A degree in library science opens up a wide range of career opportunities and provides graduates with the knowledge to organize information, analyze user or customer behavior, and discern what services and technologies to provide. Library science is known to be useful in the library setting, but in more recent years, as information is more accessible and the amount of content continues to multiply, library science has merged with information science and is utilized by large content-creating companies like Google, Netflix, Youtube, and social media corporations. Librarianship has also changed over time and is more diverse in the services it provides.
Within librarianship, a degree in library science is a major step to becoming a children’s librarian, an archives and special collections librarian, a library branch manager, a library director, a reference librarian, or a cataloging and metadata librarian. Librarians are found in public libraries, academic libraries, state libraries, private and special libraries, and archives. For large corporations, a library science degree is preferred for taxonomists, information specialists, and other information management or analyst positions.
This article will cover types of librarian careers and what to expect from each career, how they function in different library settings, and careers outside of librarianship for those with library science degrees. Readers will also gain an understanding of the job requirements, qualifications, and education needed for each career. Additionally, readers will know what skills to start building and what kind of experience to work towards for each job type.
Archives and Special Collections Librarian
Archives and special collections Librarians are often utilized at universities and colleges; however, there are also state archives, city archives, and historical societies that staff librarians for archives and special collections. Some of the tasks of an archivist or special collections librarian include labeling and describing items, arranging and organizing items, preserving and maintaining items, and converting items such as photographs, newspapers, magazines, audio cassettes, videotapes, records, and other audio and visual formats into more accessible formats. Archivists also work with donors and often help in the transportation of items, and they create displays and events to showcase new, or relevant items.
An archivist librarian at a university must have a master’s degree in library and information science and experience may also be required. An archivist librarian in a public or state library also needs a master’s degree in library science, unless the position is an entry-level job. Historical societies and private museums may only require an undergraduate degree from a related field and some experience in archiving or librarianship. Most institutions prefer or require all librarians to have their master’s in library and information science from a program accredited by the American Library Association (ALA). Some archivist positions at a college or university may also double as a professor career and may require a doctorate in librarianship, archivist, history, or other related fields.
Children and Youth Services Librarian
Children and youth services librarians wear many hats. They create events and programs for children of all ages including storytimes, book clubs, family-friendly crafts and movie nights, and gaming nights for teens. They often work with nearby schools, daycares, learning centers, and homeschooling parents to help educators and to work with educators to provide more resources to children and parents. Children and youth services librarians also work in collection development for their department, aid in adult services, and help with the adult collection, they also will aid in maintaining and running the daily library operations. Small rural libraries may only have one librarian who is also the youth services librarian.
Children and youth services librarians are often public librarians for a city or county. Some cities and counties have standards their librarians must meet and some states set the standards. Most public libraries require or at least prefer their youth services librarians to have a master’s in library and information science from an ALA-accredited program. However, in areas where librarians are more sparse, a bachelor’s degree and some library experience may be acceptable. Children and youth services librarians do not need a doctoral degree and are often entry-level professional librarian positions.
Cataloging and Metadata Librarian
A cataloging and metadata librarian is often hired for public library systems and academic libraries. They create and maintain bibliography records for all library items on library systems and databases. Their job provides access and online visibility to library items online or in person. Online bibliography records represent online items, print books, audiobooks online or in-house, and items in other locations. Catalogers must understand the systems libraries use, including WorldShare, EBSCO, the Library of Congress Classification and Subject Headings, Dublin Core, OCLC, and other discovery tools, integrated library systems, and databases. Catalogers also frequently create and collect statistics and reports, write and revise policies and procedures, provide research help online and during reference desk hours, and other library duties.
The minimum qualifications for a cataloging librarian are a master’s in library and information science from an ALA-accredited program and some experience working with metadata in a library system. Other qualifications may include experience working in either a public library or an academic library, proficiency with OCLC and an integrated library system, and the ability to communicate and collaborate with stakeholders to enhance library visibility online. Other skills in customer service and problem-solving will be valuable as well.
There are many kinds of information specialists because of the vast amount of information in every field. They work for scientists, government institutions, universities, and any type of large content creators. Their basic tasks typically include organizing information, locating information, conducting research, aiding in research, developing information displays or other marketing creations, and analyzing information technology systems. They also may be responsible for creating new content, technology, and research.
Some qualifications for an information specialist include experience with researching, information organizing, information management, comparing technology systems, managing staff members, collaborating with different professionals, customer service skills, and a bachelor’s degree or higher in a related field. A library science degree covers many of the qualifications employers are searching for because they learn research methods, business and administration skills, and various methods of organizing and managing information and information technology. A master’s in library and information science from an ALA-accredited program is a great place to start to gain the knowledge and skills necessary for an information specialist position.
A reference librarian is available to answer research questions and know how to find information. Reference librarians for a public library familiarize themselves with city, county, state, and federal information such as tax information, family court laws, employment opportunities, welfare and state benefits, genealogy documents, and city and state history. Academic reference librarians help students find research for class assignments and faculty find research for scholarly articles, books, and dissertations, and for their class curriculum. Reference librarians also take on other library roles as needed such as working at the circulation desk, providing outreach services, providing tech support, and aiding other librarians and library staff.
Preferred qualifications for a reference librarian in an academic library or public library include experience working within that type of library, experience working on a reference desk, and a master’s degree in library and information science from an ALA-accredited program. Commonly required education qualifications include a bachelor’s degree or higher in liberal arts, English literature, education, or an innovative field. The skills that are preferred or often required for a reference librarian include strong customer service skills; excellent communication skills through writing, oral, and presentation; the ability to collaborate with other professionals, the public, and in a culturally diverse community; and the ability to plan, organize, and prioritize tasks and services.
A taxonomist is a scientist who creates a system of classification and organizes data and information. Taxonomists use and create controlled metadata and vocabulary. Taxonomists work with large companies and organizations that provide vast amounts of content and research to make finding information and items easier and more accessible. They also work with other technology staff, researchers, scientists, and creators to nurture innovation within the organization or company. Taxonomists are utilized more today than ever due to the rapid growth in technology, information availability, and content.
Some job requirements for a taxonomist include a master’s degree in information science from an ALA-accredited program or a master’s in computer science, or data management. They should have experiance with metadata and controlled vocabulary, and have skills in collaborating, strategizing, managing expectations and priorities, innovation, communication through writing and presenting, and computer and software.
A library director is a librarian who oversees all operations of a library or library system. Some library directors are over 20 more locations in large cities and counties, and other library directors may only be over one large location with multiple staff. Library directors often oversee a public library system or an academic library system at a college or university. Library directors work for the library board and create policies and programs for the board’s consideration. Public library directors will often communicate with the mayor, or other city government officials for budgeting and staffing. Academic library directors will communicate the needs and budget requests for the library with the university or college administration.
Library directors must be competent in budgeting and business strategy, understand library procedures and daily operations, and have strong skills in customer service, time management, professionalism, communication, adaptability, and technical computer applications. All library directors must have a master’s degree in library and information science from an ALA-accredited program and experience in library management. Library director positions for large cities and counties will require prospective library directors to have years of experience as a library manager of a large regional library branch or over multiple library branches. Some employers require library directors to have 10 or more years of management experience and five years of budgeting and financial planning.
Library Branch Manager
Library branch manager positions are often put in charge of a public library branch either in the city or in rural areas. Branch managers in small libraries often do the majority of library work and daily tasks of a library operation, whereas a library branch manager of a large city or county library will have more administrative work to do with more library staff to complete library tasks. Some branch head tasks include overseeing library programs and events. They also create policies for the staff and library users and ensure they are followed, they ensure the library staff are providing strong customer service, maintain a healthy and supportive work environment, and prioritize and assign tasks for library staff.
Nearly all library branch managers across the nation need two or more years of supervisory experience and a master’s degree in library and information science from an ALA-accredited program. Some states require a librarian certification or license. Other skills a library branch manager will need include the ability to provide readers advisory services, create library programs and events, manage the library collection, understand budgeting principles, have excellent customer service skills, and have excellent communication and interpersonal skills to communicate professionally with other librarians and with members of the community such as parents, teachers, business owners, and leaders of various organizations.
Web Content Strategist
A Web Content Strategist focuses on the online part of the library with which the users interact. Their job includes online marketing, data and statistics collecting, and web development and maintenance. Their main goal is to make access to information more available and easy to engage. They also collaborate with other departments to create programs and outreach opportunities to grow traffic to the website and online databases. Web Content Strategists may also work as librarians, but other businesses and marketing companies may use them outside of a library setting.
A degree in library and information science will build skills and a knowledge base for this position but may not be a required degree. Common job qualifications for a web content strategist include a bachelor’s degree in marketing, web design, human-computer interaction, information science, computer science, or other related degree, and experience building and maintaining websites. Other preferences include two or more years of digital marketing and website management, migrating website content to updated or new websites, experience with user research techniques and patterns, experience with edited images, and experience with building reports using analytic data.