The search for library jobs is a complicated but alluring endeavor. The profession itself is often romanticized and misunderstood. Outdated perceptions and difficult certification processes mean that would-be librarians are often working very hard towards their goals while fielding condescending comments about how nice it must be to get paid to read all day. Despite this, library jobs are purportedly in high demand. Where does a professional even start? Below, I’ve gathered some information that will help highly certified candidates and curious novices alike begin to search for the library jobs of their dreams.
Becoming A Librarian
The days of “librarian” being synonymous with “keeper of the dusty books” are long gone. Master’s of Library Science (MLS) degrees are acquired through specialized programs that are expensive and hard to come by. Right away, librarians are saddled with debt that often outstrips the salary they can expect when they finish their coursework. Salary.com lists the median librarian’s pay at approximately 67K per year as of June 2021. This does not take into account years of experience typically requested to land a professional salaried job in a library system.
Anna Gooding-Call wrote in her comprehensive article about how to become a librarian, “My own degree came from Syracuse University and cost more than $50,000 with fees and expenses. It is important to note that in my ten years as a librarian, I have never had a job that paid me that much in a year.” If you’re just starting to entertain pursuing this career, I highly suggest checking out her article for an in-depth look at the requirements and duties of the average public librarian.
Types of Library Jobs
With or without an MLS, there are many different library jobs available across a range of settings. Public libraries tend to be what we picture when the word library comes up. These are typically regional, with systems run by towns or counties. These are the libraries that offer public programming, provide free computer use, run summer reading, and offer museum passes at a steep discount. Of course, things offered by a public library vary greatly depending on funding, often based on tax rates in the area.
In this setting, library jobs include titles such as Reference/Information Services Librarian, Teen Services Librarian, Children’s Librarian; these are leadership roles. Technicians and assistants process and shelve books and do other smaller tasks. Words like “Head of department” or the name of a department preceding the word “librarian” require the management of a team. Words like “assistant” or “technician” or “page” tend to denote support roles that correlate to hourly pay. Depending on funding and support, some libraries are able to hire for jobs such as Community Outreach Librarian. In communities that can’t hire for these library jobs, the other librarians simply pick up this slack.
K–12 School Libraries
Being a School Media Specialist is a different flavor of librarianship that requires its own special certification and licensing. In most library jobs in a K–12 school setting, a background in education is combined with library science coursework. It’s very typical for a school librarian to teach a full day of classes in addition to managing the collection and pursuing fundraising opportunities. Yes, I’m talking about the Book Fair.
In many situations, School Media Specialists are hired, managed, and paid along the same lines as teachers in the school and work under the same contract. In very lucky school districts, there is funding to hire paraprofessionals to support the work in the library. Paraprofessionals suffer fewer hiring requirements and are paid much less. In very unlucky districts, administration asks paraprofessionals to run the library program in its entirety, without any increase in pay.
Universities and colleges hire for academic library jobs. Because of the wide range of subject matter, academic librarians often have a specific area of focus and can be hired for very specific projects. A search on the website HigherEdJobs yielded listings ranging from “Public Service Desk Assistant” to “Project Coordinator, Mapping Native Intellectual Pathways of the Northeast.” There is variety, for SURE. Most of these require an MLS, as well as a specialization matching the project, and time on the job for experience.
Non-Traditional Library Jobs
Sarah Davis has an amazing, crowdsourced article that explores a range of non-traditional library jobs. The list caters to people to people who hold an MLS, but might not be seeking work in a brick and mortar, 9 to 5 setting. Earning an MLS builds skills in finding, curating, and organizing large amounts of information, as well as conveying that information simply to others. These skills can be applied across many careers, including research, information management, nonprofit development, communications.
Where to Look for Library Jobs
Generic Job Search Sites
It can never hurt to start searching on large job search websites like Indeed.com or LinkedIn. While these are not specific to library jobs, you can get a vague idea of what is out there. These sites are user friendly and you can filter by area, pay range, and other simple factors. Basically, this is a nice starting point before you really dial down.
Organizations like the American Library Association (ALA) are a valuable resource for library job searches. Even if you’re not a dues-paying member, the site ALA JobList allows you access to thousands of job postings. On the site, you can filter by organization type, job function, full- or part-time employment, and more. ALA JobList is kind of THE place to look for your next library job, whether you are planning to move or stay where you are.
Institutionally Specific Sites
If you’re looking to zoom in even closer for the specific library job you want to pursue, there are niche job search sites that can help. The most popular site used for K–12 education jobs is SchoolSpring. If you’re looking for a job as a School Media Specialist, this is a good place to look. Additionally, HigherEdJobs will lead you to jobs in academic libraries and special collections attached to colleges and universities.
For the most specific view on library jobs, check the website of the town you hope to work in. You might even check the library site itself. This is most useful when you have little flexibility about where you can work or a special interest in a certain community. Not all towns or cities will think to post their listings in larger forums. If there is a place close to your heart, definitely go right to the source.
Hopefully this article gave you some insight on how to find the library job for you. Despite the difficulty, being a librarian is an incredibly point of pride for many, myself included. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out! The road is tough but if the job is right for you, it is its own reward.