How to Become a Librarian
This article provides in-depth information into What is a Librarian? What Librarian do? Degrees for Librarian, Steps to become Librarian and much more.
What Does a Librarian Do?
A librarian is an individual with the sole responsibility of organizing materials and information based on the relevance of the subject matters they explore. Customers who wish to seek the right information may always count on the librarian to give them it.
Due to digitalization and technology advancements today, librarians are expected to be tech-savvy, possessing knowledge on information technology, databases and fundamental computer science knowledge. The technology involved has helped automate a lot of processes that a librarian would have to spend a lot of time on, such as records and book-keeping.
To explain a few other responsibilities, a librarian may also help you understand a piece of information you are having difficulties with, including subjects on technology and business. They may assist you in choosing the right information for your research and even teach classes about resources that provide information.
Steps to Become a Librarian
Obtain a higher education
A librarian often displays themselves as a qualified individual with an expertise in knowledge and information management. They usually possess at least a bachelor’s degree when pursuing this career. Coupled with their passion for books, it helps establish the fact that you can be an efficient librarian, offering knowledge on various topics to customers who need a bit of help in it.
It is preferable if you obtain a program certificate that specializes in some concepts that will be fully covered in an MLIS program, although this is not mandatory. It is highly recommended that you pursue a higher education as a diploma will only get you to a certain level in the career. The more qualifications you have, the higher your opportunities can be and the bigger the risks may be - the latter of which is not necessarily a bad thing as they can be productive to learn from and help you identify your mistakes so you could rectify them.
Determine need for an MLIS
If you finished your undergraduate studies, it’s time to think about whether you want to push further ahead in your career. If so, then a postgraduate program is good for you. The most common route that librarians take is graduating from a master’s program accredited by the American Library Association (ALA). This program presents courseworks of different variations. So it is necessary to figure out what you want to specialize in in the librarian career so that you may take up opportunities specific to that industry or specialization.
Obtain certifications and licenses
If you want to become a certain type of librarian, most notably a school librarian, then it is necessary for you to pursue a certification specialized for teaching. For school librarians, some states require them to ace the PRAXIS II Library Media Specialist Test examination to qualify for a certification. In the case of public libraries, some states require you to earn a certification that qualifies you to pursue a career as a public librarian.
Certain requirements vary between certification and licenses depending on the state you’re living in or are applying to. In order to receive more information regarding this, we encourage you to contact that particular state’s licensing board to know more.
Salary / Job Growth
There’s a small stigma surrounding the career of librarians regarding their stability in long-term financial aspects. Rest assured, the career is moving at a steady pace. In 2018, the median wages of libraries from different industries were as follows:
Academic bodies: $64,130
Public information: $56,970
Local government: $53,060
However, the annual median wage among all librarians, as of 2018, was $59,050. Public and academic librarians usually work on weekends and evenings, but generally, most librarians work full-time.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a career projection shows a 6% increase in employment opportunities, which is almost as fast as the average employment rate in all other careers. About 14,700 openings are expected to occur each year due to factors such as retirement or career change opted by the employees.
Aspiring librarians are encouraged to pursue an ALA accredited program as it bolsters their chances of seizing additional opportunities. If the candidate degree from the ALA accredited program bolsters your chances of seizing opportunities. Adaptable candidates will get the best career prospects.
Types of Degrees
For bachelor’s, a librarian is encouraged to pursue a degree that teaches along the lines of management, however graduating from any bachelor’s program is fine. It would be preferable if this program involved some fundamentals that would be explored as a core in a master’s program.
Employees usually prefer to hire candidates who graduated from a master’s program that specializes in library information and science. Which is why there is a lot of emphasis given on pushing candidates to pursue a Master of Library and Information Science Postgraduate (MLIS) program.
Both the terms “Library and Information Science” and “Library Science” are used interchangeably, but fear not! They are one and the same, and its master’s program is accredited by the ALA. However, it’s available as associate, bachelor’s and even as doctorate programs (with the last being very uncommon).
It is also possible to take a course on it online as well, but it’s very common to find MLS programs online. An online MLS program takes about 2 years to finish up, but it can be necessary to take up other certified courses and complement the online degree certificate. The topics you will explore in an online MLS program should be similar to traditional MLS courses.
For those who want to dip their feet into Library Science to see if it’s a career for them, an associate’s program can be a good fit. Graduates can take up entry-level opportunities as they develop an expertise in topics such as:
- Library Technology
If you choose to continue your education down this path, it is possible to transfer your existing credits from this program to a bachelor’s program. Associate’s programs are typically completed within 2 years.
If you’re sure that Library Science is the way for you to go, then a Bachelor’s degree program can put you knee-deep in concepts and disciplines involved in being a good librarian. The program is completed in four years, however, for those who are strapped with time, they may consider joining online programs that tailor to their pace. In some states, a bachelor’s degree is all that is required to be a school librarian.
Some of the core concepts you will explore as a candidate are:
- Collection Development
- Reference & Information Services
- Library Management
It’s almost impermissible, from an employer’s perspective, to accept a candidate who has not completed a master’s program as a librarian, unless they have an extensive professional experience as being one, which can be extremely difficult to achieve in the first place. For this reason, a lot of candidates opt for a master’s program in Library Science as it’s the most convenient way.
Within the 2 years they spend on the program, they will come to learn about a wide range of topics in depth:
- Database Design
- Research Methods
- Library Systems
- Digital Libraries
- Information Storage and Organization
It’s always encouraged to pursue a master’s program that is accredited by the ALA so as to not risk yourself many quality opportunities you may receive in your career.
It is possible that candidates explore other specialized concentrations within these programs such as Children and Young Adult Librarianship, Rare Books and Digital Curation, which can further complement their degrees.
It’s a niche program pursued by few candidates, but nevertheless, an exhaustive one for those willing to go deeper into the rabbit hole of Library Science. It is likely that the candidate will need to finish an examination to demonstrate their understanding and skill set on the subjects explored in the program, as well as taking up a research project or publication.
Some of the topics you may focus on are:
- Theory Development
- Research Methods
- Library History
School librarians typically work in sectors that involve elementary, middle and high school libraries, teaching students how to use libraries and looking after the resources simultaneously. It is also possible for school librarians to help fellow teachers in planning and teaching the appropriate syllabus to students as they have vast knowledge on how to approach each subject.
If a librarian is looking after information kept in libraries outside of academic or public resources, then it’s likely that they are special librarians; individuals who take care of vital information kept by professional corporations, medical facilities or hospitals, preservatory bodies like museums, or even government agencies.
Corporate Librarians: They assist employees in finding research material and/or information on the business. These businesses can include consulting firms, newspaper and publishing, insurance companies, etc.
Law Librarians: They assist lawyers, judges, and even law students in the location and analysis of legal documents and information. They are very likely to be found in law firms, but they are highly wanted in law school libraries.
Medical Librarians: They help in providing research material and information on patients, medical practices, health professionals and other information related to health and science. They may also provide information on clinical trials to those authorized to read or learn about it.
Government Librarians: Depending on the type of government they are working for, these librarians provide essential information, resources or classified content to authorized local, state or federal government agents in assistance with their work.
Public librarians work in public sector communities to serve the public’s curiosity in knowledge and information. This can range between books that are meant to entertain the folks, to books that offer free knowledge on personal or professional development. It is also possible for them to be acting event planners if there is an interest in an event among patrons, such as book clubs, story telling, and other community-building activities.
These librarians largely work in sectors that specialize in higher education, such as colleges, educational institutions and universities. They assist students in researching topics related to their coursework and how best to use that information appropriately. Some information is kept restricted unless the students are provided with permission to access it. As universities or institutions tend to be large, it is possible for some of them to have large libraries. Which is why, in such cases, there are more than one academic librarians; each of who specialize in a particular area.
Library directors are largely found in large administrative establishments and, much like the name suggests, has full control and supervision over the library staff, maintaining order among the patrons and looking into improving the overall environment of the library. In addition to that, they are also good with management, effectively planning, and organizing library events, including staffing new recruits.
One of the most important jobs in society is that of an archivist. They are responsible for the assessment, collection, organization and safety of books that are considered to have a high value. They are found all over the industries that are in need of specialists who excel in safekeeping and discretion. They are usually seen as disciplined and analytical. Much like librarians, they may also assist other individuals in sorting through information and providing them with what they can use.
Research the career
Not many realize what they are getting into as they think that being a librarian would mean adjusting your glasses as you shush any noisy patrons. But that’s (partly) untrue!
With a brief understanding you gained from reading the career concentrations, you realize that there are an abundant category of jobs available for you to explore. Each of these careers have different responsibilities that can range from basic organization and storage of books to managing complex information and assisting patrons with them.
This can be overbearing for some candidates as they did not expect the level of management and educational understanding required to make sure this information is kept organized and appropriately offered whenever necessary.
Ace your programs
A typical career as a librarian generally demands at least a GPA of 3.0 from their candidates. However, it’s important to realize that in a competitive environment, you are much more likely to grab the attention of employers if you excelled in your studies and scored higher than the minimum amount.
Make sure this career is right for you and if it is, adopt a discipline and routine to prioritize your studies and school performance in order to add security to your career’s future.
Research on Certifications and Licenses
Some states require graduates to take up certification or license examinations and whatnot in order to be qualified for a career as one, especially if you are interested in working amongst children, or for the sake of public funding.
Most importantly, the Library Media Specialist examination (PRAXIS II) mentioned earlier is something to look into. The examination will test you regarding topics such as:
- Program Administration
- Collection Development
- Information Access and Delivery
- Learning and Teaching
- Professional Development, Leadership and Advocacy
There are many sample or mock versions of this test to help you prepare for it. Acquiring different certifications and licenses may depend on the state you’re living in or want to work in, so there can be the requirement of contacting the respective state’s licensing authorities and talk to them about the requirements and procedures involved.
Prominent Skills of a Librarian
Librarians are expected to read a lot in order to be resourceful and knowledgeable on a wide range of useful topics, much like a writer is expected to read a lot for their quality of writing. From STEM-based subject matters to abstract and idealistic concepts in philosophy and arts, a librarian can prove themselves to be an exhaustive source for accurate information from the customer’s perspective.
Librarians have an analytical mindset; they know how best to approach what they are looking for by segregating them according to set factors. They are also good with management, given how they constantly organize the information in a library. They also have a sharp memory; if a piece of information is still available or not, what information goes in which directory, who is given access priority for what information, and so on.
Since there is a vast amount of information and resources available, it is going to be difficult for one individual to skim through them all, organize them accordingly and store them appropriately while keeping track of them simultaneously. This is where computers come in; they help automate most of these aspects to make it much easier for the librarian’s workflow.
However, without any technical knowledge or skills to back it, a librarian will have to resort to traditional methods, and that can be harrowing, if not detrimental, for both the librarian and the patrons who need the information in a short period of time.
Librarians will encounter many patrons as they go in and out. Which is why it’s necessary to keep professionalism and good communication in check. An approachable and ethical librarian may attract patrons who are either too shy or too intimidated to ask for help, and an outgoing personality from the librarian may help alleviate most of that fear from patrons. Patrons also rely on librarians who are resourceful as that increases trust and confidence amongst them.