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Become a Librarian

Have you ever thought about becoming a librarian? This article has information on what a librarian is, different types of librarians, and how to become a librarian. If you're looking into engaging in this multi-faceted career opportunity, read on...

What Is a Librarian?

Librarian comes from the Latin word librarius meaning “relating to books.”  But it does not mean simply a booklover, or even someone who works with books. It refers specifically to someone with a degree in library science who administers or assists in a library of some sort. These are some of the tasks that librarians do:

  • select materials for a library to acquire
  • acquire materials for a library
  • catalogue acquired materials using a system, for example Dewey Decimal or Library of Congress
  • classify materials in other ways: for example, creating a display of the work of local authors
  • circulating materials to those who have borrowing privileges at the library
  • maintaining library materials, including repairing, rebinding, or sending materials to others to do maintenance
  • providing guidance, recommendations, training, research, and other assistance to library patrons

Librarians may engage in a wide range of other activities depending on the type of library within which they work and their patrons’ needs, such as creating a treasure hunt for children or designing an exhibit.

Types of Librarians

Librarians select, acquire, organize, and research masses of material. But, depending on the nature of their jobs, they do it in quite different settings, with quite different types of material, and for quite different clients

While “librarian” is a general title, a more specific title can signal a librarian’s specialty. For example, “Reference Librarian,” “Library Media Specialist,” “Medical Librarian,” and “Children’s Librarian,” are often used.

Another way of categorizing librarians is by the institutions they work for:

  • Academic librarians work in college and university libraries, where they have a good deal to do with faculty research. They may have subject area degrees and a good deal of specialized knowledge. If a university has a medical school or other professional program, it may have its own library and own staff of librarians.
  • Public librarians work in town and city libraries, and along with the standard tasks mentioned above, there is likely to be a children’s librarian who holds story hours and other children’s book-related activities and other libraries who hold various other community activities, such as appearances by authors and book sales
  • School media specialists are employed in K-12 schools and are often certified as teachers as well as having a library degree. They may instruct students in using library technology and in research methodology and good practice.
  • Special librarians work in corporate libraries and may handle materials that are chiefly not books, for example, medical records (there is a job title “medical records librarian”), or that are focused only on the corporations business, such as the references in a law firm’s library

Become a Librarian

A bachelor’s degree is required for library work, although college and university libraries often hire work-study students to help out, but that is the minimum, and most jobs will ask for more background. Master’s degrees are usually required, and this would mean the Master of Library Science (MLS) degree or Master of Library and Information Science degree (MLIS), depending on the program.

There is a doctorate available as well: Doctor of Library Science (DLS). For school librarians, a teaching certificate may be required-check with your state for licensure information.

Schools of library science are accredited by the American Library Association (ALA), and it’s important to check because there are only 59 accredited programs. The list is available here, in several forms: Of those programs that ALA has accredited, 14 are 100% online programs, mostly at state universities, with other programs offering a combination of face-to-face classes and online components. Thirty-four of the approved schools offer a Ph.D. program.

Written by Mary Elizabeth - Sources

Library Journal: How to Become a Librarian

Princeton Review: Library and Information Science

O*NET OnLine: Summary report for 25-4021.00 Librarians