Librarians

Summary

librarians image
Librarians help people find information and conduct research for personal and professional use.
Quick Facts: Librarians
2012 Median Pay $55,370 per year
$26.62 per hour
Entry-Level Education Master’s degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2012 148,400
Job Outlook, 2012-22 7% (Slower than average)
Employment Change, 2012-22 11,000

What Librarians Do

Librarians help people find information and conduct research for personal and professional use. Their job duties may change based on the type of library they work in, such as public, school, and medical libraries.

Work Environment

Librarians work for local government, colleges and universities, companies and elementary and secondary schools. Most work full time, but opportunities for part-time work exist.

How to Become a Librarian

Most librarians need a master’s degree in library science. Some positions have additional requirements, such as a teaching certificate or a degree in another field.

Pay

The median annual wage for librarians was $55,370 in May 2012.

Job Outlook

Employment of librarians is projected to grow 7 percent from 2012 to 2022, slower than the average for all occupations. Librarians are needed to assist library patrons in locating information and resources, but growth will be limited as people become more comfortable using electronic resources to conduct their own research.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of librarians with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about librarians by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Librarians Do

librarians image
Librarians’ job duties may change based on the type of library they work in, such as public, school and college libraries.

Librarians help people find information and conduct research for personal and professional use. Their job duties may change based on the type of library they work in, such as public, school, and medical libraries.

Duties

Librarians typically do the following:

  • Help library patrons conduct research and find the information they need
  • Teach classes about information resources and help users evaluate search results and reference materials
  • Organize library materials so they are easy to find, and maintain collections
  • Plan programs for different audiences, such as storytelling for young children
  • Develop and index databases of library materials
  • Research new books and materials by reading book reviews, publishers’ announcements, and catalogs
  • Choose new books, audio books, videos, and other materials for the library
  • Research and buy new computers and other equipment as needed for the library
  • Train and direct library technicians, assistants, other support staff, and volunteers
  • Prepare library budgets

In small libraries, librarians are often responsible for many or all aspects of library operations. They may manage a staff of library assistants and technicians.

In larger libraries, librarians usually focus on one aspect of library work, including user services, technical services, or administrative services.

The following are examples of types of librarians:

User services librarians help patrons find the information they need. They listen to what patrons are looking for and help them conduct research using both electronic and print resources. These librarians also teach patrons how to use library resources to find information on their own. This may include familiarizing patrons with catalogs of print materials, helping them access and search digital libraries, or educating them on Internet search techniques. Some user services librarians work with a particular audience, such as children or young adults.

Technical services librarians obtain, prepare, and classify print and electronic library materials. They organize materials to make it easy for patrons to find information. These librarians are less likely to work directly with the public.

Administrative services librarians manage libraries. They hire and supervise staff, prepare budgets, and negotiate contracts for library materials and equipment. Some conduct public relations or fundraising for the library.

Librarians who work in different settings sometimes have different job duties.

Academic librarians assist students, faculty, and staff in colleges and universities. They help students research topics related to their coursework and teach students how to access information. They also assist faculty and staff in locating resources related to their research projects or studies. Some campuses have multiple libraries, and librarians may specialize in a particular subject.

Public librarians work in their communities to serve all members of the public. They help patrons find books to read for pleasure; conduct research for schoolwork, business, or personal interest; and learn how to access the library’s resources. Many public librarians plan programs for users, such as story time for children, book clubs, or other educational activities.

School librarians, sometimes called school media specialists, work in elementary, middle, and high school libraries, and teach students how to use library resources. They also help teachers develop lesson plans and find materials for classroom instruction.

Special librarians work in settings other than school or public libraries. They are sometimes called information professionals. Law firms, hospitals, businesses, museums, government agencies, and many other groups have their own libraries that use special librarians. The main purpose of these libraries and information centers is to serve the information needs of the organization that houses the library. Therefore, special librarians collect and organize materials focused on those subjects. The following are examples of special librarians:

  • Corporate librarians assist employees in private businesses in conducting research and finding information. They work for a wide range of businesses, including insurance companies, consulting firms, and publishers.
  • Government librarians provide research services and access to information for government staff and the public.
  • Law librarians help lawyers, law students, judges, and law clerks locate and organize legal resources. They often work in law firms and law school libraries.
  • Medical librarians, also called health science librarians, help health professionals, patients, and researchers find health and science information. They may provide information about new clinical trials and medical treatments and procedures, teach medical students how to locate medical information, or answer consumers’ health questions.

Work Environment

Librarians
Librarians plan outreach programs targeted toward different groups, such as story time for children.

Librarians held about 148,400 jobs in 2012. The industries that employed the most librarians in 2012 were as follows:

Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private38%
Local government, excluding education and hospitals29
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private17
Information5

Some librarians have private offices, but those in smaller libraries usually share work space with others.

Work Schedules

Most librarians work full time, although opportunities exist for part-time work. In 2012, about a quarter of librarians worked part time.

Public and academic librarians often work on weekends and evenings, and may work holidays. School librarians usually have the same work and vacation schedules as teachers, including summers off. Librarians in special libraries, such as law or corporate libraries, typically work normal business hours, but may need to work longer hours to help meet deadlines.

How to Become a Librarian

Librarians
Some librarians assist patrons with research.

Most librarians need a master’s degree in library science. Some positions have additional requirements, such as a teaching certificate or a degree in another field.

Education

Most employers require librarians to have a master’s degree in library science (MLS). Students need a bachelor’s degree to enter MLS programs, but any undergraduate major is accepted. 

MLS programs usually take 1 to 2 years to complete. Coursework typically covers selecting library materials, organizing information, research methods and strategies, online reference systems, and Internet search methods. 

A degree from an American Library Association accredited program may lead to better job opportunities. Some colleges and universities have other names for their library science programs, such as Master of Information Studies or Master of Library and Information Studies.

Librarians working in a special library, such as a law, medical, or corporate library, usually supplement a master’s degree in library science with knowledge of their specialized field. Some employers require special librarians to have a master’s degree, a professional degree, or a Ph.D. in that subject. For example, a law librarian may be required to have a law degree or a librarian in an academic library may need a Ph.D.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

To work in public schools, school librarians often need to be certified. Certification typically requires librarians to hold a teacher’s certification. For more information on teacher certifications, see the How to Become One section of the high school teachers profile. Some states require librarians to pass a standardized test, such as the PRAXIS II Library Media Specialist test. A list of requirements by state and contact information for state regulating boards is available from School Library Monthly.

Some states also require certification for librarians in public libraries. Requirements vary by state. Contact your state’s licensing board for specific requirements.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Librarians need to be able to explain ideas and information in ways that patrons and users understand.

Computer skills. Librarians use computers to help patrons research topics. They also use computers to classify resources, create databases, and perform administrative duties.

Initiative. New information, technology, and resources constantly change the details of what librarians do. They must be able and willing to continually update their knowledge on these changes to be effective at their jobs in the varying circumstances.

Interpersonal skills. Librarians must be able to work both as part of a team and with the public or with researchers.

Problem-solving skills. Librarians conduct and assist with research. This requires being able to identify a problem, figure out where to find information, and draw conclusions based on the information found.

Reading skills. Librarians must be excellent readers. Those working in special libraries are expected to continually read the latest literature in their field of specialization.

Pay

Librarians

Median annual wages, May 2012

Librarians

$55,370

Education, training, and library occupations

$46,020

Total, all occupations

$34,750

 

The median annual wage for librarians was $55,370 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half of the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $33,380, and the top 10 percent earned more than $85,430.

In May 2012, the median annual wages for librarians in the top four industries in which these librarians worked were as follows:

Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state,
local, and private
$58,700
Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private57,310
Information51,970
Local government, excluding education and hospitals49,790

Most librarians work full time, although opportunities exist for part-time work. In 2012, about a quarter of librarians worked part time.

Public and academic librarians often work on weekends and evenings, and may work holidays. School librarians usually have the same work and vacation schedules as teachers, including summers off. Librarians in special libraries, such as law or corporate libraries, typically work normal business hours, but may need to work longer hours to help meet deadlines.                                   

Union Membership

Compared with workers in all occupations, librarians had a higher percentage of workers who belonged to a union in 2012.

Job Outlook

Librarians

Percent change in employment, projected 2012-22

Education, training, and library occupations

11%

Total, all occupations

11%

Librarians

7%

 

Employment of librarians is projected to grow 7 percent from 2012 to 2022, slower than the average for all occupations.

There will continue to be a need for librarians to manage libraries and help patrons find information. As patrons and support staff become more comfortable using electronic resources, fewer librarians will be needed for assistance. However, the increased availability of electronic information is also expected to increase the demand for librarians in research and special libraries, where they will be needed to help sort through the large amount of available information.

Budget limitations, especially in local government and educational services, may slow demand for librarians. Some libraries may close, reduce the size of their staff, or focus on hiring library technicians and assistants, who can fulfill some librarian duties at a lower cost.

Job Prospects

Jobseekers may face strong competition for jobs, especially early in the decade, as many people with master’s degrees in library science compete for a limited number of available positions. Later in the decade, prospects should be better, as older library workers retire and population growth generates openings.

Even though people with a master’s degree in library science may have trouble finding a job as a librarian, their research and analytical skills can be valuable for jobs in a variety of other fields, such as market researchers or computer and information systems managers. A degree from an American Library Association accredited program may lead to better job opportunities.

Employment projections data for Librarians, 2012-22
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2012 Projected Employment, 2022 Change, 2012-22 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Librarians

25-4021 148,400 159,400 7 11,000 [XLS]

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of librarians.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2012 MEDIAN PAY
Adult literacy and GED teachers

Adult Literacy and High School Equivalency Diploma Teachers

Adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers instruct adults in basic skills, such as reading, writing, and speaking English. They also help students earn their high school diploma.

Bachelor’s degree $48,590
Curators and museum technicians

Archivists, Curators, and Museum Workers

Archivists appraise, edit, and maintain permanent records and historically valuable documents. Curators oversee collections of artwork and historic items, and may conduct public service activities for an institution. Museum technicians and conservators prepare and restore objects and documents in museum collections and exhibits.

See How to Become One $44,410
Health educators

Health Educators and Community Health Workers

Health educators teach people about behaviors that promote wellness. They develop and implement strategies to improve the health of individuals and communities. Community health workers collect data and discuss health concerns with members of specific populations or communities.

See How to Become One $41,830
High school teachers

High School Teachers

High school teachers help prepare students for life after graduation. They teach academic lessons and various skills that students will need to attend college and to enter the job market.

Bachelor’s degree $55,050
Kindergarten and elementary school teachers

Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers prepare younger students for future schooling by teaching them basic subjects such as math and reading.

Bachelor’s degree $53,090
Library technicians and assistants

Library Technicians and Assistants

Library technicians and assistants help librarians with all aspects of running a library. They assist patrons, organize library materials and information, and perform clerical and administrative tasks.

See How to Become One $26,800
Middle school teachers

Middle School Teachers

Middle school teachers educate students, typically in sixth through eighth grades. Middle school teachers help students build on the fundamentals they learned in elementary school and prepare them for the more difficult curriculum they will face in high school.

Bachelor’s degree $53,430
Postsecondary teachers

Postsecondary Teachers

Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a wide variety of academic and vocational subjects beyond the high school level. They also conduct research and publish scholarly papers and books.

See How to Become One $68,970

Contacts for More Information

For more information about librarians, including accredited library education programs, visit

American Library Association

For more information about careers in libraries, visit

Library Careers

For information about medical librarians, visit

Medical Library Association

For information about law librarians, visit

American Association of Law Libraries

For information about many different types of special librarians, visit

Special Libraries Association

For more information about school librarians, visit

School Library Monthly

O*NET

Librarians

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Librarians,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/librarians.htm (visited August 01, 2014).

Publish Date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014