Do You Need a Library Science Degree to Work in a Library?

If you love books and enjoy helping others, finding a job at your local library might be a perfect fit for you. Don’t have a Master of Library Science (MLS)? No problem! There are lots of library jobs that don’t require the advanced degree. If you want to know more about finding work in a library, read on.

Figure Out Where You Want To Work

Are you only interested in finding work at your local branch? Would you consider working in the next county or state? Or are you adventurous enough to move cross country for the perfect job? The first thing you’ll want to do is figure out where you’re willing to work. Then…

Do Your Research

If you’re hoping to find a job at your local library, head to their website and search for their open employment listings. Read them all, even if you’re not sure you’re qualified for the position. Read all the listings to get a feel for what your town/city/county/state requires for those jobs.

Here’s the tricky part about library roles: there are no national or regional standards for filling librarian or library director jobs. While many libraries require an MLS for administrative or librarian roles, there are some that don’t. It all depends on the size of the library system, past precedents, the hiring pool availability, etc. You’ll only figure out what your local system requires by heading to their website and reading up on their requirements.

Which Library Jobs Don’t Require an MLS?

There are so many different positions that help libraries run! If you don’t have an MLS but want to work in your library, consider applying for the following jobs:

Pages

Pages are usually entry level positions and don’t require an advanced degree. Many libraries will hire high school students as pages! Most of their time is spent shelving materials that have been returned or misplaced.

Library Assistant/Associate/Technician

While the title may vary from state to state, a library associate position usually doesn’t require an MLS. Different library systems will utilize their assistants in different ways, but these jobs often include helping patrons check out materials and use resources like the computer labs or copy machines. 

I’ve held two jobs that fell under this category. When I was in college, I worked as a Circulation Assistant at my university library. I was mostly responsible for helping students check out materials and sign out our study rooms. I also re-shelved materials, located resources that had been put on hold, and periodically helped out in the computer lab. I’ve also worked as a Youth Services Library Associate. In that role, I planned and hosted baby and pre-tot story times, as well as programs for the K–5, tween, and teen age groups. I also manned our Youth Services desk, where I would help families locate materials and navigate our computer lab. I don’t have an MLS but I do love books, kids, and helping people.

Which Jobs Might Require an MLS?

These roles usually require a Master of Library Science—but not always! Depending on the library system, equivalent work, school, and leadership experience might be enough to land you the job.

Librarian

To be a librarian, you should be passionate about helping your community, have a strong knowledge of library materials and resources, and be a creative problem-solver.  For some towns or counties, a four-year degree and equivalent will qualify you to apply for a librarian job.

Librarian Director

What does a Library Director do? They often balance the system’s budget, oversee hiring, training, and employment practices, and often report to local governing boards. Directors should also be intimately familiar with all the services their libraries provide. The requirements for this position can range from a four-year degree to an MLS or an MLS and an additional advanced degree. 

Other Jobs To Consider

Information Technology (IT)

Libraries are truly information centers—they’re not just about books. Patrons will often visit libraries to use the computer labs, printing stations, copy machines, and more. If you have a background or interest in computer science, you might want to explore working in an IT role for your library. 

Marketing/Publicity

Some library systems have departments devoted to helping promote and market their programs and resources. If you have a background in marketing or journalism, this might be a good fit for you. Libraries are always trying to find new ways to help the most underserved members of their communities. By helping promote your library system’s programs and resources, you can help with that goal. 

Facilities

Libraries can’t run without maintenance and facilities employees. Whether they’re sanitizing book returns, laying down rock salt during cold weather to prevent accidental falls, or cleaning common areas, maintenance workers are a vital part of the library community.

Bottom Line

Do you need a Master of Library Science to work in a library? Definitely not! There are many jobs you can apply for without one. As you work your way up the administration, many systems may require one. It simply depends on the size and history of your library system.

If you’re considering library work, head over to your local library’s website. Check their job postings to see what their requirements are like. If you find that you still have questions, then talk to one of your local librarians! They love helping people and should know all the ins and outs of finding employment at their branches. 


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