Answered By: Sarah Morehouse
Last Updated: Oct 15, 2021     Views: 22

Here is the Occupational Outlook Handbook entry for Librarians and Library Media Specialists, which has information on qualifications, typical salary, growth, etc.

Here is the American Library Association page on Library Specialties, which goes into the different types of library careers there are.  As librarians ourselves, we feel obligated to be very honest: it can be very hard to find a job in this field that pays enough and has benefits to justify the cost of a graduate degree. In academic libraries, when people leave their positions, often those positions are not filled, so there are not many new job openings. In school libraries, the library/media specialist role is often one of the first to be cut during budget crisis. Public libraries do as much as possible with volunteers and paraprofessionals. There are many job ads for a public library director who will work part time, do everything, and take home a laughable stipend. (One memorable job ad offered a studio apartment upstairs from the library, along with the obligation to make sure nobody broke into the library at night, as a benefit!) You will have to have an amazing CV, be flexible about the kind of work you are willing to do and what part of the country you are willing to move to, and be prepared for a hard job hunt.

That said, the field isn't doomed, and we need people with the passion and skills for it. Librarianship as a field and as an area for career opportunities is changing rapidly. Here are some things to consider: 

So what should you do to prepare that amazing CV?

  • Do not worry about what your undergrad major is. Popular undergrad majors for library science graduate students include English, History, Social Work, Computer Science, Business, Pre-Law, Pre-Med, etc. There are no requirements. Whatever you have specialized in before grad school is something you can use to your advantage. Librarians need secondary specialties! 
  • Make sure that the graduate schools you apply to have ALA accredited library/information science programs. Check out their course offerings and how often they offer each course. You want a wide variety to choose from, and you don't want to have to wait years for something to come available. 
  • If you want to be an academic librarian in one of the more prestigious/larger universities, consider getting a second masters degree. You may want one in education, business, or computer science, or if you want to be a subject specialist, get one in that subject area. 
  • Acquire knowledge and skills that will be able to jump you to parallel, closely related career paths. Librarians who can program or work in IT, librarians who can teach, librarians who can write and present, librarians who have business skills, etc. are not only more desirable candidates for libraries to hire; they also have career alternatives.
  • Take the time during your undergrad experience not only to find work in libraries, but also to develop your strengths and your CV bullet points in other areas.
    • Rock-solid self-care. Our profession is very prone to burnout.  
    • Writing and presenting.
    • Computer skills. If you can learn to set up your wifi and fix it when it goes down, replace a burnt out motherboard, install drivers for various devices, troubleshoot a printer, build a website, do a tiny bit of Javascript and PHP, a tiny bit of SQL, be able to stream video and record a screencast, and generally keep up with whatever the high school and college students are using, you will be in great shape to learn whatever else you need to do. Also just know all the MS Office applications inside and out. "Yes, I can do a mail merge" is the secret code for "promote me now." I wish I were kidding.
    • Research from a library user's perspective. Lean into all your research assignments as opportunities to learn the library - what works and what doesn't.
    • Get involved in some community/volunteer initiative - both the hard work and the leadership aspects. Get used to causing the good kind of trouble in local government. Whether you have to deal with a faculty senate, board of directors, town board, or school board, it will serve you well.
    • Take at least a basic course in statistics and get some experience in quantitative and qualitative research methods. 
    • Some courses in business, educational studies, and/or policy will be helpful if you can fit them in.  
  • Above all, get as much work experience as possible before you graduate! Succeeding in assistantships, internships, part-time work, and volunteering in libraries will make the biggest difference in your hire-ability. Make sure to document your responsibilities and accomplishments and get letters of recommendation from your supervisors at each experience. 

Related Topics

    Contact Us

    Please give an e-mail address so we know where to send your answer. We will not share it.
    Your Question
    Your Info
    Fields marked with * are required.

    Or call us at (800) 847-3000 ext. 2222

    • Sun: 1-9 pm
    • Mon-Thu: 9am-9pm
    • Fri: 9am-5pm