3 minute read

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

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

Education and Training Varies—see profile

Salary Median—$60,000 per year

Employment Outlook Fair

Definition and Nature of the Work

Special librarians serve particular organizations and specialize in subjects that suit the needs of those organizations. They work in public institutions, such as the National Library of Medicine, as well as in private businesses, such as television stations, advertising agencies, and law firms. Some librarians work in museums with filmstrips, slides, prints, and art history books, while others work solely with medical books and periodicals in hospital libraries. They may translate material into English from foreign languages or abstract and index articles, research papers, or books. The growth of computer storage and retrieval of information has changed this field drastically. Many positions deal primarily or even exclusively with research using online databases.

Because special librarians deal with one subject in depth, they must have extensive knowledge about that particular field. Sometimes they do research for their companies and present their findings in reports to the staff. They also assist staff members who conduct research.

Special libraries may have a head librarian, who is in charge of planning the budget, hiring personnel, and handling important correspondence, and other

Special librarians specialize in a subject area that pertains to the needs of the organization for which they work. This special librarian works for a corporation and provides information on foreign cultures to company employees. (Photograph by Kelly A. Quin. Thomson Gale. Reproduced by permission.)

librarians who work in circulation or take care of subscription and book orders. In small libraries one or two staff members may handle all the duties.

Education and Training Requirements

Most employers prefer candidates with master's degrees in library science combined with extensive knowledge of specific fields. Art museum librarians, for instance, need bachelor's degrees in art history and master's degrees in library science. Librarians in large technical libraries usually need master's degrees or doctorates in relevant fields, plus library science degrees. However, high school diplomas plus experience may be sufficient for some jobs. Writing skills and knowledge of computer operations are usually necessary.

Some graduate students take part in work-study arrangements that allow them to work while attending school. Graduate study often includes foreign language courses, as well as the study of library procedures, database searching, information science, and library automation. Volunteer and part time or summer work in libraries can prove useful for people who plan to become librarians.

Getting the Job

Job seekers can apply directly to companies and agencies that have special libraries. Professional organizations, such as the Special Libraries Association, often provide job listings or telephone hotlines. School placement offices, professional journals, newspaper classified ads, and job banks on the Internet are all sources of possible employment leads. Applicants for government jobs must take civil service examinations.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Advancement generally depends on experience and continuing education. Librarians with doctorates may advance to become head librarians or library administrators.

Through 2014 the employment outlook for special librarians is expected to be better than the outlook for most other librarians. Corporations, which do not have the budget constraints that face public libraries, are turning to librarians to analyze, evaluate, and organize information. Special librarians are especially in demand because of their abilities to search the Internet and databases.

Working Conditions

The atmosphere in libraries is generally pleasant and quiet. Special librarians, however, must sometimes work under considerable pressure, especially when information is needed quickly. They generally work thirty five to forty hours per week.

Earnings and Benefits

Earnings depend on education and experience as well as on the budget limitations of the employing organization. According to a 2005 survey conducted by the Special Libraries Association, the median annual salary of special librarians was $60,000. Experienced librarians can earn more than $98,760 per year.

Where to Go for More Information

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

American Society for Information Science and Technology
1320 Fenwick La., Ste. 510
Silver Spring, MD 20910
(301) 495-0900

Special Libraries Association
331 S. Patrick St.
Alexandria, VA 22314-3501
(703) 647-4900

Librarians can expect two to four weeks of paid vacation and sick leave. Other benefits usually include health insurance and retirement plans.

Additional topics

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