Education and Training Requirements

High School

If you are interested in becoming a librarian, be sure to take a full college preparatory course load. Focus on classes in history, English, speech, and foreign languages if you are going into user services. If you plan on working in a special library, take classes related to that specialty. For instance, if science is your interest, take courses such as anatomy, biology, chemistry, and physics. Learning how to use a computer and conduct basic research in a library is essential. Developing these skills will not only aid in your future library work, but will also help you in college and in any other career options you might pursue.

Postsecondary Training

Consider enrolling in a liberal arts college to get a broad educational background, since librarians should be familiar with numerous subject areas. While an undergraduate, you can begin considering what area of librarianship you wish to pursue, and focus on those courses. Many library schools don't require specific undergraduate courses for acceptance, but a good academic record and reading knowledge of at least one foreign language is usually required. You should also consider taking classes that strengthen your skills in communications, writing, research methods, collection organization, and customer service, as well as maintenance and conservation. More than half of the accredited library schools do not require any introductory courses in library science while an undergraduate. It would be wise, though, to check with schools for specific requirements.

Upon receiving your bachelor's degree, you will need to earn a master's degree to become a librarian. The degree is generally known as the master of library science (M.L.S), but in some institutions it may be referred to by a different title, such as the master of library and information science (M.L.I.S) or master of information studies (M.I.S.). You should plan to attend a graduate school of library and information science that is accredited by the American Library Association (ALA). Currently, there are more than 60 ALA-accredited schools. Some libraries do not consider job applicants who attended a nonaccredited school. Visit for a list of ALA-accredited programs.

During your one- or two-year graduate study program, you will take courses in reference work, cataloging, classification, technology, online reference systems, Internet search methods, library organizations, and administration. Other courses focus on the history of books and printing and on issues of censorship and intellectual freedom. Information scientists focus on courses in computer science, mathematics, and systems analysis. Many library schools have work-study programs where students take classes while gaining practical experience in a library.

Specialized librarians, such as law, pharmaceutical, or geology librarians, must have a very strong background in the subject in which they wish to work. Most have a degree in their subject specialization in addition to their M.L.S. In some cases, a graduate or professional degree in the subject is especially attractive to prospective employers. For work in research libraries, university libraries, or special collections, a doctorate may be required. A doctorate is commonly required for the top administrative posts of these types of libraries, as well as for faculty positions in graduate schools of library science.

Other Education or Training

Continuing education (CE) opportunities are provided by many library associations at the national, state, and local levels. These offerings range from workshops and seminars at association conferences to webinars and other online education. The American Library Association (ALA), for example, offers both online and in-person educational offerings that focus on topics such as leadership development, technology, ethics, acquisitions, collection management and preservation, electronic resources, cataloging, and serving special populations. Contact the ALA and other library associations to learn about the latest CE opportunities. 

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

In many states, school librarians are required to earn teacher's certification in addition to preparation as a librarian. They may also be required to earn a master's degree in education. Various state, county, and local governments have set up other requirements for education and certification. You should contact the school board in the area in which you are interested in working for specific requirements. Your public library system should also have that information readily available.

The ALA offers the certified public library administrator designation to public librarians who have at least three years of supervisory experience. For more information, visit

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Experience as a library volunteer or in a part-time job as a library assistant or technician will be helpful for aspiring librarians.

Librarians who deal with the public should have strong interpersonal skills, tact, and patience. An imaginative, highly motivated, and resourceful personality is very valuable. An affinity for problem solving is another desirable quality. Library specialists, too, must have particular personal qualifications; for example, young-adult librarians must have a real liking and affinity for teenagers, and bookmobile librarians should feel comfortable traveling to outlying areas and dealing with all sorts of people.

Librarians are often expected to take part in community affairs, cooperating in the preparation of exhibits, presenting book reviews, and explaining library use to community organizations. You will need to be a leader in developing the cultural tastes of the library patrons.

Librarians involved with technical services should be detail oriented, have good planning skills, and be able to think analytically. All librarians should have a love for information and be willing to master the techniques for obtaining and presenting knowledge. They must also be prepared to master constantly changing technology.