What Librarians and Library Media Specialists Do
About this section
Librarian's job duties vary based on the type of library they work in, such as a public, school, or medical library.
Librarians and library media specialists help people find information and conduct research for personal and professional use. Their job duties may change based on the type of setting they work in, such as public, school, or medical libraries.
Librarians and library media specialists typically do the following:
- Create and use databases of library materials
- Organize library materials so they are easy to find
- Help library patrons to conduct research to evaluate search results and reference materials
- Research new books and materials by reading book reviews, publishers’ announcements, and catalogs
- Maintain existing collections and choose new books, videos, and other materials for purchase
- Plan programs for different audiences, such as story time for children
- Teach classes about information resources
- Research computers and other equipment for purchase, as needed
- Train and supervise library technicians, assistants, other support staff, and volunteers
- Prepare library budgets
In small libraries, these workers are often responsible for many or all aspects of library operations. In large libraries, they usually focus on one aspect of the library, such as user services, technical services, or administrative services.
The following are examples of types of librarians and library media specialists:
Academic librarians assist students, faculty, and staff in postsecondary institutions. 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.
Administrative services librarians manage libraries, prepare budgets, and negotiate contracts for library materials and equipment. Some conduct public relations or fundraising activities for the library.
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 patrons, such as story time for children, book clubs, or educational activities.
School librarians, sometimes called school library media specialists, typically work in elementary, middle, and high school libraries. They teach students how to use library resources, including technology. 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. 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. Special librarians may need an additional degree in the subject that they specialize in. The following are examples of special librarians:
- Corporate librarians assist employees of private businesses in conducting research and finding information. They work for a wide range of organizations, including insurance companies, consulting firms, and publishers.
- Law librarians conduct research or help lawyers, judges, law clerks, and law students locate and analyze 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.
Technical services librarians obtain, prepare, and organize print and electronic library materials. They arrange materials for patrons’ ease in finding information. They are also responsible for ordering new library materials and archiving to preserve older items.
User services librarians help patrons conduct research using both electronic and print resources. They 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.