Approximately 134,800 librarians are employed in the United States. All types of libraries need library professionals. Public libraries, school libraries, library media centers, college or university libraries, research libraries, and other special libraries all employ librarians. Private industry and government departments have libraries that need staffing. Librarians also work outside of the traditional library setting.
A librarian can work for a small branch office of a major library, or in a large library that services many counties. A librarian in a smaller library may have duties in all areas of librarianship: ordering, cataloging, shelving, and circulating materials, as well as acting as reference librarian. On the other hand, a librarian at a larger institution has a more specialized venue, such as a history section or map room.
Many universities have multiple libraries that serve different groups of people. The University of Chicago library system, for example, has a separate law library; a general reading collection library; a mathematics, statistics, and computer science library; a humanities, social sciences, and business library; a science, medicine, and technology library; a social welfare and social work library; a special collections research center; and the Joe and Rika Mansueto Library, which offers a "high-density automated storage and retrieval system [that] requires just one-seventh of the space of regular stacks...[and] state-of-the-art conservation and digitization laboratories that will preserve rare materials in their original form and through digitization." Librarians at such an institution might work in administration overseeing the branches of the entire system, or may deal with operations in one of the satellite areas.
Businesses and organizations also employ library professionals. Special librarians manage libraries for businesses, nonprofit corporations, and government agencies. The materials collected usually pertain to subjects of particular interest to the organization. Institution librarians plan and direct library programs for residents and staff of institutions such as prisons, hospitals, and other extended-care facilities.
As the field of library and information services grows, librarians can find more work outside of the traditional library setting. Experienced information scientists may advise libraries or other agencies on information systems, library renovation projects, or other information-based issues. In addition, librarians act as trainers and service representatives for online database vendors, helping users access the information from online services. Others may work as information brokers.
Generally, librarians must complete all educational requirements before applying for a job. In some cases part-time work experience while in graduate school may turn into a full-time position upon graduation. Some employers, too, may allow an especially promising applicant to begin learning on the job before the library degree is conferred.
Upon graduating, new librarians should consult the career services office at their school. Employers seeking new graduates often recruit through library schools. Most professional library and information science organizations have job listings that candidates can consult. For example, the American Library Association (ALA) job Web site, https://joblist.ala.org/, offers links to employment opportunities throughout the country, as posted by different library organizations. INALJ (http://inalj.com) is another useful library-related job search and career resource site. Also, many online job search engines can help librarians find an appropriate position. Newspaper classifieds may be of some help in locating a job, although other approaches may be more appropriate to the profession.
Many librarians entering the workforce today are combining their experience in another career with graduate library and information science education. For example, a music teacher who plays trumpet in a band could mix her part-time teaching experience and her hobby with a degree in library science to begin a full-time career as a music librarian. Almost any background can be used to advantage when entering the field of librarianship.
Since school library media specialists work in elementary, middle, and high schools, they must apply directly to school boards. Individuals interested in working in library positions for the federal government can contact the human resources department—or consult the Web site of the government agency where they are interested in working; for these government positions, applicants must take a civil service examination. Additionally, interested parties can visit https://www.usajobs.gov for federal job listings. Public libraries, too, are often under a civil service system of appointment.
An aspiring librarian may gain experience by taking a job as a library assistant or technician while in school. He or she can obtain a lot from practical experience before becoming a librarian. A librarian may advance to positions with greater levels of responsibility within the same library system, or a librarian may gain initial experience in a small library and then advance by transferring to a larger or more specialized library. Within a large library, promotions to higher positions are possible, for example, to the supervision of a department. Experienced librarians with the necessary qualifications may advance to positions in library administration. A doctorate is desirable for reaching top administrative levels, as well as for taking a graduate library school faculty position.
Experienced librarians, in particular those with strong administrative, computer, or planning backgrounds, may move into the area of information consulting. They use their expertise to advise libraries and other organizations on issues regarding information services. Other experienced librarians, especially those with computer experience, may also go into specialized areas of library work, becoming increasingly valuable to business and industry, as well as other fields.
Tips for Entry
Visit the following Web sites for job listings:
Join professional associations such as the American Library Association in order to network, pursue continuing education, access job listings, and learn more about the field.