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People who work in libraries have a wide variety of interests and varying levels of education. Librarians of today not only love books but love technology as well. The latest technology tools are found in libraries, and librarians must be comfortable using them.
Anyone consider a career as a librarian should first earn some type of library science degree. Degrees (for the most part) are available at all levels, but the degree many librarians pursue is at the graduate level: the MLS or MLIS (Masters in Library Science or Master of Library Information Science).
Types of Jobs in a Library
Running a library takes many people. The librarians, library assistants, and library technicians deal directly with resources people want when they come to libraries. Duties, education requirements, and salaries are different than for those working behind the scenes. The behind the scene workers include computer support specialists, office managers, public relations specialists, and janitors.
Becoming a Librarian
Depending on the specialty, librarians are responsible for running education programs, conducting research, teaching children the love of reading, or managing library employees. A librarian should enjoy being around people. Regardless of the library career chosen, the job involves interacting with people.
Before earning the librarian title, take these steps.
Understand educational requirements
First, a librarian has to have an undergraduate degree to apply for a Masters in Library Science program. No particular major is required. Common majors include Information Science, subjects such as Art History, English, or other studies that require technical skills and research. Here are some of the top program areas in library science:
- Library and Information Science
- Academic Librarianship
- Archival Studies
- Book Arts
- Children Library Services
- College Librarianship
- Community Library Science
- Cultural Heritage Information Management
- Digital Library Science
- Digital Curation
- Health Library Science
- Informatics Degrees
- Information Science
- Information Systems Design
- Knowledge Management
- Law Librarianship
- Library Administration
- Library Data Science
- Library Leadership
- Library Management
- Library Media Specialist
- Music Librarianship
- Public Librarianship
- Records Management
- Reference and User Services
- School Librarianship
- Science Librarianship
- User Experience UX
More on the MLS and the ALA
Those wanting to be a specialized librarian, as in law or science, may require a secondary degree in a particular field. Check to make sure the undergraduate degree has courses that cover prerequisites for acceptance into a Master's program in the chosen field. After graduation, obtain an ALA-accredited (American Library Association) Masters in Library Science. Conduct research before choosing where to apply. Some focus on information accessibility politics, others on technology, and the list goes on.
Some library science degree programs require living on campus and others that are conducted entirely online. Double-check a program found from some other source than the ALA website, to make sure it is ALA-accredited. We have written a guide to the best online ALA accredited library science programs that is a great start.
Many libraries do not hire candidates who hold a degree from a non-accredited school. Programs offered by some prestigious colleges offer information technology programs that are not ALA-accredited. Those interested in information technology but not in the management of a library or the responsibilities of a librarian may choose these alternative programs. Before completing the graduate program, it is wise to apply for a job at a local public or university library to gain experience.
Research library careers
All of those jobs are essential to the function of the facility. A library career can provide personal enrichment, challenge, and enjoyment. Libraries empower people with the offer of resources, services, and training that expand their knowledge. Those who work in libraries help people locate information and use it for personal and professional purposes. Knowledge of a broad range of public and scholarly information sources is required as well as being knowledgeable about the trends in technology to be able to serve the patrons of the library.
Understand the definition of library science
Library science includes managing the library, preserving, archiving, and disseminating information, developing informational technologies, and research education. The librarian may specialize in one area. Many have responsibilities requiring expertise in all areas.
Know the different types of librarianship
There are many types of libraries. The responsibilities of the librarian vary within them. Librarians in public libraries have a customer service role. Academic librarians work at reference desks. School librarians teach research skills and promote children's love of reading.
Characteristics needed to be a librarian
The job requires more than an appreciation of books. The best librarians have a passion for knowledge as well as ways to organize it. Their concern is the preservation of knowledge and making it accessible to those who need it.
Learn more by conducting interviews
Arrange to meet a librarian who works in an area of interest. Ask about the specific duties, what traits a librarian should have, and if the librarian has a Masters of Library Science degree program to recommend.
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The American Library Association is a U.S-based, nonprofit organization that internationally promotes libraries and library education. It is the largest and oldest library association. The association has over 57,000 members. A group of men that included Thomas W. Bicknell, Charles Evan, Melvil Dewey, Fred B. Perkins, James L. Whitney, Samuel S. Green, Charles Ammi Cutter, and Justin Winsor founded the association on October 6, 1875.
It happened during the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. In 1879, the association was chartered in Massachusetts. The head office is now in Chicago. It is governed by an executive board and an elected council. Various round tables and committees administer programs and policies. Among the organization’s tasks is overseeing, reviewing, and authorizing academic institutions in America and Canada that offer library and science programs.
The work is overseen by the Office of Accreditation. The association’s official purpose is providing library science and librarianship. There are eleven membership divisions that members may join. They deal with topics such as library administration, technical or reference services, and public, school, and academic libraries. There are also 17 round tables members may join. They are grouped around issues and interests that are more specific than the ALA divisions. The association is affiliated with state, regional, and student chapters across the country. It publishes some periodicals and books, participates in the development of library standards, and organizes conferences. The ALA helps promote diversity in the profession with outreach activities that include the Spectrum Scholarship Program.
If a person has a job at a library, talking to the employer is the first place to find out if the organization offers any support. The help may be in the form of flexible scheduling, conducting school projects and internships while on the payroll, or scholarships from the library or its associations. Investigate scholarships that may be available through various national and state library associations. Some of them include the ALA Scholarship Program. The ALA offers general scholarships and specialized scholarships that target members of underrepresented groups, school media specialists, youth services, and staff. The American Library Association is committed to the promotion and advancement of the library profession. It provides more than $300,000 per year for study in an ALA-accredited Masters in Library and Information Science degree programs or a Master’s degree with a school librarianship specialty that meets the curriculum guidelines of the ALA.
The ALA Scholarship program allows applying for various scholarships through a single online application. The scholarship process is available from the first of September to the first of March. The Library Information Technology Association sponsors four scholarships that encourage qualified persons to enter into the field of library and information technology.
There are also scholarships for underrepresented and minorities that include:
- CIRLA Fellows Program
- Knowledge River Program
- ALA Spectrum Scholarships
- Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association Scholarship
- Prism Associates Program
- Century Scholarship
Finally, contact the school of preference. It can provide information about financial aid, work programs, and scholarships.
The Financial Assistance for Library Information Science publishes an annual directory describing awards from foundations, academic institutions, local libraries, state and national library associations, and state agencies that give some assistance for undergraduates and graduate library and information education studies. The initiative of the Association of Research Libraries is to recruit a diverse workplace. They offer a stipend for as much as $5000 to attract and expose library professionals from groups that are underrepresented in careers in research and academic libraries. Individual programs for graduate library education have information about the availability of specific financial assistance opportunities offered by that institution.
Fellowships are somewhat like scholarships. Some require working on research projects or serving as a teaching assistant. The awards are often sizable, and allow the student to concentrate on studies as they pay for school. The financial aid office of the preferred school will have information about possible fellowship programs. A fellowship may be offered from an online program also if there is a satellite campus near where a student lives.
Grants, like fellowships and scholarships, do not have to be repaid. They are available for undergraduates and graduate students. Typically, they are awarded based on financial need. They come in many sizes and shapes. The application for a grant is usually longer and more detailed than applications for scholarships. Grants can be found from state and federal governments, as well as public and private organizations and universities.
Leaders are not necessarily born. They can gain opportunities and develop valuable skills with the nurturing and encouragement of a mentor. Mentors look for leadership opportunities, share experiences, and serve as a sounding board as mentees grow into their roles. Library mentorship can be formal or informal. Formal mentorship is a structured relationship, often sponsored by an organization that has formal and specific plans, goals, and outcomes. Informal mentorship takes place in locations beyond the employment site and takes shape based on the parties’ mutual agreement. Either can be successful. Those choosing a type of mentorship should keep in mind their goals, style, and outcomes. Peer mentorship has become a valuable mentoring relationship. It allows uncensored conversations about subordinates, superiors, and ‘unwritten rules.’
Regardless of the format, mentoring needs administrative support to ensure commitment and resources are available. Mentorships do not replace supervisory relationships. They are vital to instilling self-confidence and independence and developing consistent work practices. Proof of a successful mentorship is employees that prosper and remain in the profession. The mentor and mentee need to have the same expectations to achieve the highest success. Mentorships should be available to all library staff, not just new hires. Developing a productive relationship requires commitment and assurance that mentors will maintain contact. Phoning or emailing, along with in-person meetings are suggested.
The average U.S. librarian earns $64,961. The range usually falls between $55,384 and $76,163. Many factors affect salary. They include education, certification, skills, and how long one has been in the profession. The best-paid qualifications and skills held by librarians are in law and legal research. Librarians with these skills earn between 37 and 40 percent above the base salary. Top companies such as the U.S. Legislative Branch pay salaries that are near or above $100,000. Location also has an impact. Austin, Texas has library jobs that pay over $46,000; Los Angeles, California, over $65,000; and Washington, DC, over $87,000. Common benefits for librarians include:
- 403(b) Retirement plan
- Adoption assistance
- Credit union membership
- Health insurance
- Dependent health insurance coverage
- Military leave
- Parental leave
- Tuition reimbursement
- Wellness program
Salaries for similar professions are – Archivist, over $54,000; Director, over $86,000; Library Assistant $13.28/hour; Library Manager, over $57,000: and Library Technician, $15.43/hour. Forty-six percent of librarians in the U.S. feel their salaries are satisfactory for the cost of living in the area which they live. Depending on education, specific skills, required experience, location, industry, and job, salary ranges differ significantly. In the health industry an Assistant Librarian earns a salary a little over $37,000; a Health Sciences Librarian, over $64,000; and a Chief Medical Librarian, over $79,000.
Trained personnel can find employment in areas such as
- Organizations and companies with requirements for handling large amounts of information
- Foreign embassies
- Information and documentation centers
- Galleries and museums that have research facilities and reading rooms
- News organizations and agencies
- Photo and film libraries
- Special libraries for private organizations
- Government and public libraries
- Universities or other academic institutions
The job of the librarian is to select print and non-print materials for corporate, medical, law, university, school, and public libraries. They make the resources accessible to users by their organization and provision of instruction on how to use them.
Library technicians are paraprofessionals who work under the supervision of a librarian. The duties of a library technician vary according to the facility’s size. Those working in small facilities typically have more responsibilities. They order and organize materials, lending them to patrons, and re-shelving them when returned.
Library assistants are under the supervision of librarians and librarian technicians. They provide clerical support. Duties include material organization, collection of fines for lost or overdue books, and re-shelving books that are returned. They answer phones and other clerical tasks.
Public relation specialists ensure people in the community know about the programs and services a public library offers. They send broadcasters and newspapers press releases, create promotional materials such as newsletters and flyers, and meet with community schools and organizations to promote activities.
Administrative service managers coordinate the support services of a library. They may allocate supplies, plan budgets, and oversee mail distribution.
Computer support specialists provide library staff members with support. They maintain computer equipment, install software and hardware, and help solve problems.
Types of Libraries
There are four types of libraries – Academic, Public, School, and Special libraries.
An academic library is attached to an institution of higher learning. It serves two purposes, to support the curriculum and research of the university students and faculty. The National Center of Education Statistics estimates there are 3700 academic libraries in the U.S.(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Academic_library) Academic libraries determine a focus for developing collections. They identify the needs of the student body and faculty along with the academic programs and mission of the university or colleges. There is often a special collection department for particular areas of specialization. The collections may include artifacts created or written by an author on a specific subject, artwork, and original papers. These are sometimes referred to as niche collections. Academic libraries vary a great deal based on services, collections, resources, and size. Before electronic resources were available, material meant to supplement lectures, that was prescribed by instructors, was kept in reserve in the library. The reserves were books or photocopies of journal articles. Modern academic libraries provide access to digital resources as well.
School library services have evolved from state or public book wagons in the late 1800s to what we have today. A public library is accessible to the general public and typically funded from public sources, commonly taxes. Librarians and paraprofessionals operate public libraries. They are considered civil servants. Public libraries share five fundamental characteristics They are
- Typically supported by local taxes
- Governed by a board serving the public interest
- Open to all
- Entirely voluntary
- There is no charge for basic services
Any level of government can contribute to public libraries. Every community member has access to the collection. No one is ever forced to use the provided services. Public libraries differ from school libraries, research libraries, and other special libraries in their mandate to serve the general public information needs rather than a particular research, institution, or school population’s needs. Public libraries provide services like book clubs that encourage adult appreciation of literature, quiet work and study areas for professionals and students, and preschool story-times that promote early literacy. They allow patrons to borrow books and materials that can be temporarily taken from premises and have non-circulating reference collections and provide internet and computer access to users.
School libraries are a part of a school in which staff, students, and on occasion, parents of a private and public school have access to various resources. The goal is to ensure school communities have access to reading and books, information, and information technology. School libraries differ from public libraries in that they are learner-oriented laboratories that individualize, support, and extend the curriculum of the school. It is the coordinating agency and center for all materials the school uses.
Over 60 studies have been conducted in the United States and Canada that demonstrate school libraries have a positive influence on student achievement. Students with access to school libraries having well-supported media programs and qualified media specialists score higher on reading assessments without regard to socio-economic status. An Ohio study revealed 99.4 percent of students that were surveyed believed their school library media programs and school librarians helped in their success in school. A report compiled by Michele Lonsdale of Australia, reported similar conclusions. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/School_library)
Special libraries provide information on particular subjects. They serve a limited and specialized clientele and deliver specialized services. They include nonprofit, news, museum, medical, law, government, and corporate libraries. Special libraries exist within academic institutions, including medical and law school libraries. These libraries are often funded separately. They serve a group of targeted users. Special libraries are developed to support the sponsoring organization’s mission. The services and collections are targeted to the specific needs of the clientele. They may be open to the public. Those that are offer services similar to children’s, academic, public, reference, and research libraries.
A special library is typically staffed by librarians. Many librarians employed in these libraries are specialists in the field. Advanced degrees are not always a requirement in a specific library-related area due to the specialized clientele and content of the library. Special libraries are ‘special’ in the services, users, and collections of the libraries. They are sometimes called information resource collections or information centers.
Organizations to Know
There are other professional library associations besides the American Library Association and its subdivisions. There are groups based on geography, subject area, or both. Here is a list organizations that provides a sample of the remarkable librarianship diversity.
- American Association of Law Libraries
- American Association of School Librarians
- Association of College & Research Libraries
- Association for Library Collections & Technical Service
- Association for Library Service to Children
- American Indian Library Association
- Asian Pacific Americans Library Association
- Black Caucus of the American Library Association
- Chinese American Librarians Association
- California Academic & Research Libraries
- California Library Association
- California School Library Association
- Library and Information Technology Association
- Library Leadership & Management Association
- Medical Library Association
- Medical Library Group of Southern California & Arizona
- Public Library Association
- The National Association to Promote Library & Information Service to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking
- Reference and User Services Association
- Special Libraries Association
- United for Libraries
- Young Adult Library Services