Library and Information Services

Library and Information Services

Industry Outlook

The information services field is growing in more nontraditional settings. Cutbacks in library budgets will decrease opportunities for information services professionals, but the growth of our information-based society may counteract the decline. Easy access to recorded knowledge has become an essential part of life for information professionals in traditional libraries as well as for individuals, employees of research centers, professional firms, and businesses, and information brokers and research consultants.

The coronavirus pandemic, which started in late 2019, caused business lockdowns and social distancing requirements that increased the population's dependence on digital information and services. Many librarians worked remotely during the pandemic in 2020, with limited access to physical library buildings. The growth of telework and telelearning has increased the demand for digital library services, according to a survey by the American Library Association. Many libraries also became involved in community crisis response during the pandemic, providing information and various resources, often through new partnerships. A Publishers Weekly report on the pandemic's impact on the book business reported that there was a surge in library e-book lending in 2020, and that this could indicate a change in digital libraries in the near future. As described in the report, "Libraries, both public and academic, want e-books more than they ever have before...," and this trend is expected to continue.

The U.S. libraries and archives industry in the U.S. was projected to be valued at $18.9 billion in 2021, according to the research group IBISWorld. Small growth was projected for 2021, at about 1 percent, and the annualized market size growth was estimated to be 1.4 percent for 2016 through 2021. Local and state governments provide more than 90 percent of the funding for public libraries. With the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine in 2021 and economic recovery, government funding for libraries is expected to increase in the coming years.

Employment of library assistants and library technicians is expected to decline 3 percent through 2028, whereas jobs for librarians will have 6 percent (average) growth. Many libraries now assign assistants to perform tasks once handled exclusively by more highly paid professional librarians. Although this is in part a cost-cutting move, the reassignment of responsibilities allows librarians to dedicate more time to other responsibilities. However, computerized ordering, cataloging, and information retrieval programs require specialized training. Professional information scientists will continue to be necessary to direct, review, and coordinate such systems and to train and supervise operations.

Job prospects are expected to be best in privately financed special libraries. In addition, librarians with special qualifications, such as languages, computer services, or children's services, can anticipate better opportunities. Jobs requiring knowledge of science, mathematics, and business are considered difficult to fill because of fewer graduates with these backgrounds. Overall, the best opportunities for information services careers will be outside of the library, working for private corporations, consulting businesses, and information brokers with job titles such as database specialists, researchers, or systems analysts.

In 2018, more than 134,800 librarians and 189,100 library technicians and library assistants were employed, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, but it is expected that cuts in library budgets will decrease some employment opportunities. Employment for information services professionals in the coming decade is expected to be best with private corporations, consulting businesses, and information brokers.

In the future, libraries will increasingly become a part of a national network linking public, academic, and special libraries into a single information source. Each library will retain its own identity and serve its own clientele, but information in any one location can be made available to patrons in any part of the country. Many systems, such as a central library catalog, perhaps supplemented by regional catalogs, will be made available by way of high-speed electronic communications.

The information services industry is reflecting this trend toward linking information, and it is forging ahead to increase the opportunities created by the Internet. Expanding technologies of our society have made information part of a global network. As information continues to expand and to reach out to all corners of the earth, information services professionals will be needed to help these technologies make the world a much more easily accessible place.