School librarians help students locate and effectively use information for academic purposes. They manage staff and develop and direct information programs and systems, to make sure that information is organized in ways that meet students’ needs. They analyze the needs of students, determine what information is most appropriate, and then search for and acquire that information. Most librarian positions also include responsibilities for instructing students on how to use the library and the various systems within the library. They often help students search the Internet in order to find the information they need.
School librarians prepare new materials by classifying them by subject matter and describe books and other library materials. Librarians supervise assistants in preparing cards, computer records, or other access tools. In larger libraries, librarians often specialize in a more narrow area, such as acquisitions, cataloguing, bibliography, reference special collections, or administration. They also may compile lists of books, periodicals, articles, and audiovisual materials on particular subjects; analyze collections; and recommend materials.
School librarians must have knowledge of a wide variety of scholarly and public information sources and must follow trends related to publishing, computers, and the media in order to oversee the selection and organization of library materials. They need to enjoy the challenge and stress of assisting students in obtaining information or books for their schoolwork. They also should be comfortable with spending a significant portion of their time at desks or in front of computer terminals.
In 2002, school librarians earned a median annual salary of $45,660. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10%, who earned less than $33,560, and the highest 10%, who earned more than $66,590. Almost 30% of librarians are members of unions or are covered under a union contract.
Training and Education
Most school library positions require a master’s degree in library science (MLS). Although many colleges and universities offer MLS programs, the schools most highly regarded by employers are the 56 accredited by the American Library Association. Most MLS programs require applicants to have a bachelor’s degree, although it can be in any liberal arts major. Some MLS programs take 2 years to complete, but most take 1 year. Programs usually involve courses in foundations of library and information science, including the history of books and printing, intellectual freedom and censorship, and the role of libraries and information in society. Other courses include the selection and processing of materials; the organization of information, reference tools, and strategies; and user services.
The requirements for State certification of public school librarians varies from State to State. In some States, school librarians are required to be certified as teachers and to have had courses in library science. A specialized MLS in library media, school library media, or educational media, is sometimes required. Librarians participate in continuing education and training once they are on the job, in order to keep up with new information systems brought about by a changing society.
In 2002, librarians held about 167,000 jobs.
Between 2002 and 2012, employment of school librarians is expected to grow about as fast as the average. But job opportunities are expected to be very good, due to the high number of librarians expected to retire and the decreasing number of people entering the profession. This demand will be somewhat offset by budget cuts and the increased use of computerized information storage and retrieval systems.
For more information on how to pursue this profession, please see our Education Degree directory.