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Career Outlook for American Librarians

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Career Outlook for American Librarians

Librarianship Role Today

The traditional concept of a library is being redefined from a place to access paper records or books to one that also houses the most advanced electronic resources, including the Internet, digital libraries, and remote access to a wide range of information sources. Consequently, librarians, often called information professionals, combine traditional duties with tasks involving quickly changing technology. Librarians help people find information and use it effectively for personal and professional purposes[1].

There are five traditional major divisions of libraries, each commanding a specialized subset of librarian. These include academic, public, research, school, and special libraries.

As such, there are corresponding broad categorizations of librarianship, divided as academic, public, research, school, and special librarianship.

General Qualifications

A master's degree in library science (MLS) is necessary for librarian positions in most public, academic, and special libraries. School librarians may not need an MLS but must meet State teaching license requirements[2]. Employers will specify particular degrees or equivalencies necessary, such as The Evergreen State College's desire for library employ: two Master's degrees, one of which needs to be in library science or information studies.

Entry into a library science graduate program requires a bachelor's degree, but any undergraduate major is acceptable. Many colleges and universities offer library science programs, but employers often prefer graduates of the 49 schools in the United States accredited by the American Library Association. Most programs take one year to complete; some take two. In addition to an MLS degree, librarians in a special library, such as a law or corporate library, usually supplement their education with knowledge of the field in which they are specializing, sometimes earning a master's, doctoral, or professional degree in the subject. Areas of specialization include medicine, law, business, engineering, and the natural and social sciences. For example, a librarian working for a law firm may hold both library science and law degrees, while medical librarians should have a strong background in the sciences. In some jobs, knowledge of a foreign language is needed[3].

Career Outlook and Opportunities

Librarians held about 159,900 jobs in 2008. About 59 percent were employed by public and private educational institutions and 27 percent were employed by local government. Employment of librarians is expected to grow by 8 percent between 2008 and 2018, which is as fast as the average for all occupations[4].

Jobs for librarians outside traditional settings will grow the fastest over the decade. Nontraditional librarian jobs include working as information brokers and working for private corporations, nonprofit organizations, and consulting firms. Many companies are turning to librarians because of their research and organizational skills and their knowledge of computer databases and library automation systems[5].


Salaries of librarians vary according to the individual's qualifications and the type, size, and location of the library. Librarians with primarily administrative duties often have greater earnings. Median annual wages of librarians in May 2008 were $52,530. The middle 50 percent earned between $42,240 and $65,300. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $33,190, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $81,130. The average annual salary for all librarians in the Federal Government in nonsupervisory, supervisory, and managerial positions was $84,796 in March 2009[6].

Further Reading

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