Library and Information Science Instructors


Exploring this Job

Your high school teachers use many of the same skills as college professors, so talk to your teachers about their careers and their college experiences. You can develop your own teaching experience by volunteering at a community center, working at a day care center, or working at a summer camp. Also, spend some time on a college campus to get a sense of the environment. Contact colleges for their admissions brochures and course catalogs (or check them out online); read about the library science faculty members and the courses they teach. Before visiting college campuses, make arrangements to speak to professors who teach courses that interest you. These professors may allow you to sit in on their classes and observe. Also, make appointments with college advisers and with people in the admissions and recruitment offices. If your grades are good enough, you might be able to serve as a teaching assistant during your undergraduate years, which can give you experience leading discussions and grading papers.

The Job

Library and information science instructors teach at junior colleges or at four-year colleges and universities. At four-year institutions, most faculty members are assistant professors, associate professors, or full professors. These three types of professorships differ in regards to status, job responsibilities, and salary. Assistant professors are new faculty members who are working to get tenure (status as a permanent professor); they seek to advance to associate and then to full professorships.

Library and information science instructors perform three main functions: teaching, service, and research. Their most important responsibility is to teach students. Their role within a college department will determine the level of courses they teach and the number of courses per semester. Professors may head several classes a semester or only a few a year. Some of their classes will have large enrollment, while graduate seminars may consist of only 12 or fewer students. Though library science educators may spend only 12 to 16 hours a week in the actual classroom, they spend many hours preparing lectures and lesson plans, grading papers and exams, and preparing grade reports. They also schedule office hours during the week to be available to students outside of the lecture hall, and they meet with students individually throughout the semester. In the classroom, library science educators lecture, lead discussions, administer exams, and assign textbook reading and other research.

An important part of teaching is advising students. Not all library science faculty members serve as advisers, but those who do must set aside large blocks of time to guide students through the program. Library science educators who serve as advisers may have any number of students assigned to them, from fewer than 10 to more than 100, depending on the administrative policies of the college. Their responsibility may involve looking over a planned program of studies to make sure the students meet requirements for graduation, or it may involve working intensively with each student on many aspects of college life.

All college professors provide important services to their department, college, or profession. Many college professors edit technical journals, review research and scholarship, and head committees about their field of expertise. College professors also serve on committees that determine the curriculum or make decisions about student learning.

The third responsibility of library and information science instructors is research and publication. Faculty members who are heavily involved in research programs sometimes are assigned a smaller teaching load. Library science educators publish their research findings in various scholarly journals. They also write books based on their research or on their own knowledge and experience in the field. Most textbooks are written by college and university teachers.

Some library and information science instructors eventually rise to the position of department chair, where they govern the affairs of the entire library and information science department. Library science department chairs, faculty, and other professional staff members are aided in their myriad duties by graduate assistants, who may help develop teaching materials, conduct research, give examinations, teach lower-level courses, and carry out other activities.

Distance learning programs, an increasingly popular option for students, give library and information science instructors the opportunity to use today's technologies to remain in one place while teaching students who are at a variety of locations simultaneously. (To view a good example of an online library science program, visit The instructor's duties, like those when teaching correspondence courses conducted by mail, include grading work that students send in at periodic intervals and advising students of their progress. Computers, the Internet, e-mail, and video conferencing, however, are some of the technology tools that allow library science instructors and students to communicate in "real time" in a virtual classroom setting. Meetings may be scheduled during the same time as traditional classes or during evenings and weekends. Library and information science instructors who do this work are sometimes known as extension work, correspondence, or distance learning instructors. They may teach online courses in addition to other classes or may have distance learning as their major teaching responsibility.

The junior college library and information science instructor has many of the same kinds of responsibilities as does the teacher in a four-year college or university. Because junior colleges offer only a two-year program, they teach only undergraduates.