How a librarian becomes a librarian

Continuing our Learn About Your Library series is a guest post by our very own librarian, Nancy Weichert!

As a freshman in college, I got a job in the library working at the circulation desk and shelving books. During one of the first conversations I had with my boss, she mentioned that she went to library school and earned a Masters in Library and Information Science (MLIS). Upon hearing this, the first thought I had was…library school, that’s ridiculous! Even though, I had been going to libraries my entire life, I had no that idea all of the librarians I had met along the way held advanced degrees in library science. I was shocked! I recall blurting out “library school is that a real thing?” The irony of this is not lost on me today. I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked that very question.

So, let’s talk about the path to librarianship. Librarianship can be, but isn’t inherently discipline specific.  Librarians can choose many different types of librarianship, have a variety of educational backgrounds, from English to Computer Science, and work in many types of libraries.  All librarians take core courses such as library management, organization of knowledge, and reference and services. Beyond the core, there are numerous course offerings and paths to take depending on the type of library a person chooses to work in and the type of librarian he/she choose to become.  The common library types include academic, public, school, and special. Some of the more specialized coursework may include readers advisory, advance database searching, preservation methods, digital publishing, children’s literature, and the list just goes on and on. For example, Dominican University has created a resource highlighting career pathways to help future librarians choose their courses.

We are in the midst of great social and technological change and the sky is truly the limit when it comes to the field of librarianship. So if you’re interesting in becoming a librarian first you’ll need to find a graduate school in Library and Information Science.  Our sister school UIUC is a great example, but there are many others.  And don’t limit yourself to the above mentioned “types” of libraries or librarianship. Once you’ve figured out your groove in the field through coursework try to find a complimentary internship, part-time position, or practicum opportunity. It would also be a good idea to join a professional organization such as the American Library Association (ALA) they offer very affordable student rates as well as scholarship opportunities and job listings. Once you earn your degree (or even a few months prior to) hit the pavement and start applying for positions all over the country or the world.


If you’re interested in learning more, here are some further research/reference materials:

Brookens Librarians! We love to talk to people interested in becoming librarians and will happily answer questions!

Directory of ALA-Accredited Master’s Programs in Library and Information Studies.

Librarians: Occupational Outlook Handbook  by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

Open Access (free) eBook, So You Want to be a Librarian.

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