Calling all librarians!

Hillary! asks:

I really love libraries and Librarians too and I was wondering what do I need to do, besides talk to my librarian, to become one? I am going to be his aide this year but I don’t think that’s enough. Any advice or ideas?

Now I know at least a few librarians read this blog. Can you give Hillary! some guidance? I’m pretty sure she’s from the US of A. You have to get a degree in library studies, right? I know that’s what you need in Australia.

From my casual observation there seems to have been a big growth in the number of specialist teen librarians. Is that right? On the other hand, I keep reading about libraries closing from lack of funding. Are there plenty of jobs out there? What are librarians paid? Is it as low as it is for editors1?

  1. Just remember no matter how low the salaries of editors and librarians, they’re both earning more than the average published writer. []


  1. Dawn on #

    I’m interested to hear what our librarian friends have to say! It would be fun to be a librarian…but I think I’ll stick with my plan of English Teacher/Writer. We’ll see how it works out. It may not, since I can never convince myself to do my Brit Lit OR American Lit homework.

  2. carlie on #

    I don’t know what the requirements are in Australia, but in America in order to become a librarian you need to get a master’s degree in library science (mine is in library and information science; different schools offer slightly different degrees). It doesn’t matter what your major is in college; mine was music performance and I had no trouble getting into library school. While in library school, I took classes geared for public librarians, including services to children and teens. The pay scale for librarians varies with your location and your job. Generally we make more than editors but not much more. The number of jobs open depends on the area of the country in which you live.

    The most important thing to remember when you’re thinking about becoming a librarian is that loving to read is not enough. Yes, it’s a big component of the job, but there’s a lot of library theory and practice to learn. If you’re considering a career in librarianship, talk to a local librarian who specializes in your field of interest (public, academic, etc.) and see if you can shadow him or her for a day. You’ll learn a lot.

  3. phlebotnum on #

    I’m applying to grad school for Library Science and Information Studies programs right now. By far the best tool I’ve found is the American Library Association website. For an overview of the profession and different types of specialization, visit

    Keep this in mind: depending on where you live, anywhere from 15-45% of the librarians in your area will retire in the next 10 years. Finding a job will NOT be an issur πŸ™‚

  4. amy fiske on #

    you do need a masters degree to be a librarian in the us. there are different types of librarians and, depending on what interests you, the preparation is slightly different. if you want to be a public librarian, it doesn’t matter so much what your bachelors degree is. that job is very people focused so if you want to read books and not interact with people, becoming a public librarian is not for you. (i think we’ve all met public librarians that don’t like people and it ain’t pretty.) if there’s a certain age group that you would like to work with, like children or teens, there are classes you can take in library school that will help you specialize. (hint: a lot of librarians are afraid of children and teens; if you are not afraid, public libraries will be very pleased with you.)

    academic librarians work in college and university libraries and often have more in common with professors than they do with public librarians. they usually have an academic specialty and very often are required to have a masters degree in that specialty. they work closely with the professors in their academic specialty. so if you want to become an academic librarian, it will matter what you bachelors degree is.

    school librarians (elementary and secondary) are usually teachers who have a media center certification. some school librarians have masters degrees in library science and some do not – but they will require you to be a teacher. so you would probably want to get an education degree first. and this should go without saying, you must like children and/or teens.

    there are also special librarians that work in a variety of settings – large corporations, law offices, museums, to name a few. they tend to have more specific qualifications so you should check out each one, if you’re interested.

    if you’re trying to figure out what to do, try working in a variety of libraries if you can. volunteer at the school or public library. work at your college library when you’re in college. talk to different kinds of librarians and ask what they like about their jobs. that will probably help you narrow down the direction you want to head in.

    and librarians don’t become librarians to be rich. but i make enough to live and enjoy my life. and i like my job, which is worth quite a lot to me.

  5. Sally Lou Liz on #

    Another thought – not everyone who works at a library is a librarian. I’m a library assistant, and my job description does differ from a librarian’s. I don’t make as much money, but I also don’t have to go to as many meetings, or deal with library administration nearly as much. My job is focussed on helping the public. I help people with finding material, paying fines, checking things out, etc. Also, the librarians wouldn’t be able to do their jobs without us to back them up! At my library system, one needs a BA in just about anything to be qualified for a library assistant position. Mine is in Sociology and Women’s Studies. There are at least 3 assistants for every librarian in our system, and I suspect that is par for the course.

    Other posts have highlighted important things: to work in a public library, you must love working with people. All kinds of people. And I do mean all kinds!!! There are few YA librarians in the world, however, as libraries are realizing they have to interest children as well as teens, there will be more of these positions. It can be a very satisfying job.

    Remember: there will be lots of people retiring from these jobs in the next few years.

    From personal observation: the old guard can’t or won’t deal with computers, and the change the internet is forcing upon libraries. This is hastening some retirements, and perhaps that is a good thing.

    Good luck with your decision! Hope I’ve provided you some food for thought πŸ™‚

  6. john klima on #

    The only thing I want to add is here’s a link to the ALA accredited programs in North America:

    Libraries tend to prefer people who have degrees from accredited institutions.

    You. Must. Like. Working. With. People. (or at least be able to tolerate it) Because. This. Is. What. You. Will. Do. Every. Day.

    I’ve gone from being a professional editor, to a computer programmer, to a librarian. Becoming a librarian was the second best decision I ever made (after asking my wife to marry me). For the first time I realized that I could have a career that I found both challenging and fulfilling at the same time.

  7. hillary! on #

    LORDY LOU! I cannot possibly thank you guys enough from the bottom of my heart! This is really going to, and already is helping me quite alot. And I really do like working with books, even if it means just cancellin\deleting them. I work really well with people too, so this is the best epiphany I have ever had! Thank you sooooooooooooooo MUCH! I am so indebted to you guys!

  8. hillary! on #


  9. Patrick on #

    Pssst – hillary! – those words certainly are not in capitals.

  10. kim on #

    she wants them to be. only justine takes all of those away.

    librarians are so cool!!!!!!:)

  11. Justine on #

    Psst—Patrick—Hillary!’s words are too all capitals.

  12. john on #

    What about library administration? Do you need to become a librarian first for that?

  13. john klima on #

    for the other john: it depends on the library board. most library administrators were librarians at one point. similar to how most school administrators were once teachers. it helps you to understand the job better if you know what your staff went through/goes through.

    however, there are some libraries that are hiring directors who were never librarians. this to me seems like hiring someone to coach your sports team that’s only ever watched sports, but never played them nor coached them anywhere else before. IMHO

  14. kim on #

    you put them back justine.
    very seaky.

  15. ariel cooke on #

    I’m a library student at Rutgers and I work at my local library in children’s services. Everyone is right in that you definitely have to like people as well as books.

    BuUt don’t forget, you also have to like computers and be interested in the Internet to make it work. You don’t have to be super techie to start out with.
    They will teach you step by step in library school. Tho’ alas I still write sucky English major code.

    Librarianship requires the marriage of a lot of seeming opposites. For example, a great librarian is uncritical of her patrons and and highly critical in her thinking, especially in evaluating sources. She has high standards for literature but also enjoys and keeps up with popular culture.

  16. Patrick on #

    Justine – your control of capitals is unmatched in this universe.

  17. Kimberly Paone on #

    My colleagues have all answered your questions very eloquently, but if I can add to the discussion a little bit…

    One of the things that I most like about working with teens in the public library is the variety of my work days. I spend time going to schools to promote books and library programs, I also attend career days, teachers’ meetings, open houses and other school events. I give tours of the public library to both students and adults. I plan and execute tons of programs for teens and run a book club, an anime club, a teen advisory council and lots of really cool author programs (Justine is one of those really cool authors that has visited us!). I get to go to conferences where I learn a lot, but also get to hang out with fantastic people that love books and reading — other librarians, authors, publisher folks, etc. And even when I’m in the library, working at the teen services desk, every day is different and interesting. You never know what information you’ll need to find or what books you’ll get to talk about. It’s a great job and the somewhat inferior salary is far outweighed by the fact that I love what I do. Being able to get up in the morning and WANT to go to work is priceless.

  18. Patrick on #

    Don’t forget as a librarian, you have to let your hair down, take off your glasses, dance on a library table, and refuse to be quiet every once in a while.

    This is one of the most important things librarians do.

  19. hillary! on #

    PRICELESS information! And Patrick, I could just pull a Henry, and run around naked in the library. Those scenes always made me laugh, that was a very good book. Although I do prefer YA much more. THANK YOU!

  20. Amanda Coppedge on #

    I am a librarian trainee, a little more than halfway through earning my masters in library and info science. I work in the children’s department of a very busy library and I am the unofficial teen librarian. You should have seen our High School Musical program. We got hugs afterwards, the teenagers loved it so much. πŸ™‚

    Just a couple of things to add:

    Try to find a place that will do tuition reimbursement for you while you work there. This is what I do. I work for a county library system and in exchange for promising to work there for two years after I graduate, they comp about 85% of my tuition costs. It’s hard to say no to practically free grad school.

    If you do plan on working with the public, work in a library while you go to school. Shelve books, volunteer, etc. if you cannot get a paraprofessional job of some sort. I knew so many naive people who had the idea they would be helping poets do research all day long. The job can be very unglamorous. To put it bluntly, in the “other related duties” of my job description you could add “cleaning up pee and poop,” because I’ve done both those things more than once over the years. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love my job. But the rose-colored glasses got tossed aside years ago. πŸ™‚

    If you don’t want to work with the public there are many many jobs in administration, yes. My husband is a Collection Development librarian, for example. If you’re really interested in the behind the scenes/management angle you may need another degree on top of your MLS–MBA, a marketing/PR degree for Community Relations, etc.

    Of course, why would anybody want to be anything besides a teen librarian? I love my job!!! (Making up for lack of caps with multiple exclamation points)

  21. Patrick on #

    amanda, you’re going to get our exclamation points taken away too! She’s very possesive, I tell you…

  22. amanda coppedge on #

    only haiku’s safe

    free from exclamation points
    no caps are needed

  23. pamelalibrarian on #

    Everyone has been very helpful, but I’d like to add my 2 cents for the school librarians. You do have to teach first-from either 1 to 3 years, depending on the state. Then you do need a Masters in Library Science to obtain the certification. The masters program for School librarians is different than the ALA-accredited program that public librarians get. Ours focuses on children/teens & teaching in addition to the library stuff. Anyway, I’m a middle school librarian & it couldn’t be more awesome! I learned after teaching english for 4 years that my favorite part was matching kids with books, so I became a librarian! I also love the technology aspect. I teach kids & teachers how to use all kinds of technology from website building to everyday applications. I’m not getting rich, but nothing beats all of our holidays & summers off! Good Luck Hillary!

  24. kellie on #

    hey- i would like to emphasize a couple of things:
    1. no matter where you think you’re going to end up in libraryland, do yourself a favor and work/volunteer at a library first. there’s a huge amount of information that you end up learning just by sitting back and watching (er, working). i found that there was an obvious knowledge gap between those that slogged in the library and those that didn’t. matters. books are awesome, but you have to at least embrace all of the changes that are happening in libraries. take time to gain some techie mojo. (and i’m not talking about anything major, just learn enough to sound smart and build from there) around environment-wise. i was pretty sure i wanted to work in the academic setting, but my internship turned me off. the people were super nice, but i hate sitting in committee meetings, i don’t want to back to school (and pay) for another masters and i don’t want to have to take work home with me all the time. i ended up taking a job in a public library and it’s been awesome: i can make changes without having a meeting about it first, all of my dorky love of comics and the like endear me to the teens and kids, and i can be sillier and have better conversations with people. when i worked in academia, i felt like that wasn’t much of an option. i’d also second the teen librarian thing rocking.

    4. librarians (obviously) love talking about their jobs and sharing information. talk to your local librarians to see what they think of the field, what they see coming down the pike, and what you can do in a library. these connections that you make now could help you in the future as well. i’ve had more doors opened for me because i knew someone who knew someone. being curious and open and flexible helps as well.

    5. definitely definitely get someone to pay your way.

    6. have fun in library school and in your job. everyone gripes about the grouchy old prunes, but i met some grouchy young (luddite!)whippersnappers as well.

    good luck! it’s a swell job. like any other job, there are crappy days and drama. but it’s worth it.

  25. Ken Kugler on #

    I am a ya librarian in queens new york. For me the most important thing is that you must enjoy helping people. You should also be outgoing. I love to play with the ya’s, verbally, in my library.
    Here in new york you need a MLS, masters of library science to work as a librarian. I know from a friend in north carolina, that there they just have to have a college degree. you also have to know lots of different genres because that you can assist your patrons when they need to select a book from a list from school or just are looking for something else to read. you are also, if you are luck enough, responsibe for book purchases, so again the need to know lots of different areas.
    Also, you must be prepared to be a cop. yeah, i know, i never took policing 101 in library school, but that is also a reality. some sort of order is necessary in the ya room and you as a librarian are the one called on to be the first line of defense.
    I love my job alot but sometines i leave work totally drained. i also can’t imagine doing anything else.

Comments are closed.