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Library Careers

A brief guide to library technician and librarian education and careers.

What does a Librarian do?

It's a great time to be entering the field of librarianship! Librarians are on the cutting edge of information technology movements as they regularly use the latest information technology to conduct research, classify materials, and help users seek information (US Department of Labor, 2010). Librarians, also known as information professionals, focus on user services, technical services, and administrative services. Their work may involve providing resources, services and training to enhance knowledge and help people, and collection development. Librarians can also be expected to manage staff, develop information programs and systems for users, and ensure that information is organized in a manner that meets their needs (US Department of Labor, 2010).

If you are considering becoming a librarian, take a look at these characteristics and values the ALA (American Library Association) has identified that many librarians hold:

  • Enjoy helping people and serving others
  • Interest in technology and a technologically changing society
  • Interested in developing services and programs
  • Passion for delivering resources and materials that inform and entertain, such as books, movies, music, storytelling, websites, local history, and  databases
  • Enthusiasm for connecting people with information that reflects a variety of backgrounds and beliefs
  • Interest in information research, preservation and instruction
  • A strong belief in freedom of information, protection of privacy, intellectual freedom, freedom of speech, and equal access
  • An interest in copyright policies and reforms
  • A connection to a professional community that values sharing, collaboration, and expertise
  • Have a strong belief in a literate society

Core competences of librarianship



Your Options as a Librarian

Librarians can work in different types of libraries, each involving the same or more specialized skills.

Public Librarian: You may find yourself helping people of all ages, backgrounds and beliefs come together to explore their interests (Seattle Public Library, 2010). Public librarians serve communities of all sizes and types. Public librarians often have responsibilities in different areas of service, for example:

  • Systems or Information technology librarian: Manages the library computer systems and networks, provides computer troubleshooting assistance, and manages the library's web presence

Academic Librarian: You could work in a college or university setting, providing support for students, staff and faculty. Larger institutions sometimes have multiple campuses or multiple libraries. Different libraries may be devoted to certain subject areas, such as a health or law library. Academic librarians are often specialists in an area of knowledge, publish research, and have faculty status. Academic librarians can work in a variety of positions, for example:

  • Health sciences librarian
  • Reference & instruction librarian

School Librarian: Many school librarians work as part of a school system or within a school district. They can serve students ranging from Kindergarten to Grade 12. School libraries are more frequently being called media centres, and often a certificate in school media can be an alternative to a teaching degree or certificate (ALA, 2010).

Special librarian: As a special librarian, you may work for a company or organization such as an engineering firm, mining company, telecommunications company, travel corporation, hospital, or non-profit organization. Any business that requires the management and organization of their information may require a special librarian's expertise. Some examples of special librarians include:

  • Corporate librarian
  • Music librarian

Library Manager: Library managers usually supervise and hire staff, perform administrative duties, and may oversee the functioning of one or multiple libraries within a library system or department. Specific responsibilities of a library manager may include staff scheduling, training, budget management, facility management, and budget management (ALA, 2010).

Library Director or Chief Librarian: As the library director you are the leader of the organization. You oversee the overall functions and goals of the entire library or library system. Directors can also be known as chief librarians or university librarians at academic institutions. Directors are concerned with budgeting for the library system, strategic planning, key directions for the library, disaster planning, ensuring compliance with laws, fundraising, communicating with the public and media, and representing the library for library boards, governments, municipalities or cities (ALA, 2010).

More information on types of libraries (American Library Association)

More information on types of library jobs (American Library Association)


How do I become a Librarian?

While librarians have diverse backgrounds and varied expertise, generally the requirements to become a librarian are:

  • Education
    • 4 year Undergraduate Degree in any field (often BA)
    • Masters Degree in Library Studies or Library Science, Library & Information Studies, or Information Science (MLS/MLIS/MIS)
      • Must be obtained from an ALA accredited school, and sometimes CLA accredited
    • Some institutions require or prefer a second Masters degree in a related discipline
    • School Librarians are often required to have an MLS/MLIS plus a teaching certificate or education degree

Librarian programs

British Columbia
University of British Columbia (Vancouver)
iSchool @UBC (Library, Archival and Information Studies) 

Programs on-campus include: Master of Library and Information Studies ( MLIS) | Master of Archival Studies (MAS) | Dual Degree MAS/LIS . Specialization pathways including Librarianship, Data Services, Information Interaction and Design, and Community and Culture. The First Nations Curriculum Concentration is open to students in the MAS, MLIS or DUAL programs. Designing For People specialization is open to students in the MLIS program.

Other graduate degrees include: Master of Arts in Children's Literature (MACL) | Ph.D. Doctoral


University of Alberta (Edmonton)

School of Library and Information Studies     

Program options:  Master of Library and Information Studies (MLIS) On-Campus | Online   

Other graduate degrees include: combined degree program MA/MLIS Master of Library and Information Studies/Master of Arts in Digital Humanities (DH)


Western University (London)
Faculty of Information and Media Studies     Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS)

University of Toronto 
Faculty of Information     Master of Information (MI) | Master of Museum Studies (MMSt) | Combined Degree Program (MI + MMSt)

Other graduate degrees include: Ph.D. in Information

University of Ottawa
School of Information Studies     Master of Information Studies Bilingual (MIS)


McGill University (Montréal)
School of Information Studies     Master of Information Studies (MISt)
Université de Montréal (Montréal)
École de bibliothèconomie et des sciences de l'information


Nova Scotia
Dalhousie University (Halifax)
School of Information Management     Master of Information (MI) | Online/Blended Master of Information Management (MIM)


Washington, USA
University of Washington (Seattle, WA)
Information School (iSchool)     Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS)

Other graduate degrees include: Master of Science in Information Management (MSIM) | Ph.D.Doctorate in Information Science


University of Alberta (Edmonton)
School of Library & Information Studies     Master of Library and Information Studies (MLIS) Online   

San Jose State University (San Jose, CA)
School of Information    Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS)

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