What is a Librarian?

A librarian is a professional trained in information science. Working at a school, a local library, or even for the government, a librarian aides those in need of informational articles and services while managing and organizing those materials as well.

Librarians are responsible for a vast amount of information, from the classic management of books and periodicals to more modern responsibilities involving audio and video recordings, as well as digital resources.

What does a Librarian do?

There are different classes of librarians in this modern era, including public service librarians, reference and research librarians, technical service librarians, collections development librarians, archivists, systems librarians, electronic resources librarians, outreach librarians, and school librarians. The general duties of each are outlined by class below.

Librarians are responsible for a vast amount of information, from the classic management of books and periodicals to more modern responsibilities involving audio and video recordings and digital resources.

Public Service Librarians
- spend their time working with the public in many local libraries worldwide. They provide proper material for each age range from child to adult. A public service librarian advocates reading competence with many libraries offering services for children that aid in early learning.

Reference and Research Librarians
- specialize in aiding with research. An interview is often performed with the individual requesting research aid to help organize the proper materials and services that will be needed for the research. Research often involves a very specific subject and a reference and research librarian will give directions on the proper database needed and the use of the database, along with locating and organizing any specialized materials that will be needed.

Technical Service Librarians
- are the staff involved in ordering materials and subscriptions, as well as any other equipment needed by the library. Librarians working in this department will supervise new materials, over-seeing the processing and cataloging of each one. Excellent organizational skills are required for this position and strong communication skills are suggested as well as an avid interest in research.

Archivists
- are often specialized librarians. They handle many manuscripts, documents and records, varying by country or region. There are many paths taken to reach this profession and the duties can vary between countries.

Systems Librarians
- are responsible for maintaining the many systems used in the library. They often troubleshoot any problems that arise in the library cataloging, as well as developing those systems as needed. Systems librarians should have a sound background with computers as these librarians are responsible for maintaining the computer systems used for record keeping.

Electronic Resources Librarians
- are responsible for the management of the databases licensed from third-party vendors. Librarians in this field will need experience with licensing for electronic resources including individual journals, databases, and e-books. They will also need to have strong troubleshooting skills and a good knowledge of the use of these resources. The ability to obtain, compile, and analyze usage data is strongly recommended considering the large amount of resources to be handled in this field.

Outreach Librarians
- are responsible for promoting library resources and services, as well as working to develop research proficiency in students. This class of librarians will be active in social networking forums on campuses, making visits to residence halls, and even physical and on-line exhibit development. Excellent communication skills are strongly suggested for this field as this class of librarians will be dealing directly with students to help further their education.

School Librarians
- aid in the educational needs of students directly, through the latest information technology as well as traditional materials. This class of librarians will work with students, directing them in the use of the systems available in the library, as well as recommending the correct materials needed for research and learning. School librarians help to promote education of students, helping teachers to develop a curriculum and acquire the needed materials for classrooms.

Medical Librarians
- focus on helping people access information about medical sciences and health care. They can be found working in hospitals, insurance companies, medical schools, and other facilities which deal with medical information.

Serials Librarians
- keep track of all things serial in the library, like magazines, journals, and periodicals, and keep up to date with all the subscriptions the library has to these publications. They will stamp anything new that comes in, add a strip so that it'll beep when someone tries to take it out of the library, add a reinforced binding if necessary, and shelve it. They will also dispose of old publications.

Catalog Librarians
- sit down with a book and identify: author, title, publication date, publication place, edition, ISBN number, illustrations, subject, size, etc. The catalog librarian then puts that information into a Machine Readable Cataloging format (MARC format) that lets the library catalog find the book you're looking for when you perform a search.

Are you suited to be a librarian?

Librarians have distinct personalities. They tend to be conventional individuals, which means they’re conscientious and conservative. They are logical, efficient, orderly, and organized. Some of them are also social, meaning they’re kind, generous, cooperative, patient, caring, helpful, empathetic, tactful, and friendly.

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What is the workplace of a Librarian like?

A librarian can be found working in many places, including college and university campuses, law offices, court houses, local library buildings, public schools, and even in museums. The duties of each position often vary, with a recurring educational theme in their work.

Frequently Asked Questions

Steps to becoming a Librarian

Earn an Undergraduate Degree

Individuals are free to study whatever they want for their undergraduate degree, as those intending on earning their MLS (Master of Library Science) degree have no prerequisite courses to take. Because of this, grades will still matter during the undergraduate years, just not the major. Common areas of study include history, english, information technology, and education. If you have an idea of which area you may want to specialize in (law, for example), it's not a bad idea to take some applicable courses in that direction.

Earn a Graduate Degree

Most librarian positions require applicants to have a master's degree in library science (MLS) or information science. Many degrees are accredited by the American Library Association (ALA) and require applicants to have a degree accredited by this association. Those with ALA approved degrees also earn higher salaries and have more job mobility due to having more positions available to them.

Do some research before you choose where to apply, as different programs can have different focuses. Some may focus on technology more than others, for example.

Gain Experience

Most library science or information science master's degrees will require students to complete a field placement or internship. This should fully be taken advantage of to get some valuable experience in the specialization you intend on pursuing after getting your degree. Even if your program doesn't offer this opportunity, it's a good idea to work/volunteer at a library during your off hours to get some relevant experience.

(Optional) Complete a PhD

Getting a PhD in information science is for those who desire a role in a university or research position. A PhD typically takes four years and the majority of graduates go on to join a research institution or teach at a post-secondary level.

Pick a Specialty/Find a Job

Now is the time to decide which setting you want to work in, be it law, medical, school, public etc. There are a variety of different specialties for librarians with different types of work, workplaces and salaries. Due to funding for libraries being cut, getting a job can be quite competitive and you may have to start at a lower position and make your way up the ladder.

Should I become a Librarian?

Being a librarian requires more than just a love of books. In fact, you are more likely to be dealing with people than with books. This is not to say that you must be extroverted to be a librarian, but having good communication skills and being able to work well with people is an important part of this career.

Librarians do not work a typical nine-to-five schedule. The hours aren't crazy by any means, but they can can be irregular, both in days and in hours. You may need to be available to work evenings or weekends depending on library hours. If you prefer a more consistent work schedule, this may be a deterrent.

Always keeping abreast of new things should be something you are keen on doing, in order to keep you informed and knowledgable for the public you need to serve. You can serve the public better if you know about a wide variety of subjects and effectively help people find what they are looking for quickly and efficiently. You can also help them discover new and interesting things they may have no knowledge of.

It's important to specialize in an area that you will enjoy. For example, working in a public library or school library means having a very social and customer service-oriented workday. On the other hand, if you work in a medical, law, or government library, this will not be as large of a focus.

Job growth is projected to be fairly low for librarians. This is due to factors such as budget decreases and technology becoming more sophisticated, making it possible to do more work in less time and therefore decreasing the need for too many additional librarians. As well, many librarian positions are being filled by existing library assistants and technicians, making it challenging to get a full fledged librarian job right out of school.

Librarians are also known as:
Reference and Research Librarian Public Service Librarian Technical Service Librarian Catalog Librarian Children's Librarian Serials Librarian Medical Librarian Systems Librarian Electronic Resources Librarian Outreach Librarian School Librarian