Becoming a Librarian

School Program ALA Accredited?
Syracuse University Online MS in Library and Information Science
St. John's University Online M.S. in Library and Information Science
University of Denver Master of Library and Information Science
University of Washington Online Master of Science in Information Management

There are over 200,000 nationwide librarian positions. Approximately 70 percent are employed in public settings. The remaining work at a non-profit or private library. The path to becoming a librarian is not easy, but it is diverse and rewarding. The key is education. The first step, like that of most careers, is to get a Bachelor's degree. It can be in an area of interest, such as marketing, psychology, science, or art. The experience gained is of value toward a career as a librarian.

It is strongly suggested to then acquire a Master of Library Science from a reputable college or university. Future employers are likely to require the degree be earned from an ALA-accredited institution.

Many positions, governed by city, county, or state boards, have high education standards that are not fulfilled by all institutions. Some K-12 schools stress having a specialty in teaching or school librarianship from an approved university or college.

Click to find online library science programs currently accepting applications.

A career as a librarian may be right for someone interested in community work, improving the education of future generations, or being part of maintaining the experiences, stories, and history of the past. Surveys show librarians have less stress from work than many professionals. While no job is stress-free, librarians have a work environment that is more pleasant than many other jobs. Librarians train to help people deal with information problems they cannot solve on their own. In today's world, that covers anything from cancer research to genealogy.

Choosing a School

Factors one needs to consider when choosing a school that meets your needs include:

  • ALA-accreditation
  • Program emphasis
  • Course offerings and schedule
  • Distance learning
  • Cost
  • Personal visit
  • Current and recent students
  • Admission requirements
  • Other Sources
  • A school must meet a variety of criteria to receive American Library Association accreditation. Perhaps the most essential factor if you want a position requiring a Master of Library Science degree is a degree that is ALA-accredited. During the 1990s, some traditional lbrary science schools started transforming into 'information schools' that are more broadly defined. Some schools dropped the word 'library' all together. As a result, a variety of schools, both traditional and others are geared toward various information professions. The library world and you benefit from both.

    Featured Online Library Programs

    School Level Program
    Syracuse University
    Website
    Master Online MS in Library and Information Science
    ALA-accredited. No GRE required to apply.
    St. John's University
    Website
    Master Online M.S. in Library and Information Science
    ALA Accredited. Complete in as little as 2 years.
    University of Denver
    Website
    Master Master of Library and Information Science
    ALA-Accredited, No GRE Required.
    University of Washington
    Website
    Master Online Master of Science in Information Management
    Information School. Now offered full-time or part-time.
    Lindenwood University
    Website
    Master Online Master of Arts Education - Library Media and Technology Specialization
    Emphasis in Library Media & Technology.

    It is essential to review course offerings and schedule to ensure the school meets your needs in the types of courses it offers. Those who wish to be youth services librarians want a school that offers classes in early literacy, storytelling, children's literature, etc. Be particularly careful to be certified in school library media. Some schools focus on full-time students; others offer courses in more than one location and during evening hours and weekends.

    Distance learning is becoming prevalent. It offers a variety of program choices. There are advantages and disadvantages to online coursework. It is recommended to understand the pros and cons upfront. Cost varies from institution to institution. Factors to consider include parking, travel, books and fees, room and board, number of credits required, and out-of-state tuition. Paid internships and scholarships may help defray some costs.

    It is highly recommended to visit the school to get a feel of the environment. Admission officers can arrange meetings with students and faculty, a tour of the school, and a few classes to attend. Admission requirements vary by institution. Graduate programs usually require an undergraduate degree from any program. Some require an entry essay or a minimum GRE score. Sources such as U.S. News & World Report are an excellent starting point to rate graduate programs. Be sure to understand the criteria used by the evaluator.

    ALA-Accreditation

    Those seeking a librarianship job may be familiar with ALA-accreditation. The American Library Association is the largest association of its kind in the world. It was founded in 1876. The mission is the development and improvement of library and information services for any library in the United States and other places. Accrediting academic programs that prepare librarians in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Canada is one of its functions.

    Professional librarians in many public, academic, or school libraries need a Master of Library Science or a similar degree such as Master of Library and Information Science. The degree earned must be from a school that is ALA-accredited. There is an exception for those planning to work in a preK-12 setting. They have the option of accreditation by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation if their Master's degree specializes in school library work. Those programs also must be recognized by the American Association for School Libraries. Nearly all other librarianship positions require a graduate program that is ALA-accredited.

    A rigorous process is gone through by a school with ALA accreditation. The evaluation includes:

    • A school's physical and financial resources
    • Curricula and teachers
    • Students and administration
    • Program goals

    When choosing an ALA-accredited school, you get a quality education that prepares you for various settings of library work. All schools that are ALA-accredited have basic required courses students must take in preparation for library work. The ALA has a database to search and map where to find schools by location.

    Program Concentrations

    Librarians choose concentrations that prepare them for work in hospitals, public libraries, government buildings, and schools. The ALA states common job titles among librarians include Information Specialist, Answer Curator, Virtual Services Manager, and Librarian. As library jobs become more diverse, programs offer more opportunities for students to choose from concentrations in the field. Below are some of the possibilities.

    Archives

    Those with a concentration in Archives work in places such as archives, special collections, or historical societies. They may work in law and medical libraries, museums, or colleges. Large public libraries also have archival departments. The librarian’s responsibility is to handle sensitive historical documents such as photographs, maps, and letters. They work to preserve the documents to be available for future generations. Often, researchers, writers, and members of the public want to review the documents. Librarians assist in finding what they require and help find more information.

    Curation

    Data curatoin is the ongoing and active management of data during its life cycle and its usefulness to education, science, and scholarship. Students with a concentration in curation learn to manage a large amount of data. They often find work with large corporations. Librarians with the concentration are charged with ensuring data is accurate and available to use.

    Libray and Information Services

    This is a general concentration. Students are provided with the skills to work in various settings. The concentration allows students to work in special, academic, and public libraries in locations such as the military, the government, hospitals, and museums. Those with a degree in library and information science can work with a variety of patrons. They have some flexibility in moving around the field. Students can create programs or answer questions in a library. They also have the option to work in cataloging or other technical services.

    School Librarian

    Many Master’s programs offer concentrations in school libraries. They allow students to work in libraries for grades K-12. Often, a teaching certificate is required. Having a Master of Library Science gives students an advantage over the competition. Often, students complete a field experience or practicum in a school library sometimes called a media center. There, students work in an elementary or secondary school. While working on a practicum, students complete portfolios based on their experiences.

    Youth Services

    Librarians with a concentration in Youth Services work in the children and teen departments of libraries. Their titles are also called Young Adult, Teen, or Children’s Librarian. They are in charge of collection management. Youth Services librarians ensure the collections meet the current educational and popular needs of children. Often, graduate students choose to work with either teenagers or children. They collaborate with educators to stock materials that children use in school. Other responsibilities include organizing study programs, summer programs, and engaging activities for children of the community.

    Should You Study Online?

    A college education is frequently thought of as the next step for high school graduates. That is not necessarily the case with the host of postgraduate and Master’s degrees that are available today for professionals who want to take a career to the next level. Unfortunately, many suffer under the illusion that they cannot balance work, life, and study. With the evolution of online education, studying for postgraduates is far more accessible.

    The technologies that are available and the focus from renowned educational institutions and universities to more curriculum online make this the best time to take advantage of distance education. Flexibility is one of the significant benefits of studying online. All the resources, such as course materials, academic readings, lectures, and assessments, are provided. Listen to lectures while driving to work or reading through notes. You are free to make the coursework best for you.

    Time and effort are still required to complete a degree. Online education makes working your day job possible. You can take steps in the advancement of your knowledge, skills, and career without impacting your current commitments. Without having to be on campus, the opportunities to study are wide open. You can study from remote locations. For many people, online study has made postgraduate study a reality.

    There are some skills necessary to study online. Self-discipline and time management are crucial. The lack of on-campus contact does not mean you are left to your own devices and have to rely on yourself to generate discussions, answer questions, and motivate you to keep going. The scenario is not the case. Online learning is as interactive as studies on-campus. The programs offer discussion boards, live chats, dedicated support systems, and social networking platforms to keep you motivated and engaged. Taking a career to a new level is not easy, but the reward is worth the time and effort. You must be willing to invest energy and time into studying online. The result will be benefits that likely exceed your expectations.

    Undergraduate Degree

    A Bachelor of Library Science degree develops research skills and the ability to acquisition support information. The application of technology that supports learning and information access is studied. Courses cover topics, such as information literacy, educational technology, research services, and information science. An undergraduate degree program usually takes two years. Students with a college degree, seeking a certificate of achievement, follow a shorter study course.

    The programs are for people new to the library science field and experienced staff who want to expand their skills and knowledge. Often, instructors are librarians who specialize in the subject being taught. Learning outcomes include:

    • Explaining library fundamental principles
    • Apply skills and knowledge gained through the coursework
    • Describe the characteristics and roles of libraries in a democratic, multicultural, and diverse society and how to meet their needsApply standardized systems and basic principles of maintaining, ordering, classifying, cataloging, and processing library resources and materials
    • Demonstrate the communication skills needed to interact with staff and users
    • Identify and use technology
    • Critically analyze information to draw conclusions and solve problems

    Graduate Degree

    At the graduate level, a degree in library science may lead to a Ph.D., Master’s degree, or certificate. There is likely a program for any librarian. Nearly all programs allow for specialization in areas such as children’s literature, digital media, archives, and much more. The programs give a solid introduction to the fundamentals of library science. There are both on-campus and online programs. Online education is flexible, and a means to advance education or career.

    While earning a Master’s of Library Science degree, students are expected to take traditional core courses that cover digital media, public outreach, management, and information access. They have the opportunities to gain hands-on experience and specialize through fieldwork or an internship. Students are expected to complete a capstone project or write a thesis to graduate. Most programs require an undergraduate degree in any subject.

    Librarian Salary

    The national average for those who administer libraries or perform related services is $61,530. The lower ten percent earn an average of $34,630. The upper ten percent earn an average of $93,050. Education, government, and other information services are the industries that have the highest employment levels of librarianship. Those working in local government, excluding hospitals and schools, earn average salaries of $55,220. Junior college librarians earn an average of $68,350. These industries also have the highest concentration of librarianship employment.

    The top-paying industries are computer systems design and related service; Federal Executive Branch; legal services; manufacturing of control, electromedical, measuring, and navigational instruments; and scientific research and development services. The manufacturing industry librarians earn an average salary of $70,730. The Federal Executive Branch librarians make an average salary of $88,730. The wages listed here are as of 2018. They are likely a bit higher now.