Librarian Career Description


Librarians help people find information and conduct research for personal and professional use.


What they do

Librarians’ job duties may change based on the type of library they work in, such as public, academic, or medical libraries.

Librarians typically do the following:

  • Create and use databases of library materials
  • Organize library materials so they are easy to find
  • Help library patrons to conduct research to evaluate search results and reference materials
  • Research new books and materials by reading book reviews, publishers’ announcements, and catalogs
  • Maintain existing collections and choose new books, videos, and other materials for purchase
  • Plan programs for different audiences, such as story time for children
  • Teach classes about information resources
  • Research computers and other equipment for purchase, as needed
  • Train and supervise library technicians, assistants, other support staff, and volunteers
  • Prepare library budgets

In small libraries, librarians are often responsible for many or all aspects of library operations. In large libraries, they usually focus on one aspect of the library, such as user services, technical services, or administrative services.


Work Environment

Most librarians typically work on the floor with patrons, behind the circulation desk, or in offices. Some librarians have private offices, but those in small libraries usually share work space with others.

Most librarians work full time. Public and academic librarians often work on weekends and evenings and may work holidays. School librarians usually have the same work and vacation schedules as teachers, including summers off. Special librarians, such as corporate librarians, typically work normal business hours but may need to work more than 40 hours per week to help meet deadlines.


How to become a Librarian

Librarians typically need a master’s degree in library science. Some positions have additional requirements, such as a teaching certificate or a degree in another field.

Librarians typically need a master’s degree in library science (MLS). Some colleges and universities have other names for their library science programs, such as Master of Information Studies or Master of Library and Information Studies. Students need a bachelor’s degree in any major to enter MLS programs.

MLS programs usually take 1 to 2 years to complete. Coursework typically covers information such as learning different research methods and strategies, online reference systems, and Internet search techniques.

The American Library Association accredits master’s degree programs in library and information studies.

Special librarians, such as those in a corporate, law, or medical library, usually supplement a master’s degree in library science with knowledge of their specialized field. Some employers require special librarians to have a master’s degree, a professional degree, or a Ph.D. in that subject. For example, a law librarian may be required to have a law degree.

Public school librarians typically need a teacher’s certification. Some states require school librarians to pass a standardized test, such as the PRAXIS II Library Media Specialist test. Contact your state department of education for details about requirements in your state.



The median annual wage for librarians was $59,500 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $33,820, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $94,520.


Job Outlook

Employment of librarians is projected to grow 5 percent from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average for all occupations.

Communities are increasingly turning to libraries for a variety of services and activities. Therefore, there will be a need for librarians to manage libraries and help patrons find information. Parents value the learning opportunities that libraries present for children because libraries have information and learning materials that children often cannot access from home. In addition, the availability of electronic information and media materials is expected to increase the demand for librarians and media collections specialists in research and special libraries, where patrons may need help sorting through the large amount of digital information and collections materials.


Similar Job Titles

Catalog Librarian, Children's Librarian, Librarian, Library Director, Library Media Specialist, Public Services Librarian, Reference Librarian, School Librarian, Technical Services Librarian, Youth Services Librarian, Acquisitions Librarian, Electronic Resources Librarians


Related Occupations

Business Teacher-Postsecondary, Education Teacher-Postsecondary, Library Science Teacher-Postsecondary, Archivist, Curator


More Information

The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field.  Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas.  As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.

  • American Association of Law Libraries - AALL is the only national association that keeps law librarians and other legal information professionals on the leading edge of industry advancements and passionately champions the value of our profession.
  • American Association of School Librarians - The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) is the only national professional membership organization focused on school librarians and the school library community. AASL has more than 7,000 members.
  • American Library Association - ALA is the oldest and largest library association in the world with a mission “to provide leadership for the development, promotion and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.”
  • Association for Library Collections and Technical Services - A division of the American Library Association. ALCTS is the national association for information providers who work in collections and technical services, such as acquisitions, cataloging, metadata, collection management, preservation, electronic and continuing resources.
  • Association for Library Service to Children - ALSC's network includes more than 4,000 children's and youth librarians, children's literature experts, publishers, education and library school faculty members, and other adults dedicated to engaging communities to build healthy, successful futures for all children.
  • Association of College and Research Libraries - Representing more than 10,000 individuals and libraries, ACRL (a division of the American Library Association) develops programs, products, and services to help those working in academic and research libraries learn, innovate, and lead within the academic community.
  • Medical Library Association - MLA is a global, nonprofit educational organization, with a membership of more than 400 institutions and 3,000 professionals in the health information field.
  • Music Library Association - This organization has an international membership of librarians, musicians, scholars, educators, and members of the book and music trades.


Magazines and Publications

American Libraries Magazine
ALA Editions
Booklist Online
College & Research Libraries News


Video Transcript

For readers on the lookout for their next great novel, or students desperate for help with a research project, their local librarian is probably something of a hero. Librarians guide people through the use of the library and the services it offers. Librarians help people find information and conduct research. Many plan community programming such as storytelling for young children. They also perform administrative tasks… from recordkeeping… to choosing materials to add to their collection. Librarians may specialize —using their research and information-organizing skills— for private businesses, government, law or medical schools and institutions, and for colleges and universities. They must keep up-to-date on their field and relevant resources, such as databases and search engines. Wherever they are employed, librarians use communication, initiative, and interpersonal skills to assist patrons in getting the most out of their local library. Most librarians work full time though part-time opportunities may be available. Some specialist librarians may work overtime to help meet deadlines. Most employers require librarians to have a master’s degree in library science. Librarians in specialized fields take courses or earn a degree in that field, such as a law degree, as well as a degree in library science.


Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH,
CareerOneStop, O*Net Online