How to Become a School Librarian

A program that prepares individuals to serve as librarians and media specialists in elementary and secondary schools as well as special instructional centers.

School Librarian Job Description

Perhaps no vocation has changed as dramatically in the past twenty or so years as the librarian, and that is especially true of the school librarian. Depending on the grade level, librarians may still be called upon to do programming and story time or help with research projects, but they are just as likely to be recruited to teach information science and applications classes to teachers and students as to improve and maintain the collection. And, of course, the tools of the job have drastically changed with the advent of the Internet, online databases, and online card catalogs. A librarian is now as much a technology professional as a book resource person.


Librarians help people find information and conduct research for personal and professional use.

 Librarians typically do the following

  • Create and use databases of library materials
  • Organize library materials so they are easy to find
  • Help library patrons to conduct research to evaluate search results and reference materials
  • Research new books and materials by reading book reviews, publishers’ announcements, and catalogs
  • Maintain existing collections and choose new books, videos, and other materials for purchase
  • Plan programs for different audiences, such as story time for children
  • Teach classes about information resources
  • Research computers and other equipment for purchase, as needed
  • Train and supervise library technicians, assistants, other support staff, and volunteers
  • Prepare library budgets

In small libraries, librarians are often responsible for many or all aspects of library operations. In large libraries, they usually focus on one aspect of the library, such as user services, technical services, or administrative services.


The following are examples of types of librarians

Academic librarians assist students, faculty, and staff in postsecondary institutions. They help students research topics related to their coursework and teach students how to access information. They also assist faculty and staff in locating resources related to their research projects or studies. Some campuses have multiple libraries, and librarians may specialize in a particular subject.

Administrative services librarians manage libraries, prepare budgets, and negotiate contracts for library materials and equipment. Some conduct public relations or fundraising activities for the library.

Public librarians work in their communities to serve all members of the public. They help patrons find books to read for pleasure; conduct research for schoolwork, business, or personal interest; and learn how to access the library’s resources. Many public librarians plan programs for patrons, such as story time for children, book clubs, or educational activities.

School librarians, sometimes called school media specialists, work in elementary, middle, and high school libraries and teach students how to use library resources. They also help teachers develop lesson plans and find materials for classroom instruction.

Special librarians work in settings other than school or public libraries. They are sometimes called information professionals. Businesses, museums, government agencies, and many other groups have their own libraries that use special librarians. The main purpose of these libraries and information centers is to serve the information needs of the organization that houses the library. Therefore, special librarians collect and organize materials focused on those subjects. Special librarians may need an additional degree in the subject that they specialize in.

The following are examples of special librarians

Corporate librarians assist employees of private businesses in conducting research and finding information. They work for a wide range of organizations, including insurance companies, consulting firms, and publishers.

Law librarians conduct research or help lawyers, judges, law clerks, and law students locate and analyze legal resources. They often work in law firms and law school libraries.

Medical librarians, also called health science librarians, help health professionals, patients, and researchers find health and science information. They may provide information about new clinical trials and medical treatments and procedures, teach medical students how to locate medical information, or answer consumers’ health questions.

Technical services librarians obtain, prepare, and organize print and electronic library materials. They arrange materials for patrons’ ease in finding information. They are also responsible for ordering new library materials and archiving to preserve older items.

User services librarians help patrons conduct research using both electronic and print resources. They teach patrons how to use library resources to find information on their own. This may include familiarizing patrons with catalogs of print materials, helping them access and search digital libraries, or educating them on Internet search techniques. Some user services librarians work with a particular audience, such as children or young adults.


How to Become One

Librarians typically need a master’s degree in library science. Some positions have additional requirements, such as a teaching certificate or a degree in another field.

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Librarians typically need a master’s degree in library science (MLS). Some colleges and universities have other names for their library science programs, such as Master of Information Studies or Master of Library and Information Studies. Students need a bachelor’s degree in any major to enter MLS programs.

MLS programs usually take 1 to 2 years to complete. Coursework typically covers information such as learning different research methods and strategies, online reference systems, and Internet search techniques.

The American Library Association accredits master’s degree programs in library and information studies.

Special librarians, such as those in a corporate, law, or medical library, usually supplement a master’s degree in library science with knowledge of their specialized field. Some employers require special librarians to have a master’s degree, a professional degree, or a Ph.D. in that subject. For example, a law librarian may be required to have a law degree.



The median annual wage for librarians was $59,050 in May 2018. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $34,630, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $93,050.

Most librarians work full time. Public and academic librarians often work on weekends and evenings, and may work holidays. School librarians usually have the same work and vacation schedules as teachers, including summers off. Special librarians, such as corporate librarians, typically work normal business hours but may need to work more than 40 hours per week to help meet deadlines.


Employment Outlook

Employment of librarians is projected to grow 6 percent from 2018 to 2028, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Communities are increasingly turning to libraries for a variety of services and activities. Therefore, there will be a need for librarians to manage libraries and help patrons find information. Parents value the learning opportunities that libraries present for children because libraries have information that children often cannot access from home. In addition, the availability of electronic information is also expected to increase the demand for librarians in research and special libraries, where patrons may need help sorting through the large amount of digital information.

About 14,700 openings for librarians are projected each year, on average, over the decade.

Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who exit the labor force, such as to retire, and from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations.

A degree from an American Library Association accredited program and work experience may lead to job opportunities. Candidates who are able to adapt with the rapidly changing technology will have the best prospects.1


Video Transcript

For readers on the lookout for their next great novel, or students desperate for help with a research project, their local librarian is probably something of a hero. Librarians guide people through the use of the library and the services it offers. Librarians help people find information and conduct research. Many plan community programming such as storytelling for young children. They also perform administrative tasks… from recordkeeping… to choosing materials to add to their collection. Librarians may specialize —using their research and information-organizing skills— for private businesses, government, law or medical schools and institutions, and for colleges and universities. They must keep up-to-date on their field and relevant resources, such as databases and search engines. Wherever they are employed, librarians use communication, initiative, and interpersonal skills to assist patrons in getting the most out of their local library. Most librarians work full time though part-time opportunities may be available. Some specialist librarians may work overtime to help meet deadlines. Most employers require librarians to have a master’s degree in library science. Librarians in specialized fields take courses or earn a degree in that field, such as a law degree, as well as a degree in library science.


  1. U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook
  2. U.S. Department of Labor, Career One Stop


Learn More

Links and Resources for  School Librarians

Becoming a School Librarian in New York State

School Librarianship Association

New York State Education Department:

New York City School Library System: 

Central New York School Library Systems Association (CNYSLSA):

School Library Systems Association of New York State (SLSA):

American Association of School Librarians (AASL):




American Association of School Librarians--The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) is the only national professional membership organization focused on school librarians and the school library community. AASL has more than 7,000 members and serves school librarians in the United States, Canada, and around the world.



School Library Journal

Teacher Librarian

Knowledge Quest, School Library Research

American Libraries