How to Become a Librarian
The primary job of a librarian is to help people find information. People in this profession also maintain the library’s various collections and manage the facility. Some of the duties a librarian may engage in include:
- Develop and maintain a catalog of library items
- Assist the general public in obtaining the materials and information needed
- Plan and implement programs for the public, like story time for kids
- Acquire new materials for the library such as audio books and videos
- Stay on top of what’s available by reading reviews, perusing catalogs, and publisher’s announcements
- Hire, train, and supervise library staff
- Develop a budget for the library and track spending
The exact duties of a librarian depend a lot on where they work. Those in small facilities typically handle multiple duties while those in larger institutions tend to specialize. Here are some of the specializations a librarian may enter:
User Services: These librarians interface directly with the public to help library patrons find information and materials. They use print and electronic resources to conduct searches to find the requested materials. They also train patrons on how to use the library and Internet resources.
Technical Services: These librarians typically work behind the scenes to acquire, prepare, and categorize materials for the library so patrons can find them. People in this field tend to have very little interaction with the public.
Administrative Services: People in this position manage the library. They hire and train staff, acquire materials and equipment, perform marketing and fundraising tasks, and prepare and manage library budgets.
In addition to government-funded libraries, librarians work in other settings which may require them to perform different duties. Here are some examples of other places librarians work and their associated tasks:
School Librarian: Also known as school media specialists, these librarians work in K-12 and post-secondary schools and teach students how to use the resources available in the library. They also assist faculty members with developing lesson plans and obtaining materials needed for the classrooms.
Information Professionals: These librarians can be found in hospitals, museums, law firms, government agencies and many other organizations that require a person to acquire and manage specialized materials. Typically, the libraries serve only that particular organization. For example, a librarian may maintain a law library for a large law firm, law school, or clerk’s office. A medical librarian will maintain an information facility for medical professionals to access health and science data such as clinical trials, medical procedures, and healthcare publications. People in these positions typically have an education in the field so they can answer questions posed to them by patrons of the libraries.
Steps to Becoming a Librarian
A master’s degree in library science is required to become a librarian. Specialized librarian positions may have additional educational requirements. For example, courses in law may be required to obtain a job as a law librarian.
Schools have different names for their graduate library science programs including Master’s in Library Science and or Master of Information Studies. Graduate programs prefer that students have earned an undergraduate degree in library science, but this is not required. It is more important to enter a graduate degree program that has been accredited by the American Library Association.
It typically takes 1 to 2 years to complete a master’s degree program. Courses include research methodology, Internet search methodology, organizing and categorizing media, and processing library materials. Those going into specialized fields would be best served by earning an additional master’s or Ph.D. in that subject.
Licenses and Certification needed to Become a Librarian
Whether or not a librarian is required to be licensed depends on where the person works. People that work for the public school system or in public libraries are required to earn a license or certification in most states. Although private organizations may not have such requirements, earning a certification can improve a person’s competitiveness in the job market.
More information about licensing or certification requirements can be obtained from the local licensing board or association.
Qualities for Success
Librarians are more likely to be successful in their jobs if they have the following
Communication Skills: Librarians interact with the general public and other professionals. They must be able to understand written and spoken communication from people of all educational levels as well as explain ideas and give instruction in ways that are easily understood by the average person.
Interpersonal Skills: People in this field need to interact professionally with others and know how to work as part of a team as well as individually.
Technology Skills: Library systems are typically computerized. In addition to knowing how to operate a computer and using it to perform their duties, librarians must be able to teach patrons how to use them to access electronic resources.
Problem-Solving Skills: Librarians are often called upon to conduct research and answer questions. This requires them to look up information and develop conclusions from what they find.
Passion for Learning: In addition to being active readers and have excellent reading comprehension, librarians must also have a passion for learning. New technology, information, and resources are constantly being developed. People in this field must stay on top of these developments and be able to speak intelligently to others about them.