Library Careers: Salary Information & Job Description

About this article
What are the pros and cons of a library career? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary info to see if a library career is right for you.
View available schools

Pros and Cons of a Library Career

Librarians must perform a variety of duties to assist patrons, including procuring and organizing a unique catalog of materials, performing research, and other clerical duties. Check out some of the following pros and cons of a library career to help you decide if this could be the right field for you.

Pros of Library Work
Stable field with an average growth rate of 12% predicted for assistants and technicians from 2012 to 2022*
New technologies will allow assistants and technicians to assume more responsibilities*
Opportunity to help people find the information they need and use it effectively*
Online resources make information gathering and management easier and more accessible*

Cons of Library Work
Increased use of electronic resources will limit the need for librarians (projected employment growth rate from 2012 to 2022 is only 7%)*
Large numbers of graduates from master's programs will increase competition for jobs*
Working with patrons under research deadlines may cause stress*
Time spent in front of computer terminals can result in eyestrain and headaches*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Information

High school and college graduates who are interested in the library field can be employed as assistants, technicians, librarians, managers and directors. Library assistants and technicians help librarians with the acquisition, preparation and organization of books, periodicals and other audio or visual materials, and their responsibilities can vary according to where they work.

Assistants may be limited to clerical duties, like processing returned materials and shelving them. At some libraries, technicians oversee library programs and supervise other staff members. While some new technologies have given technicians the opportunity to assume more professional responsibilities, automated services that allow patrons to register for a library card or check out their own materials have eliminated or reduced some of the duties previously performed by assistants and technicians.

Librarians or information professionals work in user, technical or administrative services and are categorized according to the type of library in which they are employed. These include public libraries, school and college libraries, as well as special libraries associated with companies, law firms, government agencies, medical centers, museums and professional associations.

Automated systems librarians develop procedures for assembling and classifying information, design information storage and retrieval systems, and plan and operate computer systems. Experienced librarians with a supervisory track may advance to the position of library manager. At the highest level, library directors in big cities may oversee a network of branches and staffs that can number in the hundreds.

Salary Information and Job Growth

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that as of May 2011, the median annual salaries for library assistants and technicians were $23,910 and $31,680 respectively. Professional librarians earned a median annual salary of $56,170 for the same time period.

According to the BLS, employment opportunities for library assistants and technicians are expected to grow as fast as average (12%) from 2012 to 2022, while librarians would experience a slower than average growth rate (7%). Employment growth would be slow due in part to employers hiring lower paid assistants and technicians to perform duties traditionally done by librarians.

What Are the Education Requirements?

The BLS reports that a high school diploma or a GED is the only educational prerequisite for a job as a library assistant, and some libraries will even hire high school students as pages. For the position of technician, the majority of libraries prefer candidates who have earned a certificate or an associate's degree in library technology. Computer knowledge and experience is essential for both positions. To work as a librarian in a public, academic or special library, you will need a bachelor's degree in either library science, or a major of your choice, to be followed by a Master of Library Science (MLS) degree from a program that has been accredited by the ALA.

The curriculum for a library technology undergraduate degree will provide students with coursework in word processing and a variety of technical and patron-related services. At the graduate level, the curriculum includes the study of information management, resources, policy and technology. School librarians may need to be certified by the state. Those who are employed by special libraries might hold a second graduate degree in business, engineering, law, medicine or science. Administrators of large public library systems, university library directors and college professors may earn a Ph.D. in library and information science.

Top Skills Needed in Libraries

Depending on their title and position, library and information professionals need to have the following abilities:

  • A genuine interest in assisting and serving the needs of their patrons
  • An understanding of library philosophies and techniques
  • The ability to work with computers, library-specific software and the Internet
  • The ability to implement and follow library policies and procedures
  • The ability to communicate with others, both orally and in writing

Library Jobs from Real Employers

Library jobs in general require knowledge of the field, computer literacy and some experience. The following March 2012 job postings from real employers will give you an idea of what you need to know and the kind of work history you will need.

  • A preeminent university in Kansas advertised for a library assistant who would like to help advance the institution's educational and community mission. A high school diploma or GED and one year of library work were necessary to apply for this position.
  • A management systems company in Washington, D.C., was looking for a library technician to catalog, edit and upload bibliographic records. A bachelor's degree, working knowledge of library terms and procedures and one to two years of experience were required to apply for this job.
  • A Florida civil service office had an opening for an entry-level librarian to assist and instruct patrons in the access of library information, acquire and catalog library materials and supervise the staff. Candidates must hold a Master of Science in Library Science from a college or university that has been accredited by the ALA.
  • A county public library in Virginia had an opportunity for a library manager to oversee circulation, reference, programming and community outreach services. Computer and library skills were required and an associate's or bachelor's degree was preferred.
  • A public library district in Illinois needed a director to oversee library operations and write reports and grants. Candidates would need a minimum of two years of library and supervisory experience, strong customer service skills and a bachelor's degree.

How to Stand out in the Field

Automation is quickly becoming the standard rather than the exception in the library field. Library assistants and technicians can improve their chances for success and advancement by acquiring experience in database technology and library computer systems, especially circulation systems. According to the ALA, assistants and technicians who perform extremely well may advance to the positions of circulation manager or head of circulation.

To remain competent and competitive, librarians need to be current in the use of new information systems and technology. Librarians who want to further their careers can look into the ALA's Placement Center. Offered in conjunction with the organization's conferences and meetings, the center gives librarians a chance to attend career guidance workshops, utilize resume review services and interview with potential employers.

Other Fields to Consider

Teacher Assistant

Teaching assistants, or paraeducators, provide classroom teachers and schools with clerical, instructional and additional supervisory support in school hallways, classrooms, cafeterias and on field trips. The minimum educational requirement for entering the field is a high school diploma and some experience, but a college degree and classes in child development will help to increase your chances for employment. Between 2010 and 2020, the BLS anticipated this field to grow as fast as average for other occupations. As of May 2011, the median annual salary for a teaching assistant was $24,000, as reported by the BLS.

Archivist or Archives Technicians

Archivists plan and manage the organizing, cataloging and displaying of artifacts, documents and collections. They are also responsible for acquiring, classifying, maintaining and writing descriptions of important items for exhibition, storage, research use and public enjoyment. Archives technicians help archivists classify, preserve and provide access to documents of historical importance. Both archivists and archives technicians need a bachelor's degree in history or library science to work in the field.

For archivists, a master's degree in similar majors, such as library science or history, is preferred. The BLS projected that employment opportunities for archivists and archives technicians would grow as fast as average from 2010 to 2020. In May 2011, the median annual salary for an archivist was around $47,000, as reported by the BLS.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Saint Leo University

    Program Options

      • MEd: Exceptional Student Education
      • MEd: Exceptional Student Education
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

      • M.A. in Communication with an Emphasis in Education
      • M.A. in Communication with an Emphasis in Education
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Penn Foster High School

    Program Options

    High School Diploma
      • HS Diploma
      • HS Diploma
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Regent University

    Program Options

      • Ed.S. in Educational Leadership - Character Education
      • Ed.S. in Educational Leadership - Character Education
      • M.Ed. - Individualized Degree Program
      • M.Ed. - Individualized Degree Program
  • Syracuse, NY

    Syracuse University

  • New York, NY

    New York University

Featured Schools

Saint Leo University

  • MEd: Exceptional Student Education

What is your highest level of education completed?

Grand Canyon University

  • M.A. in Communication with an Emphasis in Education

What is your highest level of education?

Penn Foster High School

  • HS Diploma

What is your age?

Regent University

  • Ed.S. in Educational Leadership - Character Education
  • M.Ed. - Individualized Degree Program

What is your highest level of education completed?