“Do you like working here?” is a common question I get at the library. A lot of people seem to wonder how to become a librarian. Many are absolutely stunned to find that not everyone working in the library has the same job–or that not every person in a library is a librarian. Many also seem surprised to hear that the job is not solely sitting around reading all day.
Their confusion is not without merit. Librarians themselves are not that good at describing exactly what they do. “Connecting people with information” is a pretty standard response from Library School teachers, recruiters, and and from library administration.
That’s true, I suppose, even if one of the major questions I answer each day is “Where’s the restroom?” I guess that is still connecting an inquisitive mind (or bladder) with an answer.
If you think you might enjoy working in a library, I’ll outline the process of becoming a librarian, as well as I’m able.
Which type of library do you want to work in?
There are public libraries, academic libraries, corporate, legal, music, and art librarians, and that’s just the start. It’s worth evaluating what you think you’re best suited for. If you think you would hate working with the public, then that’s a clue.
Do you know which library you’d like to work in?
If so, if you’re able to visit, just go in and find a librarian and ask them questions about their job. What should you know about the job? Do they like their job? And yes, does it require a Master’s Degree in Information or Library Science? Not everywhere does.
If your library requires a degree
There are plenty of online Library Science programs. I am going to predict that they’re all fairly interchangeable at the public library, or general studies, programs. Prices may vary slightly, of course.
If you are going to need an additional Master’s Degree in something like music, art, or anything to do with the medical field, it would probably be worth your time to do more investigating on the separate schools.
Most programs I have seen take betweeen 18 months and two years. I went to the University of North Texas for my degree and they let me double up and do two years of work in 12 months. Their program was fine, although it feels more like an expensive membership card to me than an advanced degree. I now have some background knowledge that not everyone has, but I’ve learned 99% of what I need to know on the job.
You graduate, then you go looking for jobs.
You might take a different path if you’re going to specialize, but those are the basic recommendations.
1. Decide which type of library you’re best suited to
2. Try to speak with people at that library, or in that system
3. Find out if it requires a degree
4. Get the degree if you’re still intrigued
5. Search for jobs and ignore the claptrap about how everyone is retiring and there are more jobs than anyone can possibly fill. Not true, although if you’re willing to move there are a lot more jobs than many people think there are
6. Interview, dazzle, get hired, and live happily ever after. (half joking. I really do love my job).
If you have any other questions about any of this, please let me know. I’d love to talk more if you think you’re looking for passage into Library Land.