Library Science

We are grateful for the assistance of Sarah Barbrow, Wellesley’s Science Librarian, in creating this resource.

Wherever there’s a need for information, there’s a need for a librarian. Libraries have been empowering people by offering resources, services and training to expand their knowledge for thousands of years. According to the American Library Association career resource page there are approximately 400,000 librarians and library workers who bring opportunity every day to the communities they serve.They work with all age groups in a variety of settings:

  • School libraries (K-12)
  • Academic libraries (college & university)
  • Public libraries (e.g. in your home city or town)
  • Special libraries: libraries in special settings like corporations, non profits, hospitals, prisons, museums, government entities, etc.  

Librarians are natural collaborators, so you'll often work closely with other groups and organizations in your library's "community." Many librarians perform a number of functions in their library, including collection development, financial management, supervisory duties, technology troubleshooting, volunteer coordination, and information management.

Sample of Librarianship Duties

  • Help library patrons conduct research and find the information they need
  • Teach classes about information resources
  • Help patrons evaluate search results and reference materials
  • Organize library materials so they are easy to find, and maintain collections
  • Plan programs for different audiences, such as storytelling for young children
  • Develop and use databases of library materials
  • Research new books and materials by reading book reviews, publishers’ announcements, and catalogs
  • Choose new books, audio books, videos, and other materials for the library
  • Research and buy new computers and other equipment as needed for the library
  • Train and direct library technicians, assistants, other support staff, and volunteers
  • Prepare library budgets

In small libraries, librarians are often responsible for many or all aspects of library operations. In larger libraries, they usually focus on one aspect of library work, including user services, technical services, or administrative services.

There are many different kinds of librarians doing many different roles — from events organizing, to project management, to research and instructional support, to collection development, to supporting the technological infrastructure of the library, to preservation & conservation of print and digital collections, etc.

As library services become more varied, so do the jobs in libraries. Librarians are no longer the only professionals working in libraries. Libraries employ web developers, knowledge managers, and IT professionals. Youth workers, security officers, archivists, book conservators, school liaisons, social workers, and Friends group nonprofit managers are a few of the unique positions employed in libraries.

Many careers in libraries (but not all) require a graduate degree (a Masters in Science of Information (MSI) or Masters in Library and Information Science (MLIS). US News and World Report offers a ranked list of graduate library programs and you can search by program specialty as well.

Job & Salary Information

Job Lists

  • ALA joblist: many jobs in the library field are posted to this job board
  • INALJ (I Need A Library Job) also has an aggregation of jobs posted across the country and internationally
  • Graduate schools have job boards available to their students and graduates

Salary Information
Salary range differs significantly depending on where you live and work. The range also depends on your particular library role. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wages of librarians in May 2017 was $58,520 per year. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has also reported that employment of librarians is expected to grow by 9 percent between 2016 and 2026 (faster than the average rate of 7% for all occupations). Library Journal has 2017 statistics and more information about librarian salaries. Visit Occupational Employment Statistics for the latest national, state, and local earnings data for librarians.

Most librarians work full time, although opportunities exist for part-time work. Public and academic librarians often work on weekends and evenings and may work on some holidays. School librarians usually have the same work and vacation schedules as teachers, including summers off. Librarians in special libraries, such as law or corporate libraries, typically work normal business hours but may need to work longer hours to help co-workers meet deadlines.

Women and Library Work

Women have traditionally made up a majority of the library profession. According to the Department for Professional Employees AFL-CIO, as of 2015 women account for 83 percent of all librarians, well above the average of 73 percent for all education and library professionals.

Further Resources


Read the report: Emerging Career Trends for Information Professionals 2017 (PDF)

THE BALANCE offers a variety of career advice and information links about library science.

Search The Wellesley Hive for alumnae who are involved in librarianship and do an informational interview.