What Does a Librarian Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

Image by Ashley Deleon Nicole. © Jacara 2019 

Librarians select resources, organize them, then teach people how to use them effectively. Many work with the public, while others are behind the scenes in technical support or in administration. Although librarians have traditionally worked with printed resources, they've also kept up with ever-evolving technology and have incorporated electronic resources including the Internet, computerized databases, and e-books.

Librarians are also referred to as information professionals. This occupation employed about 138,200 people in 2016.

Librarian Duties & Responsibilities

Librarians must assume responsibility for a wide range of duties, some obvious and some that you might not have considered.

  • Respond to information requests in person, over the phone, or via email to answer questions and locate information.
  • Teach a variety of skills to students, particularly research skills.
  • Create and publish web-based content including research tutorials, subject guides, course guides, promotional spots, and information pieces.
  • Manage patrons’ access to all resources.

Librarian Salary

The highest paid librarians tend to work for colleges and universities.

  • Median Annual Salary: $58,520 ($28.13/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: More than $91,620 ($44.05/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: Less than $34,300 ($16.49/hour)

Source: , 2017

Education, Training & Certification

This career generally requires some schooling and certification.

  • Education: Most librarian jobs in public, academic, or special libraries require a Master's Degree in Library Science (M.L.S.) from a program accredited by the . Librarians employed by the Federal government must have an M.L.S. If you plan to teach in a librarian education program or aspire to a top administration position in a college or university, you'll need a doctorate in library science. Some , especially those who work in academic settings, have an additional degree in the area in which they specialize.
  • Certification: Most states require public librarians to be . Certification for school librarians—also called school media specialists—can vary by state. Some states require that they be certified , while others might stipulate that they have a master's degree in education with a specialization in library science. Other states require only an M.L.S.
  • Continuing Education: Many librarians take continuing education classes to keep up with changing technology.

Learn about the requirements in the state in which you plan to work using the from CareerOneStop.

Librarian Skills & Competencies

Specific personal qualities, called , can contribute to your success as a librarian.

  • A love and affinity for learning: You'll have to keep abreast of the rapid changes in technology.
  • Strong communication skills: This includes listening, speaking, and interpersonal skills that allow you to interact with library patrons as well as function as part of a team. You'll also need strong customer service skills.
  • Initiative: You must also be able to work independently without relying on instruction from others.

Job Outlook

The  for this occupation is stable. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in this field will grow as fast as the average for all occupations, at about 9%, between 2016 and 2026. Communities are finding new and innovative uses for libraries, requiring staff.

Work Environment

Librarians can spend a fair bit of time on the library floor and on their feet, assisting patrons, but the majority of their work time is spent in an office or at the circulation desk. Some might have to travel to other sites occasionally.

Work Schedule

Librarian jobs are usually full-time, but about 25% of all librarians worked part-time in 2016. Working weekends, evenings, and even some holidays is not uncommon. School librarians might have summers off, at least if they're not working for a college or university that offers summer classes.

Librarians in law libraries or who work for corporations might occasionally have to work overtime to handle pressing deadlines.

Comparing Similar Jobs

Some similar jobs call for more extensive—or less extensive—education, and they pay accordingly.

  • $47,360
  • $59,170
  • $29,050

Source: , 2017