How to Become a Librarian

Librarians work in public, academic and special libraries. They provide research, reference assistance, and advisory services and manage collections and programs for libraries. In order to become a librarian, you need to complete a graduate degree in Library Science.

Education

Professional librarian jobs require graduation from an American Library Association (ALA) accredited graduate program in Library and Information Studies (or Science). A list of accredited programs in the US and Canada is available on the ALA website, as well as information about scholarships and program funding. You will need a four year undergraduate degree to apply to library school, though some schools will accept a library technician's associate degree plus several years experience working in a library setting.

Additional professional development opportunities are available upon graduation, such as specialized courses in law, music and government document librarianship. Taking additional courses may help advance a librarian's career by opening up new career streams.

Certification

Depending on the state where you work, teacher librarians need to be certified teachers as well as librarians. This means completing an undergraduate degree in education, as well as completing the graduate program to become a librarian. There is more information on certification for teacher librarians on the American Association of School Librarians website.

With the exception of teacher librarians, certification for librarians is currently voluntary. The Public Library Association offers courses for Certified Public Library Administrator (CPLA). You will need to complete four core courses and three electives as well as complete the application for certification. You cannot pursue the CPLA without a master's degree in library science and less than three years professional library experience. Individual state library associations also offer certification programs for public librarians in their states.

Tips and Advice

Try to get a job in a library before applying to graduate school. This is not required and the admission because you have no experience working in a library, but you will be competing with other candidates who will have several months to several years of experience working in a library. A temporary summer position can be helpful for your grad school application. Volunteer experience can also be included on a resume.

Librarians offer a wide range of services, but most librarians assist patrons with research, especially in academic and special libraries, they teach courses on research and how to use the library, so experience as an educator is helpful, and librarians work with publishers, so experience in the publishing industry can be an asset.

Librarians also assist special populations; work with children, seniors and immigrants. Librarians also have business duties: fundraising, budgeting, marketing, hiring, firing and managing staff are all experiences required of librarians, so experience in business is an asset. Some librarians are also self-employed information providers, so you can own your own business as a librarian. Professional librarians have a wide range of career options and can be found in many settings beyond public service.