On Becoming a Librarian

On Becoming a Librarian

College students often do not consider a career as a librarian. Perhaps they would if they knew the variety of library-related career paths available to them. It’s an exciting profession. There is more to library science than just shelving books. And as the saying goes, a library is “one of the necessities of life.”

Librarians are usually classified by the type of library in which they work. School librarians, also called media specialists, work with elementary or secondary school students. They may be required to be certified to work in public schools, although state laws vary. Academic librarians work in college and university libraries and often have expertise in a subject area such as chemistry, business or history as well as a library science degree.

– “I’d be happy if I could think that the role of the library was sustained or even enhanced in the age of the computer.” – Bill Gates  –

Academic librarians need advanced reference and technical skills to assist professors and students with a variety of projects. Special libraries include law libraries, medical libraries and other highly specialized information centers. Those who work in a special library have particular expertise with the resources used in that specialty. Public librarians serve the broadest range of people and need to be comfortable serving people of all ages and abilities.

The Master of Library Science (MLS) is the standard degree required for almost every librarian. This degree should be from a program accredited by the American Library Association. No particular undergraduate degree is required for admission to a Master of Library Science program; however, good research and writing skills and some computer proficiency are certainly advantageous.

Bill Gates once said, “I’d be happy if I could think that the role of the library was sustained or even enhanced in the age of the computer.” A student with a degree in computer science may want to get a Master of Information Science degree and work in library technical services, while those with an education degree can easily transition to school media specialist. Aspiring reference librarians will benefit from a broad liberal arts background as well as expertise in one or more specific subject areas.

MLS studies will include cataloguing, collection development, resources in subject areas, research skills and library management. Information science studies include networks, databases and website development. Specialized electives may include archiving and preservation, legal issues or courses devoted to specialized subjects such as medicine or music.

A librarian should have certain key qualities: broad intellectual curiosity, a knack for organization and a passion for sharing information and resources with others. Libraries are important tools for the populations they serve, particularly in a world where information abounds. People need help sifting through the abundance of information to find the answers they need. Librarians are experts at managing and accessing information.

While many college and public libraries have tight budgets at the moment, library science is still a promising field. Many current librarians are near retirement age and will need replacements. New MLS graduates with state-of-the-art skills in handling electronic resources, networked computers or specialized subjects will be in demand.

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