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School Librarian Job Description, Career as a School Librarian, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training Varies—see profile

Salary Varies—see profile

Employment Outlook Fair

Definition and Nature of the Work

Elementary schools, junior and senior high schools, and colleges and universities all employ librarians, who select and order books, audiovisual materials, computer equipment, and other materials that support their schools' educational programs. They not only maintain their collections so students can access them easily and quickly; they also teach students how to do so.

Actual duties vary with the size of the library and the needs of the students. High school libraries are generally larger than those in elementary schools because older students need more extensive resources for research. Elementary and secondary school librarians may work alone, while librarians in colleges and universities may be members of sizable staffs that include technical assistants and clerks. In large libraries, assistants catalog new books, return books to the shelves, and repair damaged books. In small libraries these tasks are done by the librarians themselves.

Elementary school librarians teach basic library skills, often in regularly scheduled classes in the library. They may teach students how to distinguish among various kinds of books, such as fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and biography, and how to use the classification systems for finding books and other materials. They encourage use of the library for information and recreation, while making it an interesting and important part of the school day. To interest students in reading, librarians may conduct story hours for the younger students and arrange special programs for those in the higher grades.

Most students begin to learn research techniques in junior and senior high school, so secondary school librarians usually hold orientation sessions for individual classes to explain the use of card catalogs, computer databases, reference books, indexes to periodicals, and audiovisual materials. They help individual students by suggesting specific sources or ways of finding information. Sometimes librarians set up exhibits designed to make students aware of library holdings, often coordinating the exhibits with historical events or holidays.

College and university librarians work in relatively large libraries suited to the research needs of both students and faculty. Many have specialties. Librarians in technical services, for instance, order, process, and catalog new materials. Librarians in user services work closely with students and faculty, directing them to helpful sources. They often conduct bibliographic instruction classes to teach methods for library research. Online and other computer services available for reference may require that librarians have special training.

A librarian in a high school helps students locate sources for research papers. In some states, school librarians must be certified both as librarians and as teachers. (© Martha Tabor/Working Images Photographs. Reproduced by permission.)

Some universities have separate libraries for the various disciplines they offer: one library for general use, one for technical and scientific subjects, and an art library that may include an extensive slide collection. Librarians who work in specialized libraries are sometimes required to have master's degrees in the subject field as well as in library science. Library administrators and head librarians supervise all library operations.

Education and Training Requirements

Depending on the state, elementary and secondary school librarians may need to be certified both as librarians and as teachers. To be certified as a school librarian, they generally must earn a bachelor's or master's degree in library science and pass written examinations.

Most college and university librarians have master's degrees in library science. Top administrative posts, however, generally go to those who have doctorates. Librarians who work in large university libraries are frequently required to have master's degrees in the subject areas of the faculties they represent as well as master's degrees in library science. Some academic libraries may also require proficiency in foreign languages. Rare book librarians may need special training, as well as additional advanced degrees. Because of the many automated systems in academic libraries, librarians should be familiar with computerized information retrieval systems and online catalogs.

Getting the Job

Job seekers can apply directly to private schools and public school boards. School placement offices, state employment services, and private employment agencies often list library openings. The Chronicle of Higher Education and other professional journals, library associations, newspaper ads, and Internet jobs sites may all have information about employment opportunities.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

School librarians can advance with additional education. With advanced degrees in library science or with second subject master's degrees, they may transfer to large college or university libraries or become library administrators. School librarians may also become teachers at library schools.

The growth of employment for librarians will be slower than the average for all jobs through 2014. However, jobs should be available because many librarians are more than forty five years of age and eligible to retire within the next decade. Still, competition may be stiff in schools at all levels, especially those in urban areas. The increased use of computerized systems may contribute to reduced demand, and public funding for education may not allow the creation of new library positions.

Working Conditions

Libraries are generally quiet, pleasant places to work. Working hours vary with each school, but elementary and high school librarians usually work the same hours that teachers do, while college and university librarians often work thirty five to forty hour weeks. Evening and weekend hours may be necessary. Some librarians are members of unions.

Where to Go for More Information

American Library Association
50 E. Huron St.
Chicago, IL 60611-2795
(800) 545-2433

National Education Association
1201 Sixteenth St. NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 833-4000

Earnings and Benefits

Salaries vary by school, location, education, and experience. In 2004 the median salary of elementary and secondary school librarians was $47,580 per year, while the median salary of college and university librarians was $47,830 per year. Benefits include paid holidays, health insurance, and retirement plans.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesEducation & Training