How to Become a Librarian: Job Description, Qualifications & Salary

Librarians typically have one of two reputations and from what we can tell neither of them is totally accurate. We have yet to encounter the naughty librarians that easily crop up in place of images of real librarians when a search for the career field is entered. Likewise can be said for the cringe worthy older lady with her glasses sliding halfway down her face as she puts a crooked finger to her mouth to “shhh” library visitors. There are, however, a wide variety of librarians out there that have their own great identities all while kicking some serious tail at their jobs.

Today, we are going to fill you in on how to become a librarian as well as fill you in on a ton of other information. Rest assured that we have a lot in store for you today and we are just a wee bit excited to get started.

How To Become a Librarian

How to Become a Librarian Librarians are the guys and gals that are in charge of keeping libraries running efficiently. This is done by keeping the books, newspapers, magazine, electronic media materials and any other sources of data well organized. There will often be a need to aid visitor with a variety of things that will make their trip their trip to the library enjoyable and productive. It is possible to work in many different setting once you become a librarian. The most common places to work are public, private, school, academic and specialty libraries.

The process of becoming a librarian will take roughly 6 years and requires a master’s degree in library science to be earned. During the process of earning an MLS, you will cover many subjects that will help you to become an awesome librarian. You will lock in a solid understanding of how to select library materials, organize information, research effectively, internet search methods and how to use online reference systems.

Once your MLS is completed, you are ready to begin searching for a job. If you are interested in working in a public school, you will probably need to earn a teaching certificate through the state you will be working in. That shouldn’t be too hard to lock in since you already have all of the educational requirements necessary to complete a teaching certificate.

Do I Need Any Special Skills?

There are certainly some specific qualities that you may want to work that will help you to do your job at top notch standards. All the skills that we are going to tell you about can be learned and fine tuned with some practice, so if you feel that you may be a tad bit rusty in certain areas, don’t worry and take this as a heads up.

  • Communication Skills: There is a lot of conversing, explaining and guiding of patrons and fellow library staff to be done on a regular basis, so having some solid communication skills is certainly helpful. You will want to communicate in a precise and purposeful manner so that you are understand easily
  • Computer Skills:There is a lot of computer work involved in this job. You will use it to research topics for visitors, track the library’s database for materials, create databases and use it for administrative purposes. You won’t need to be a computer genius, but it is a really good idea to have above average computer skills
  • Initiative: A take charge, go getter attitude will get you very far as a librarian, especially given how quickly new information flows, technology changes and of course with the rate that new materials are released. Libraries look for staff that are on top of these changes and that are open to keeping the library just as current
  • Problem Solving Skills: A big part of your job is research and in order to effectively do that, you will need to have pretty good problem solving skills. You’ll want to be able to spot a problem, work out how to fix the problem and ideally execute your plan of attack
  • Interpersonal Skill: This is not a job for someone that isn’t too fond of working with people, especially since working with people takes up the majority of your job. You will be required to work with the public and a team of library staff, so there isn’t an escape from human interaction
  • Reading Skills: As we are sure you know, reading is a major part of being a librarian and you are going to need to be pretty great at it to succeed

What Does a Librarian Do?

The simple answer to this question is: SO MUCH! Seeing as how that’s not very informative and our job here is to inform, we know that that answer simply won’t do. So, we are going to fill you in on many of the super interesting job duties that librarians perform on the daily!

  • Libraries have many people come through on a daily basis and it is the job of a librarian to help them as best they can. Sometimes patrons will need some help researching a specific topic or find a certain book and it will be your job to help them
  • Some librarians teach classes to the public about how to use the resources that are available to them and how to then use the information that they obtain in the best way possible
  • There will be a lot of organizing of books, magazine, various media materials and the main goal will be to make them as easy to find for the visitors of the library. It is also important to maintain the integrity of the collections of items that are housed in the library
  • Plan and coordinate various activities and programs that are of interest to different audiences. For example: holding a puppet shoe or story hour will bring in young children and hosting an internet cafe is something that teenagers will probably be interested in
  • There will be a high demand for databases to be kept with the most up-to-date information possible available at all times
  • A really cool duty that you will likely take part in as a librarian, is the task of researching new books and various other materials to bring into the library. You may get the chance to read books early on top of checking out reviews, announcements from the publisher of the book or see what book catalogs have to say/offer
  • Once you have researched all of these new materials, you will then be able to decide which ones would benefit the library and its patrons the most
  • Stay up-to-date on all of the current technology by way of computers and other mobile devices, that may be an asset to the library
  • When new librarians, library technicians, assistants and volunteers come in they will need to be shown the ropes and you’ll hopefully be the best one for the job
  • One of the less enjoyable duties of a librarian, is the planning and preparation of the library budget. This is a pretty big responsibility and can be a bit stressful, but it’s the name of the game and a necessary evil

Librarian Salary

It’s time to find out how much you are may earn as a librarian and to see how many cardigans you will be able to buy. As of May 2013, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, reports that librarians are able to earn a median annual salary of $55,690. This is probably the yearly salary that can be expected after a few years of working and gaining a good bit of experience.

When you are starting out in your position as a librarian, it is possible that you may earn somewhere around $33,380 annually, which falls within the first 10% of salaries paid out in this profession. Once you have been around the library shelves for a while and have showed the catalog system who its boss is, you may earn a yearly salary of $86,320.

We’d like to point out that there isn’t a guarantee that these wages are going to be locked in once you are ready to get a job and that there might be slight differences based upon the location of the library you work at in terms of city, state and what your specific job within them is. The Bureau of Labor Statistics website has a lot of very easy to read graphs and charts that may shed a bit more light on the situation based upon the factors that we just mentioned. Check them out if you would like to learn more.

Librarian Salary

Is Becoming a Librarian Right For Me?

Hold on one moment while we consult our crystal ball for that answer! Shoot, we forgot that our crystal ball is in the shop! Since our psychic skills are on the fritz, we’ve got another way to get this question answered for you.

We found a career quiz that is especially geared to towards those that are considering becoming a librarian. It won’t take you long to click through the questions and it had some pretty good questions that may make you think a little bit. Hopefully you get the results that you are looking for, but if you don’t, come back to see us because we may have some information about other careers that you may be interested in.

Click here to be taken to the quiz!

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Why Should I Become a Librarian?

There are so many reasons to become a librarian and we could likely spend all day filling you in only to still need more time. We don’t have that kind of time, unfortunately, so we are going to give you the CliffsNotes instead. Pay close attention here because this an important sections!

  • A job with scope: Being a librarian means that you will do a great many things in any given day that will always keep you moving, talking to people, watching changes in the book world and many other things. This is certainly not a desk job and we bet you won’t get bored
  • Useful skills: The skills that you will pick up during school and as an actual working librarian will be pretty invaluable. You will easily become proficient in skills that you will be able to take and apply to not just other jobs but also real life situations
  • Purpose: This is possibly the best reason to become a librarian in our opinion. Having the chance to support people of all ages in there love of reading and becoming a champion for the powerful tool that knowledge can be to anyone and everyone regardless of race, creed, religion or their socio-economic station in life. We know that this likely sounds cheesy and like a big cliché, but we are not even librarians and we feel this strongly about the profession and we bet that real librarians feel the same.

Surprise Librarians

You may be surprised to hear about the folks that we have on our list of surprise librarians! Each are very well-known for a great many accomplishments in life besides their time cataloging the great books on library shelves. Let’s find out more about our surprise librarians now!

Lewis Carroll

Yep, we are talking about the author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass! Lewis Carroll, whose real name is actually, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, worked as a sub-librarian at Christ Church after he graduated from Oxford in the 1800’s. Pretty cool, huh? We wonder I he thought about creating Wonderland while sorted and cataloged the books as a means to pass the time.

Laura Bush

After earning her Master’s degree in Library Science from the University of Texas at Austin, former First Lady Laura Bush served as a librarian. We can wager a guess that her time spent in the library had a major impact on her support of librarian recruitment to ramp up interest in this super cool profession.

J. Edgar Hoover

Long before J. Edgar Hoover founded the Federal Bureau of Investigation and possibly before he began wearing women’s clothing, he was a librarian. Hoover supported himself while he was working his way through night school at George Washington University. He worked in the Library of Congress as a messenger, cataloger and clerk until 1919.

Librarians Are Still Important – Here’s Why

There has been a lot of chatter in recent years about the potential for libraries and librarians to become obsolete due to the prevalence of the internet everywhere you turn these days. Well, we are going to put all those unpleasant rumors to rest while we fill you in on why librarians as well as libraries are still super important and not going anywhere!

The Internet Does Not Replace Libraries

These days, libraries and the internet are BFF’s and great resources for each other. The two are so vastly different that it’s very hard to pit them against each other. How does this impact librarians? Well, for starters, we need librarians to be the jumping off point between the two. Librarians are able to use their awesome research skills and pull information from both areas to help visitors or for the betterment of the library.

You Can’t Find Everything on the Internet

There is definitely a lot of information on the internet and the ability to search for something with only the tapping of a few keys is great. The ease that we gather information and the amount that we can find has caused a bit of a false assumption that anything and everything can indeed be found online. This is just not true and one of the many reasons that we need libraries and librarians. It really doesn’t matter how many search engines try to change everything into digital data because there are safety measures in place to make sure that this cannot happen. Thank you, Copyright!

Library Attendance Is Not Falling

Library attendance is not falling, but it is changing, which is why it is important to change with it. Some library archives have been converted to digital formats and placed online for easy access, this is especially helpful when we consider the growing number of colleges that are offering online degrees. Online libraries and users utilizing the online services of libraries still count as attendance, so don’t let the stories predicting the collapse of the library get to you!

Movie Break!

We’ve made you do some pretty heavy reading up until this point and we think you deserve a break now. We love a good YouTube video that pertains to the career or degree program that we are telling you guys about and today is no exception. To be honest, we love at a lot of videos that talked about becoming a librarian and we were really unimpressed with what we found…that is until we came across the video that we have for you today.

The video below was created by a Syracuse University students for a librarian scholarship and even though it’s short, running at just under 2 minutes, it says all of the things that budding librarians need to know. This is definitely a must see, so we hope that you will tune in!

Final Grade

Finally, the time has come for us to give you our final thoughts on a career as a librarian. We promise to be nice since we’ve always wanted to become a librarian and hold a special affinity for the job. Brace yourselves because here we go!

Degree vs. Debt: B+

When we review the salary expectations and the educational requirements for librarians, we feel that the degree to debt ratio is actually pretty reasonable. Sure, you have to slave over the Dewey Decimal System for 6 years while you earn a master’s degree and with that there is bound to be a certain amount of debt incurred. When you consider that the starting salary is pretty nice and that there is a lot of room to work up the salary chain before you top out, we’d give it a thumbs up…or more like a B+.

Difficulty of Degree: B-

There is a lot and we do mean a lot to learn during the master’s degree program required to become a librarian. You are looking at 6 solid years of reading, researching, writing and memorizing. There isn’t a whole lot of room for frat parties and spring break trips to Cabo here that is for sure. At least the subject that you will be studying is going to be super interesting and should hold your attention. It might not be a bad idea to get a 6 year supply of Red Bull, though!

Happiness Quotient: A+

For us, this is kind of a no brainer. We can’t imagine many things that are more happiness inducing than being surrounded by books all days, helping people discovery new books and topics and oh, did we mention that you get to be around books all the time? Heck, we are happier after writing about how to become a librarian. It’s possible that we might explode into tiny bits of happiness confetti if we talk about working in a library for much longer.

Job Outlook: C-

We almost graded the job outlook with a D, but we just couldn’t bring ourselves to do it. Sadly, the job growth leaves a lot to be desired and is coming in much slower than most other jobs out there. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there is only expected to be a 7% growth for this position between 2012 and 2022. The slow growth is due in large part to the budget cuts that libraries are continually subjected to and the increasing amount of libraries that are adding content online certainly doesn’t help too much either. Don’t give up just yet on becoming a librarian, though!

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Sources and Recommended Reading

We are so glad that you stopped by today and we truly hope that you continue to pursue a career as a librarian if that’s what you are passionate about. We are linking you to some of the sources that we used when researching this article as well as some sites that have additional helpful information.

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