The Essential Guide on How to Become a Librarian

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated May 31, 2022 | Published June 21, 2021

Updated May 31, 2022

Published June 21, 2021

Librarians include specialized professionals essential to the sustenance and promotion of learning in society. They must complete specific educational requirements and gain relevant certifications. If your goal is to become a librarian, you must complete some training and meet academic requirements to receive your certification. In this article, we explore what a librarian is, their duties, their earning potential, where they work, and how to become a librarian.

What is a librarian?

A librarian is a professional who works in a library and is in charge of learning materials. They ensure the availability and accessibility of information by identifying, buying, organizing, managing, and retrieving various materials. They also keep a record of people coming in and out of the library. This is to monitor and prevent theft and misuse of library resources.

Related: 11 of the Most Fun Jobs in the World

Duties and responsibilities of a librarian

Their duties and responsibilities include collecting, organizing, and issuing resources from the library, like films, books, and audio files. In addition, they handle the smooth operation of the library, and their duties may differ based on the setting. Regardless, here are some duties of librarians:

  • Collection and cataloguing of resources such as films, files, publications, newspapers, and books

  • Assisting people with the location of reference, leisure, and study materials

  • Performance of regular reviews of the inventory and information on file

  • Maintenance and updating of records in the libraries

  • Management of budgeting and organization of other employees' activities

  • Clarification of the use of library facilities through spelled-out guidelines and enforcing compliance

  • Overseeing the process of book check-out and other material resources from the library

  • Organization and hosting of book sales events and other reading events and author signings

  • Ensuring accessibility and ease of use of library facilities for all people, including the disabled

  • Choosing and arranging relevant multimedia and publications

  • Deciding on the best, accurate, and cost-effective methods of retrieving data

  • Accurately and consistently keeping records of material usage, borrow and return

The average salary of a librarian

A librarian's salary depends heavily on educational qualification and related professional certifications, level of experience, position at work, and location of work.

  • The average pay for an assistant librarian with less than a year's experience is $22.01 per hour

  • The average pay for a librarian with around one to three years of experience is $30.63 per hour

  • The average pay for an experienced senior librarian is $34.24 per hour

Where do librarians work?

Librarians are relevant to a wide range of organizations. Here are some organizations or institutions that employ librarians:

  • Public libraries

  • Private and public school

  • College, university, and research libraries

  • Broadcasters and publishers

  • Archives and museums

  • Government, corporate, legal, and hospital libraries

  • Non-for-profit organizations

  • Information technology firms

  • Information brokerage firms

How to become a librarian

To become a librarian, you must possess certain qualifications spanning education, additional certifications, and soft skills. A combination of these capabilities ensures you understand how the library functions and how to ensure the smooth running of the library. Follow these steps for how to become a librarian:

1. Determine the kind of librarian you want to be

You must know what type of librarian you want to become. This helps you specialize your training and education. Some common kinds of librarian you can become include:

Administrative services librarian

They manage the affairs of the library and see to its day-to-day running. In addition, they oversee and supervise the entire workforce, prepare budgets, and occasionally organize fundraising events.

Public librarian

They work and operate in a community or public library to serve the public. They ensure patrons find desired books, help students with materials for school assignments and research, and organize academically impactful events such as children's story time and book clubs.

User service librarian

They are also known as reference librarians, and they primarily assist, advise, and instruct users on how to access reference materials in the library. They also evaluate, gather, and synthesize data from multiple sources, which they make available to users upon request. Likewise, they sometimes work with a particular audience, like teens or children.

Technical services librarian

They are in charge of the supervision, evaluation, and training of library staff. They also coordinate the technical unit of the library and its circulation services. Likewise, they develop the best method to process materials in the library while recommending maintenance standards of bibliography to users.

They also work closely with the administrative librarian to prepare the annual budget, especially regarding the expected expenses of the technical unit and the circulation unit. Technical services librarians are also responsible for archiving library materials.

Academic librarian

They're primarily found in schools, especially in tertiary institutions. Their duties involve assisting staff and students with materials that aid their research, and classifying and cataloguing books, past projects, and other library resources.

Specialty librarian

They are also known as information professionals. They work in designated libraries, expressly set aside for reading materials and books relating to a profession, industry, or genre. Examples include libraries of academic fields and disciplines such as law libraries, physics libraries, or pharmacy libraries.

2. Meet the academic requirements

The minimum requirement is a diploma in library science or any equivalent qualification. During the process, try developing your learning and training process towards what type of librarian you want to become. Also, while there's a preference for a bachelor's degree in library studies, you can complete your master's program in Master of Library and Information Science (MLS) or its equivalent.

This increases your chances, especially if you're interested in a specialized role. For example, if you apply to the National Library of Medicine, you must have a master's degree. You must also have a vast knowledge of medicine and experience in this field is an asset.

3. Get relevant professional certifications

Hiring managers favour candidates with vast knowledge of the role and improve efficiency and introduce innovative ideas for running the library. Consider working towards additional professional certifications, especially in the field you seek to specialize in. It increases your appeal and capabilities to deliver when hired. It also ensures you can keep up with changes in the industry and remain relevant to your organization.

4. Get relevant work experience

Employers value work experience because it means you're ready for the role ahead and can train quickly. This experience can either be through an internship, volunteer, or previous work employment as a librarian. For instance, while in school, you can volunteer at your school library to understand the practical realities of the theories you learned in the classroom.

After graduation, and pending when you specialize, you can also get an entry-level role in your university library. This kind of role is often part-time during your studies and allows you to gain valuable work experience that hiring managers appreciate.

Related: Understanding Entry-Level Jobs

5. Apply for a job

This is the last step for how to become a librarian. Once you've satisfied all the requirements, you can prepare your resume and cover letter and apply for a job. Ensure you demonstrate your technical and soft skills in your resume and cover letter during your application. Prepare questions in advance when you're invited to interview so you can provide confident, well-thought-out responses.

Related: How to Write a Resume

Relevant skills to become a librarian

To become a librarian, you must possess some soft and technical skills. Here are some skills recruiters look for in candidates for librarian roles:

  • Organizational skills. You need this skill to organize library materials and library settings to make them ready and conducive for use. Related skills you need to include attention to detail and time management skills.

  • Data collection skills. Working in a library requires the regular collection, insertion, and retrieval of data. Therefore, hiring managers consider those with data collection skills valuable assets to the library's functionality.

  • Excellent communication skills. You must be proficient in writing, speaking, listening, and reading. This is important as you need to communicate with colleagues, library users, and process records of people and materials at work.

  • Good decision-making skills. To ensure the quality of service to users, you must be an excellent decision-maker. You must analyze the situation and choose the best options to create the best outcome for the library.

  • Problem-solving skills. Your problem-solving skills come in handy here to mediate and resolve disputes between employees and ensure a functional library.

  • Customer service skills. Library services involve people. So, you must possess exceptional customer service skills to ensure effective customer relations. You must handle complaints in the most non-confrontational way.

  • Vast knowledge of library databases. For efficiency and ease of sorting and navigating (finding, retrieving, and returning) library materials, modern libraries now appreciate librarians with considerable experience using and applying databases to data collection and storage.