A modern librarian does a great deal more than shelving books, checking items in and out for patrons, and sifting through online card catalogs. They are the primary overseers and executors of all the library’s many functions.

In this article, the job description for a librarian is outlined, as well as the education and other requirements necessary to become one. The 10-year employment outlook and expected yearly earnings are also provided.

Job Description
Librarians, sometimes called information professionals, serve many functions in today’s libraries. They perform their traditional duties, such as cataloging and shelving books, as well as learning about and implementing new technologies.

Librarians are also in charge of managing library staff and volunteers, including library assistants and technicians. A person trained as a librarian can take on many roles – some even work independently as “information brokers” for private companies.

A librarian’s duties can include a wide range of activities, often depending on the size of the library and whether the individual is working in the public or private sector. Here are some of those duties:

On the floor and with patrons

  • helping patrons find information and materials
  • working at the circulation desk, checking books in and out of the system
  • placing requests for interlibrary loans
  • assisting patrons with using library technology, such as computers, databanks, or
  • microfilm readers
  • repairing damaged material

As supervisors

  • overseeing library staff, including library assistants and technicians
  • delegating duties to assistants and volunteers
  • creating work and volunteer schedules
  • managing employee paperwork and payroll

Behind the scenes

  • learning about newly available relevant technologies and how to apply them
  • researching new materials and tools to use in the library
  • obtaining new materials for the library
  • seeking grants and funding for the library
  • conducting research for patrons or employers
  • performing maintenance and upkeep on library databases

A librarian’s job responsibilities will vary depending on the work setting. For example, a librarian working for the Library of Congress will need to conduct much more involved research than a librarian in an elementary school, who in turn must also have the “people skills” to handle large groups of children that a Library of Congress employee might never face. Often librarians working in libraries in smaller towns or schools will perform more of the tasks themselves that could be delegated to library assistants or volunteers in larger or more highly funded libraries.

Education and Other Requirements
The minimum requirement to become a librarian is a master’s degree in library science. A second degree or concentration in a field of specialty, such as historical literature or biological science, will greatly increase your chances of employment.

Public school librarians may not need a master’s degree but often need a teaching license. Requirements for school librarians differ from state to state, so it is recommended you research the requirements for the state in which you want to work.

Any bachelor’s degree is acceptable to enter into a library science graduate program, but you will benefit most from having a bachelor’s degree in the area you would like to specialize in as a librarian, such as early childhood education or ancient languages.

A doctorate in library science can open the door for advancement or make it possible to become a library sciences educator. But holding a doctorate is very rarely necessary to work in general librarian positions.

10-Year Employment Outlook
Job opportunities for librarians are expected to grow at the average rate for all professions. Most new librarian positions will become available as retiring librarians are replaced.

Because we can now find more and more information online, and because of government budget constraints, the number of new job openings for librarians will remain modest. Also, many libraries are resorting to hiring library assistants and library technicians over fully trained librarians as a means to cut costs.

However, having specialized knowledge and training in a particular field can give a librarian the edge in the job market. This is especially true for specializations in high demand, such as information technology and medical science.

The greatest job growth for individuals trained as librarians will be found in nontraditional roles, such as information brokers for private corporations, nonprofit organizations, and consulting firms. For these companies and organizations, individuals holding a master’s in library science may work as:

  • Systems analysts
  • Database specialists and trainers
  • Webmasters or Web developers
  • Local area network (LAN) coordinators

Below are the average yearly earnings for individuals working as librarians. Librarians working for higher education institutions tend to earn the most, and those working for local government tend to earn the least. Librarians working in alternative settings also tend to earn more than those employed in government-run institutions or the public school system.

  • Median: $52,500
  • Middle range: $42,000 to $66,000
  • Overall range: $33,000 to $81,000