There is talk that libraries, as well as librarians, are inevitably going to become obsolete. Disappear, poof—nothing more than a thing of the past. And with digital media becoming a “thing,” it’s no wonder many librarians are a bit fearful that their jobs are going to one day be non-existent. Don’t let the explosion of digital make you fearful. Go after a librarian degree. Just like libraries evolved from the Roman times, so will librarian jobs as we move forward into the future.
HISTORY OF LIBRARIES AND THEIR LIBRARIANS
Libraries have a long and colorful history, as do those who have been employed to keep an eye on what is housed inside those four walls. The earliest documented libraries go back to ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt. Because those in charge of libraries had to know how to read, librarians were usually of a higher social class. Typically, they were scholars or priests. Throughout the earlier part of documented history, libraries were usually housed in monasteries, and then later in universities. The first permanent library in the United States was established at Harvard University, which was then called Harvard College. It was the “golden age” for libraries in the 1600-1700s: that’s when their numbers increased, and they became a permanent and important part of our communities. As libraries evolved, so did the librarian.
THE LIBRARIAN STEREOTYPE AND MYTH BUSTED
It’s ironic that most of the famous librarians have been men, because all the stereotypes surrounding librarians are based on women. From the bun-wearing spinster and her house filled with cats to the meek, mousy, asexual male librarian, these stereotypes are far-reaching, affecting all genders of the profession. Very often, they teeter more into the negatives. For decades, students of library and information science have been trying to battle these antiquated stereotypes. While many may, in fact, wear glasses and have to shush the patrons visiting the library, actual librarians come in all sizes, shapes, colors, and degrees of geekdom. Some don’t like cats, and lots have perfect vision. Some have pink hair or rainbow beards. They run blogs, help kids on the fringe fit in, have tattoos, and define their own style. Keep those stereotypes delegated to the fiction section, because the reality is anything goes.
TYPES OF LIBRARIANS
here are different types of librarians, working in a variety of library environments. The librarian’s job varies depending on the size and category of library he or she works in. And get this: Not all librarians work in a library.
- School librarian: Public, private, and parochial schools all have libraries. Working in those collections, you’ll find the school librarian. Librarians teach the students to navigate the library and properly use the equipment, as well as utilize the available resources lining the shelves. Private school pays in the mid-$40Ks, while public school pays in the low $50Ks.
- Academic librarian: In the libraries in colleges and universities, you’ll find academic librarians. They teach the students how to find information related to whatever they are researching. You’ll make an average of $61K annually.
- Public librarian: Most communities have libraries. Within these libraries, many programs are hosted for young children through senior citizens. The librarian is the one putting these programs together, as well as running them. As a public librarian, you will also help locate the perfect book, help students with their research, and so much more.
- Special librarian: Corporate, law, medical, and government all have libraries that house specific information for that particular niche or specialty. In these types of libraries, you will collect and organize the materials. Earn in the mid $52K range.
- Technical service: You help make the information in the library easily accessible. Plus, you’ll be ordering new materials and ensuring the older materials are properly preserved. You’ll earn around $49K.
- Curator: While a curator isn’t technically a librarian, the position still requires a degree in library sciences. As a curator, you’ll be in charge of handling the collections, and dealing with the people as well as the pieces in the collection. You’ll earn a bit over $51K on average.
- Archivist: As an archivist, you’ll be in charge of getting new collections, organizing and processing old collections, and assisting researchers using the collections. The average salary of an archivist is about $47K.
And there is a career ladder, as well:
- Pages: This is a minimum wage job. Pages are in charge of taking care of putting away all the returned and displaced books.
- Library technician or assistant: Assistants are usually sitting behind the desk when you first walk into a library. They’ll be the ones checking out the books you’re taking home. They answer phones, collect overdue fees, assign library cards, and complete other clerical tasks. Generally, they earn an average of $13.50/hour, and it’s usually a part-time position.
- Librarian: Duties will vary depending on what type of library you’ll be working in.
- Library manager: This is a more advanced role and may have you doing the employee training and evaluating, as well as managing the library budget. A library manager is the deputy or assistant to the director or the library. Expect to earn a median salary of $79K.
- Library director: The director is responsible for pretty much running the library, and everything to do with it from budget to staff. For his or her troubles, a library director earns an average annual salary of over $105K.
SHOULD I BECOME A LIBRARIAN?
As we’ve already established, there are no true stereotypes when it comes to librarians. However, there are certain personality traits and ideals that should be present if you want to be the best librarian.
- You enjoy being around and helping people
- You enjoy creating programs for the young, and young-at-heart
- You don’t get annoyed with a constant bombardment of questions and are able to patiently answer them to the best of your knowledge
- You want everyone across the globe to have easy access to reading materials
- You think your middle name should be research because of how much you enjoy doing it
- You love organizing
- You’re good with technology and are able to keep up with it as it evolves
- You love to read—probably the biggest given
- You’re a big team player
- You’re a great communicator
HOW TO BECOME A LIBRARIAN
You’re thinking about becoming a librarian, right? You must be, since you made it this far into the article! There is a definite educational path you’ll have to take to get from point A to point working surrounded by books all day!
- Undergrad: Since you’ll need to attend a four-year university, you’ll need to graduate from high school or get a GED, and apply to and be accepted into any bachelor’s degree program. The American Library Association states that it’s not necessary at this juncture to choose a library program. You can have any bachelor’s degree to enter the MLS program! Think about the education or information science programs since they’ll better prepare you for your master’s. Since the MLS program is pretty competitive, your major prerequisite for the program is to get excellent grades in undergrad.
- Master’s of Library Science: Once you’ve gotten your undergrad degree, it’s time to get your Master’s of Library Science degree from a program accredited through the American Library Association. There are both on-campus and online graduate programs available, and it’s completely up to you which one works for you. There are benefits to both. The MLS can be completed in two years if you go full time. In your master’s program, expect a thesis or capstone project, along with fieldwork to go with your coursework. This is for both online and physical schools; both will have the same requirements. Oh, and one last thing. You’ll have to choose between a library science major or an information science focus—or combination of the two— when it comes time to choose your degree route.
- Library science is the path to take if you want to be a school librarian.
- Information science focuses on the technology and management of the electronic systems used.
- The combination of both library and informational sciences takes both areas and smushes them together.
- Specializations: You may want to specialize, and now is your chance. Through your internships and fieldwork, lean toward opportunities that will lead you into the area you’re hoping to specialize in.
- Licensing: If you’re going to work in a public school, then you will need a teaching certificate. Additionally, you may need to be licensed, depending on which state you’re working in. Many states do have some sort of licensing requirement imposed upon librarians.
WILL THERE BE A JOB FOR ME?
Average employment growth expected for librarians through 2026. Budgets are constantly being cut, and libraries are being shut down. Both factors are to blame for the lack of job growth. Sure, there will always be a need for librarians, in public libraries, schools, and in many other sectors. Except, the competition will be fierce due to more librarians than open positions. With a MLS from an accredited program, along with technological knowledge and being able to keep up with the times, you’ll have a better chance of wowing a hiring manager.
Industries with the highest level of employment
Elementary and Secondary Schools
Local Government (OES Designation)
Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools
Other Information Services
States with the highest levels of employment
A LIBRARIAN'S SALARY
In 2016, the reported median annual salary for a librarian was over $57K. Of course, salary is heavily dependent on what state and industry you’ll be employed in. Librarians usually work full time. Public school and academic librarians may have to work evenings and weekends. School librarians get the same vacations, including summer, as the students. There is a high percentage of librarians who join a union.
Industries paying the highest salaries
Federal Executive Branch (OES Designation)
Computer Systems Design and Related Services
Scientific Research and Development Services
States paying the highest salaries
District of Columbia
Because librarian jobs aren’t very plentiful, it might not be a bad idea to work your way up the library’s ladder. Start out as a page or assistant, and gain the experience as you’re going to school. You could begin working at the library as early as 16 years old! This way, you’ve already got your foot in the door, and hopefully, an in with a job!
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Librarians, on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/librarians.htm (visited August 14, 2017).