Employed: 540
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 13%
Illinois Mean wage annual: $56,320
Currently Employed: 6,040
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 4%
Indiana Mean wage annual: $47,660
Currently Employed: 2,270
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 7%
Iowa Mean wage annual: $47,070
Currently Employed: 1,430
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 7%
Kansas Mean wage annual: $48,860
Currently Employed: 1,500
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 7%
Kentucky Mean wage annual: $55,870
Currently Employed: 2,030
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 7%
Louisiana Mean wage annual: $52,910
Currently Employed: 1,850
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 9%
Maine Mean wage annual: $49,680
Currently Employed: 760
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 0%
Maryland Mean wage annual: $71,440
Currently Employed: 2,840
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 5%
Massachusetts Mean wage annual: $69,910
Currently Employed: 4,510
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 8%
Michigan Mean wage annual: $51,100
Currently Employed: 3,490
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 9%
Minnesota Mean wage annual: $62,790
Currently Employed: 1,620
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 6%
Mississippi Mean wage annual: $46,100
Currently Employed: 1,340
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 9%
Missouri Mean wage annual: $53,240
Currently Employed: 2,440
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 9%
Montana Mean wage annual: $48,210
Currently Employed: 500
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 5%
Nebraska Mean wage annual: $50,470
Currently Employed: 960
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 6%
Nevada Mean wage annual: $66,850
Currently Employed: 680
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 11%
New Hampshire Mean wage annual: $55,890
Currently Employed: 1,050
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 3%
New Jersey Mean wage annual: $67,270
Currently Employed: 4,580
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 1%
New Mexico Mean wage annual: $49,990
Currently Employed: 770
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 6%
New York Mean wage annual: $67,490
Currently Employed: 12,360
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 8%
North Carolina Mean wage annual: $54,280
Currently Employed: 4,620
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 9%
North Dakota Mean wage annual: $46,620
Currently Employed: 470
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 10%
Ohio Mean wage annual: $56,210
Currently Employed: 3,600
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 4%
Oklahoma Mean wage annual: $45,090
Currently Employed: 1,450
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 8%
Oregon Mean wage annual: $64,180
Currently Employed: 1,240
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 9%
Pennsylvania Mean wage annual: $57,960
Currently Employed: 5,060
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 3%
Rhode Island Mean wage annual: $66,000
Currently Employed: 830
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 1%
South Carolina Mean wage annual: $55,270
Currently Employed: 1,770
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 10%
South Dakota Mean wage annual: $41,490
Currently Employed: 550
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 6%
Tennessee Mean wage annual: $52,640
Currently Employed: 2,600
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 10%
Texas Mean wage annual: $60,400
Currently Employed: 10,110
Change in Employment (2016-2026): N/A
Utah Mean wage annual: $50,690
Currently Employed: 970
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 27%
Vermont Mean wage annual: $48,740
Currently Employed: 740
Change in Employment (2016-2026): -2%
Virginia Mean wage annual: $70,490
Currently Employed: 4,100
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 12%
Washington Mean wage annual: $69,160
Currently Employed: 2,980
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 17%
West Virginia Mean wage annual: $41,240
Currently Employed: 840
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 8%
Wisconsin Mean wage annual: $56,520
Currently Employed: 2,170
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 5%
Wyoming Mean wage annual: $52,690
Currently Employed: 370
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 4%
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The job outlook for aspiring librarians is good, as cutting-edge technology is generally embraced in the field, and there is always a need for those who can research, organize, maintain and deliver information using this technology. While so much information nowadays is accessed online, there will still be a need for face-to-face interactions and physical participation in outreach events and programs for the community in local libraries. Many librarians are employed by public entities, such as the county, school district, colleges and government, and these types of jobs can be affected by budget cuts and increases over time. However, these jobs have highly skilled requirements and tend to be stable, with many opportunities for growth.

Finding a Librarian Program

Finding the right librarian program can be overwhelming, as there are so many choices, both on-campus and online. It’s important to take into consideration basic factors such as location, cost of tuition and length of program along with the type of librarian training the program offers. The section below offers helpful information to take the stress out of finding the right library program at all degree levels.

With cost being a factor for many students, it pays to research tuition differences, scholarship opportunities, program length, transfer credit policies, part-time enrollment options and what professional testing and certifications are required, if any. Some students may be looking for library science and information programs at the associate and bachelor’s degree levels, which can be earned prior to an MLIS degree, but not required. Other students with any type of bachelor’s degree may be planning to become a librarian and can do so by earning a MLIS degree, either on-campus or online. Another thing to consider when finding the right program is what areas of concentration a program offers. For some, a general MLIS degree is fine, while others may be planning to specialize in an area such as law, youth services, archival or academic. To narrow down the search, use the search tool below.

Professional Librarian Associations & Groups

Networking is welcome and quite common in world of librarians. Professional education and development, exchange of information, bouncing ideas off one another, sharing successes and failures, learning new ways to do things — these are all good reasons to network. It is also an excellent way to find out about new employment and career advancement opportunities in the librarian field. With modern technology, there are plenty of opportunities for online networking, plus there are several workshops and annual conferences librarians can attend at both the local and national level.

  • American Library Association

    (ALA): As the oldest and largest library association in the world, this organization is a wealth of information for all things library. Along with education and promotion of the field of library science and information, the ALA houses 11 membership divisions, for those interested in membership specific to their interests or areas of expertise, such as the Public Library Association and the Young Adult Library Association.

  • Knowledge Quest

    This is a journal published by the American Association of School Librarians, which is a division of the ALA, with informational blog posts, articles, education opportunities and conference information.

  • Hiring Librarians

    While this website was a blog-based project, it does have some great information on how to get hired as a librarian, with advice from those who actually do the hiring. If anything, it may help student librarians to read the bios section to get an idea of what kinds of management jobs are out there for librarians.

  • Online Computer Library Center

    (OCLC): OCLC is a global library cooperative that offers membership, services to libraries, resource sharing and relevant articles and support for librarians and the library community across the globe.

  • Association for Information Science and Technology

    (ASIS&T): This is a professional organization that offers membership benefits such as discounts on events, webinars and other resources, membership to regional chapters and access to special interest groups.

  • Special Libraries Association

    (SLA): is a non-profit organization designed to connect information professionals and provides education, networking and community building opportunities.

Resources for Librarians

The following list provides additional resources for aspiring librarians and those already in the field.

  • ONET OnLine

    This is a career exploration site that provides an overview plus details about various jobs, including librarian.

  • College Scholarships.org

    This is a great search engine for scholarships and shows several that are geared towards library and information science students.

  • Sldirectory.com

    There’s a lot of great info here in a directory format regarding resources for librarians, compiled and maintained by a retired school librarian.

  • LibraryScienceList.com

    This website is an online social community for librarians that also has job search info and helpful lists such as top apps for librarians, best groups to join on LinkedIn and free online courses.