Inside College Librarian Careers

Things you need to know, but nobody tells you

Best & Worst Things About This Career

Librarian: "The best part of my job is providing answers to students when they are working on a project. I really enjoy helping them learn how to perform effective searches. Often so much time and energy can be saved by really learning how to navigate the different databases. The worst part of my job is that our budgets are constantly tight and we are not able to buy all the resources that our students need." (2011)

Academic Librarian: "The best part of the job is helping students with papers or other assignments and having them do well and tell me about it. Getting to know students is fun. Working at a college is great; you meet lots of friendly people who become almost as close as family. The worst part of the job is having to do someone else's work with no appreciation. Having a boss who makes himself look good at your expense and doesn't support you makes a job very hard, wherever you work. Having your experience and expertise matter less than someone's who's been there under a month is also not helpful to job satisfaction" (2010)

Academic Librarian: "The best part of the job is the variety, the opportunity to try different roles and figure out what tasks you prefer. Standing up in front of a group of students and providing instruction really helped me figure out if I liked teaching or not. The worst parts of the job are constantly having to find ways to demonstrate the library's value (i.e. budget impacts) and performing repetitive tasks such as inventorying the collection and checking for mis-shelved books." (2010)

College Librarian: "I enjoy teaching, so I enjoy working with students. It can be challenging when students don't ask questions and I can tell when they are having difficulty. Getting people to come to you with questions can sometimes be hard! Other things that are not so great about working at a college library are that we are required to serve on committees. That takes a lot of time and is not always fun. The best part of the job is that I get to help people. It's very rewarding to know that I helped a student find a book or article that is exactly what he or she was looking for and will be able to use to write a paper. The pay is not bad, and the benefits are good. It's also nice to be in a college environment, working with intelligent, well-read people who are experts in their fields." (2009)

Career Background

College Librarian

  Job Tasks
  Work Environment
  How to Prepare for the Job
  Job Outlook

Career Tips

"Cataloging Classes Are Useful...
I would try to obtain as much library experience as possible. Volunteer to work in your middle-school or high school library as a student. Sometimes many people try to avoid taking cataloging classes. Don't, as the more you know about cataloging the more helpful it can be for you. Even if you end up as an administrator you will need to know how to talk to your catalogers. Also, if you are the librarian for a small library you will have to catalog or at least set up the accounts with your vendor who will catalog your materials. Cataloging is very important!" (Librarian; 2011)

"Avoid Jock Schools...
Don't work in a college where there are sports teams or work at a women's college. Male football players are the worst! Learn a language other than English. It will be helpful, especially in a college or university library. Choose another career. Library science pays poorly and you will not be valued. Go to an accredited graduate school or you won't get in anywhere." (Academic Librarian; 2010)

"Many Different Library Environments...
There are many different types of libraries and many different tasks that librarians perform. A big university library is very different from a small academic library and an academic librarian's job is much different than a public librarian's. Try to get experience in all different aspects through internships and work-study programs to determine what kind of library might be best for you. In addition, take course work in all different areas: cataloging, reference, collection development, budgeting, providing instruction and anything involving technology. These are skills that you will need no matter what type of library you work for." (Academic Librarian; 2010)

"Many Majors OK For Librarians...
If you are interested in being a librarian, you can major in almost anything in college. Think about what your interests are; if you like history, then you may want to major in that and then become an archivist in library school. It does take some time to complete college and then go to graduate school, but if you find a job that you enjoy, it's totally worth it. If you are interested in a library career that would lead to working in a college or academic library, one way to do this is to get a staff job (not as a librarian, that's only for people with master's degrees) and most universities or college libraries will then <I>pay</I> for you to go to graduate school. Having this experience also makes job finding much easier and will allow you to explore areas of librarianship." (College Librarian; 2009)