Inside Librarian Careers

Things you need to know, but nobody tells you

Biggest Surprises

"Education Not Needed For Job...
I was surprised by how little school prepared me for my position. It does not seem necessary to get a degree to be proficient in this career." (Librarian; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Louisiana, female
School: Studied Writing at University Of New Orleans in Louisiana; completed Master degree in 2011

"Endless Workplace Possibilities Available...
Most people are surprised when they find out about all the opportunities a degree in library science can provide. It is not just the school or the public library. One could work in a hospital, law office, museum, private business, publishing office, banks, the possibilities are endless. People are also surprised that the profession is not obsolete but more important than ever with the tremendous amount of digital information available." (Librarian; 2014)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in New York, female
School: Studied Library Science at Queens College in New York; completed Master degree in 2012

"Become Involved With Professional Organizations To Advance Your Career...
People are surprised to learn that libraries are much more than books, we provide digital and creative services for people in the community. There are many different library organizations to become involved in." (Librarian; 2013)

Career: 6 years of experience, currently based in Ohio, female
School: Studied Library & Information Science at Kent State University in Ohio; completed Master degree in 2009

"Librarians Are Treated As Therapists...
Most people don't realize being a librarian is more like being a social worker than a researcher. I've answered more questions about deeply personal problems than about books or articles." (Librarian; 2013)

Career: 4 years of experience, currently based in Missouri, female
School: Studied Education at Missouri State University in Missouri; completed Bachelor degree in 2008

"Necessary To Adapt To Each Environment...
It surprising how well library school prepares its graduates *and* fails to prepare its graduates to work in this field. We learn the technical aspects, but each library and its patrons are a unique environment to be adapted to. I was unprepared for having to clean restrooms, for example, with my Master's degree, and yet, many times because of lack of funding, librarians will find themselves doing whatever needs doing, because who else is there?" (Reference Librarian; 2013)

Career: 6 years of experience, female
School: Studied Library Science at University Of Rhode Island in Rhode Island in 2007

"High Level Of Education...
Most people are surprised that you need a Master's degree to become a "librarian." Librarian is a skilled profession and does not necessarily include the people who work behind the circulation desk. They are often also surprised that the market is saturated with graduates and jobs can be difficult to come by in the field." (Librarian; 2014)

Career: 4 years of experience, currently based in Georgia, female
School: Studied Library And Information Science at Valdosta State University in Georgia; completed Master degree in 2011

"Breadth Of Work Roles...
Most people will be surprised to know this profession requires a tremendous amount of adaptability. Within one work day one will go from research, customer service, project management, inventory maintenance, program creation, and a supervisory role." (Librarian; 2014)

Career: 7 years of experience, currently based in California, male
School: Studied Information Science at UCLA in California; completed Master degree in 2006

"Always Something New...
As a librarian, you are a source of information. Every day is a new situation, where the question you may be asked is completely unpredictable. There's always something to learn alongside the patron." (Library Associate I; 2014)

Career: 9 years of experience, currently based in Maryland, female
School: Studied Humanities at University Of Maryland in Maryland; completed Bachelor degree in 2012

"People Skills Are Critical...
There is a common stereotype of librarianship as being a career for people looking to avoid social interactions. This is a mistake- one of the most important skills a good librarian has is the ability to listen to and "read" patrons, since you can't help them until you really understand what they need." (Legal Reference Librarian; 2014)

Career: 6 years of experience, currently based in Alabama, male
School: Studied Law And Library Science at Indiana University- Bloomington in Indiana; completed Professional degree in 2008

"Each Day Offers Librarians New Opportunities To Help Someone...
I am surprised by the never-ending subjects I research and the number of individuals I assist on a day to day basis. No two days are the same." (Librarian; 2014)

Career: 12 years of experience, currently based in Missouri, female
School: Studied Masters In Library Science at University Of Missouri-Columbia School Of Information Technology in Missouri; completed Master degree in 2002

"Pressure To Conform To National Standards Is Tough...
The thing that surprised me is how much there is pressure to conform to national testing standards to the detriment of all other things being taught. Things are pretty standardized for all teachers across the United States and there seems to be little area for creativity." (Educator; 2014)

Career: 18 years of experience, currently based in Mississippi, male
School: Studied Elementary Education at Nicholls State University in Louisiana; completed Bachelor degree in 1995

"Technology Is Key In The Future Of Information...
My job encompasses a lot more than just books; I am a gatekeeper of information. I deal a lot with technology, showing people how to navigate the web, or use their devices is part of my job, as well as engaging the community in programs that allow me to express my creativity." (Librarian; 2014)

Career: 6 years of experience, currently based in New York, female
School: Studied Library And Information Science at University Of South Florida in Florida; completed Master degree in 2007

"Lucky To Be A Librarian Without A Library Science Degree...
While my library job does not directly relate to the degree I have (visual arts), I would not have been able to get the job without a bachelor's degree. However, I was lucky to get the position without a degree in library science. Librarian jobs are highly competitive and hard to find." (Library Technician; 2013)

Career: 3 years of experience, currently based in Maryland, female
School: Studied Visual Arts at University Of Maryland, Baltimore County in Maryland; completed Bachelor degree in 2009

"Good Ideas Die In Committees...
I am surprised at how little work there is. So many things get bogged down in committees, and the work never actually materializes." (Library Supervisor; 2014)

Career: 4 years of experience, currently based in Indiana, male
School: Studied Communications at Indiana University in Indiana; completed Bachelor degree in 2009

"Degrees Less Important...
I am surprised that even in an academic field, degrees and references are quickly becoming useless in a job search. Free work, internships, and volunteering mean immensely more to potential employers." (Unemployed Librarian; 2013)

Career: 12 years of experience, currently based in Oregon, female
School: Studied Library And Information Science at San Jose State University in California; completed Master degree in 2012

"I was surprised to learn how much fun it is to interact with students of many ages. I was also surprised at how much you learn about technology as a Media Specialist" (Media Specialist; 2013)

Career: 18 years of experience, currently based in Florida, female
School: Studied Library And Information Sciences at University Of Wisconsin - Milwaukee in Wisconsin; completed Master degree in 1980

"Librarian Function More Than What Patrons See...
I was surprised by how much more goes on in a library other than books just being on shelves and people checking books in and out. There is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes like processing new materials, budgeting the collection and weeding out older materials." (Library Circulation Supervisor; 2012)

Career: 11 years of experience, currently based in Ohio, male
School: Studied Criminal Justice at Cleveland State University in Ohio; completed Bachelor degree in 2005

"I was surprised to find out how enjoyable working in a library setting could be. I may not be a genius in every topic in the world, but I love helping students find and gather information for their various papers and assignments." (Library Supervisor; 2012)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Tennessee, male
School: Studied Theology at Southern Adventist University in Tennessee; completed Bachelor degree in 2011

"I'm most surprised by the fact that there is no formal training for this job. It helps to have a vast knowledge of music and be fluent in at least one musical instrument." (Orchestra Librarian; 2012)

Career: 15 years of experience, currently based in Washington, female
School: Studied Music Performance (Piano) at Indiana University Jacobs School Of Music in Indiana; completed Master degree in 2000

Best & Worst Things About This Career

Librarian: "The best part of my career is being surrounded by information and enthusiastic coworkers who enjoy being in a library as much as I do. I love learning new pieces of information every day, or how to use a new search engine. It is also fun to see what the newest books coming out are. Being a librarian means always being on top of the latest information trends, especially Internet and social networking-related ones. Because reference services now include helping patrons in-person, online (IM), on the phone and through text messages, there is a lot to learn! I am hoping there will still be people who will use print resources in the future, but I love having many databases available online as well. The difficult part of my job is finding one! I have been searching for work for over two years and am still trying to break into the field. I am interested in working in a library, museum or doing research. Once I get my foot in the door, I will be happy wherever I end up." (2011)

Librarian: "The best part of my job is helping people and knowing that I am supporting the scholarship of art history and meeting people from all over the world. The worst part of my job is that not everyone I help says "thank you" and it can be frustrating to do so much work without receiving any acknowledgment! Another bad part of my job is that people want information in a hurry and we cannot always provide them what they need very fast, even when we try." (2010)

Career Background


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

Career Video

Career Tips

"Get Some Experience...
If you want to be a librarian, do volunteer work or an internship at a library before starting a Master's program. Many people have no clue what a librarian actually does all day--we do not just sit around reading books! This will also give you a leg up when you go looking for jobs later." (Librarian; 2014)

"Be Ready To Think Creatively...
Think creatively when coming up with new ideas. Workflow can rise and fall, and sometimes you need to create your own tasks." (Library Supervisor; 2014)

"Community Outreach...
Libraries have evolved into community centers. Making sure that we provide information to our patrons who need or want it is a big part of the career." (Librarian; 2014)

"Find Your Ideal Information Profession...
If you have an interest as an information professional take the opportunity to volunteer or intern at a public library, academic library, and private organization to know what setting works best for you." (Librarian; 2014)

"Network With Others In The Field To Gain Employment...
If you want to be successful, you must be involved and network with other librarians. They will teach you more about the field and will aid you in finding an appropriate place to start gaining experience. When you need help, these contacts will be vital to help." (Librarian; 2014)

"Continuing Education Is The Key...
Information technology is an ever evolving career. Make sure to make use of any continuing education classes that are offered by your company." (Librarian; 2014)

"Consider Your Specialty Well...
Consider your specialty well, this can make all the difference. Special Ed specialties seem to be overworked due to IEP's, but Library specialties can be pretty stress free." (Educator; 2014)

"Don't React To Inquiries...
If you want to begin work as a librarian, you must always be open and available to seek and locate information. You also must always keep a balanced outward appearance, being careful not to judge or react to an inquiry." (Library Associate I; 2014)

"Don't Neglect Computer Skills...
If you are interested in librarianship as a career, brush up on your computer skills. In particular web programming (PhP, HTML, CSS) and database skills will make you much more attractive to employers. The career, after all, is centered on connecting people to information, and ignoring these new systems will only hurt you." (Legal Reference Librarian; 2014)

"Job Is Outdated...
Focus on technology and teaching if you want to find a job." (Librarian; 2013)

"Network Through Organizations...
Networking is a huge part of the library world. By becoming involved in organizations and volunteering on committees, you will meet people that will help your career in the future." (Librarian; 2013)

"Just The Degree Is Not Enough...
There are many library science graduates and fewer available jobs every year. Therefore, even low-paying positions are extremely competitive. It is necessary to take advantage of every opportunity to gain experience if you wish to make librarianship a career- volunteer or entry-level part-time work between semesters, internships, professional field experiences, everything you can do to gain contacts and experience will make you more competitive. Even then, you may have difficulty finding full-time work upon graduation. Make sure you have other job skills to fall back on." (Reference Librarian; 2013)

"Build Up To Your Career As A Librarian Starting As A Student...
If you want to work in a library, apply to many libraries frequently. Jobs are hard to come by and very competitive. If you can get a job as a library assistant while you are still a student, that should help massively. You should study library science if you are serious about becoming a librarian." (Library Technician; 2013)

"Libraries Are Not Peaceful...
Don't assume your days will be quiet. The only days libraries are quiet are when they are closed. Be prepared for constant chaos." (Librarian; 2013)

"Keep An Open Mind Regarding Specialty...
1. If you are interested in pursuing a MLIS, work in a library as a student or volunteer some time before deciding, and learn as much as you can. Decide on a general direction in which to go and pick a two-year Master's program so you have time to take part in an internship or making other important job connections in the summer between school years. 2. Network while you are in school. This is valid for your future and finding a job will depend on it. Although the online world is great, there are many advantages to talking to people in-person. For one thing, they may remember your face later on, and you may end up getting a recommendation for a job sooner. 3. Explore a part of libraries you think you would not like to work in while in school. It may turn out that you like it, and you would never know if you had not signed up for the class or internship." (Librarian; 2011)

"Join The ALA...
Join a professional organization related to libraries and/or archives. There are lots of these, but the most popular is the American Library Association. If you cannot find a job in the library you would like to work in, ask if you can volunteer. The more people you meet in the profession the better, but many fields of endeavor are small worlds of their own and you will learn that many people know each other. Therefore always be nice to EVERYONE you meet. You never know who you may have to work with in the future or who might help you get a job." (Librarian; 2010)