If you like to organize information and generate new and creative ways to make this information accessible to others, you might want to consider being a librarian. There are many specialty areas you can engage in including conducting public education programs, provide research in top notch universities, teach children to enjoy reading, or even manage libraries. Imagine working the Library of Congress. You’ll have to keep up on the latest technologies which will keep you up on everything. Keep reading to find out what it takes to become a librarian and how rewarding it can be.
You will study library science which includes library management, development of information technologies, research education as well as preservation, archival and dissemination of information. Depending on what suits you, you can specialize in any one of these areas or know a lot about all of them. Think about cataloging information in a database, developing various taxonomies with which to organize data, updating old information into new databases, research materials to answer reference questions, aid in organizing educational programs not only for students but the public as well, managing library systems and keeping information collections up to date. You really have to be on top of things. Today’s librarian is a far cry from yesteryear. Some librarian positions require specialized education with secondary degrees in law or science and some need to learn how to program.
The computer age has really changed what librarians need to do. Libraries still serve the public by promoting literacy to children and adults and providing reference materials but they also offer large archives of scientific information. The nice thing is that these public services are free and available to everyone. Don’t forget about K through 12 libraries and how important they are for our young students. Librarians teach children how to develop research skills and inspire the love of reading. In fact, a library is a main component to any community, school or university. Many schools are rated based on the quality of library they have.
Not everyone is cut out to be a librarian so you need to think about this. Obviously if you love to read and have a passion for knowledge in general this is good but being a librarian goes far from that. You need to have an interest in finding the best way to organize this information. The idea being that the information needs to be very accessible to those who need the information.
It’s is a good idea to contact librarians in your area and find out more about the various librarian specialties so you can decide what is best for you. Try visiting your public library, local schools and academic libraries to get an idea. You might want to ask a particular librarian what specific duties they have and what a day in that librarians world is like. Find out why they became a librarian and what they think makes a good librarian. Find out what are some of the best library schools or what schools are locally available that you can attend and what they require for entrance.
Educational requirements go all the way up to a master’s program. First you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in order to apply to a Master’s of Library Science program. Generally, there is no particular major requirement to become a librarian, however many students study art history, computer science and/or English. Coursework that promotes research and technology skills are of the essence. If you decide to specialize in an area such as law or science, make sure you know what prerequisites are necessary for your undergraduate work so that you can be accepted into a master’s program right away.
Once you get your bachelor’s degree you can apply to a Master’s of Library Science (MLS) program. Take a look at the American Library Association (ALA) website to find info on MLS programs. This site lists accredited programs with descriptions of each one. Since there are a number of specialties, make sure you know what interests you. Some programs require that you attend class while others are offered online. However, make sure that the program you choose is ALA accredited because many libraries will not high students from a non-accredited program.
Once you get your Master’s of Librarian Science, you’ll be on your way to securing a librarian position. You might want to consider gaining experience before you graduate and perhaps even when you are an undergraduate. The more experience you have the better. Try applying to your local public library and better yet the library at your university. Universities and colleges often hire students to reshelve books and staff the reference desk. Although this isn’t much, it will provide some income and give you a start in library work. This may tell you whether you’re cut out for library work or not. Better yet, some libraries offer internships (some paid, some not). If your library doesn’t currently have an internship, see if they will start one.
See if your college or university has a Student Library Association (SLA) chapter. If they do, join it and if they don’t see if you can establish a chapter. This looks really good on your resume. Make sure to establish relationships with your librarians and create a network because this alliance can help you find employment later.
Librarian accessing PDQ
This image is a work of the National Institutes of Health, part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain.