Career Strategies for Librarians
Is There a Library Job in Your Future?
by Barbara tenBroek
The job market for librarians is either dead or booming, depending on who you are listening to. The
Library & Information Science program at the University of Denver released a fast fact sheet with growth
projections of 10.2% in library employment between 2002 and 2012.[i] By 2012, they expect there will be
a total of 469,000 library jobs. They further estimate the average number of librarian job openings to be
16,000 per year. This growth in job openings is attributed in large part to the graying of the work force,
the growth of more libraries, and openings for librarians in non-library fields. The Information
Management Journal also paints a rosy picture in an article titled “Wanted: A Few Good Librarians.”[ii]
This article points to a continuing high demand for the information management, web-site development,
training, and database technology skills that we as librarians have learned. It also mentions many non-
library jobs for people with library degrees; information specialists are in great demand by the business
sector, private archives, and the government. Sounds like a great time to be a librarian!
Unless, of course, you listen to Rachel Holt and Adrienne Stock.[iii] They project that the number of jobs
will decrease while the drive to produce new professional librarians will flood the smaller job market.
They provide statistics that show a production of 5000 new librarians per year, while the job market only
produces 4100 jobs. What happened to the 16,000 jobs predicted by the University of Denver?
According to Holt and Stock, while librarians are approaching retirement age, many are not retiring. The
weak economy and the rising cost of living are keeping workers on the job much longer than expected,
and is causing many libraries to face budget cuts. Some states and communities are even closing their
public libraries. For example, the Niagara Falls (N.Y.) Public Library and the Hampden (Mass.) Public
Library could close their doors permanently due to lack of funding. Sounds like a really bad time to be a
So whom do you believe? I’d prefer to take an optimistic view. There are jobs out there; they are just
harder to find. Librarians, now called information specialists, are adapting. They are entering new fields
of employment including government researchers, patent searchers, vendors, and webmasters. Some
are even becoming entrepreneurs and opening information brokerages. If your dream is to be a “library
librarian,” you may have to work a little harder to find a job. Some states that have previously cut library
budgets are now increasing them.[iv] Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Wisconsin are just a few
that are increasing libraries’ 2006 budgets rather than cutting them.
Finding that Elusive Job
We all have an idea of our dream job; this dream sustains us through the hard times we have while
going to school. Realistically, we may have to give a little to find anything close to that dream. We have
all heard about library school graduates who have been searching for a job for over a year and can’t find
one. When asked what kind of position they want, we find out that their ideal job would be a head
librarian position in their hometown, with a salary of $50,000 per year. Oh, and that hometown is in the
Midwest with a population of about 5,000. Some dreams are not immediately attainable, but if job
seekers are willing to give a little, a job can be found.
Revise your expectations of the job you want:
Consider a lower pay scale. Don’t take a job where you can’t support yourself or your family, but have
realistic expectations. According to an ALA survey, the 2004 average starting salary for a librarian is
$39,918. [v] This is a pretty good salary depending on what part of the country you live in. The August
2005 issue of American Libraries contains a regional recommended starting salary guide for public
libraries.[vi] These recommendations range from a low of $22,000 in South Dakota to a high of $45,000
Consider moving to take a job. Bigger cities have more libraries and schools and thus need more
librarians. If you can’t stand the thought of city living, than expect your job hunt to take longer.
Don’t be hung up on titles. It takes a lot of hard work to become a senior librarian. Starting out as a
reference librarian can gain you valuable experience as you make your way up the administrative ladder.
Reference jobs are more plentiful as these librarians perform the main function of the library: answering
questions. Someday that head librarian position in your hometown will become available; build
experience along the way so you’ll be ready as the best person for that job when it does.
A good place to start job hunting is, of course, the Internet. The Hot Jobs page of the American Library
Association [vii] website is updated every day with job openings. Web sites are popping up all over the
Internet with job postings and free information on how to find a job in a library. For example, LIScareer.
com, the web site you are reading right now, has how-to articles on resumes and cover letters.[viii]
Experienced librarians share tips on cover letters, resumes and interviews on this and similar web
Remember why you wanted to be a librarian? The dreams that sustained you during the education
process should be able to sustain you during the job hunt, too. You have a degree in information; use it
to find the best job you can. After all, that’s what we do as a profession: dig for information.
[i] Fast Facts, The U.S. labor market for Library workers, 2002-12 March 31, 2004. Electronically
accessed Aug 3, 2005. http://www.lrs.org/documents/fastfacts/224_Labor_Market.pdf
[ii] [ii] Wanted: A Few Good Librarians. The Information Management Journal 36, no 6, Nov/Dec 2002.
[iii] Holt, R., Strock, A. L. The Entry Level Gap. Library Journal May 1, 2005. Electronically accessed Aug
3, 2005: http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA527965.html.
[iv] States See Boost in Library Funding, American Libraries, August 2005, pg. 16
[vi] Regional Salary Guide. American Libraries, August 2005 pg. 99
[viii] LIScareer, http://www.liscareer.com
About the Author:
Barbara tenBroek is the Technical Services librarian at Savannah State University. She was a library
paraprofessional before receiving her masters’ degree from Florida State University.
Article published Jan 2006
Disclaimer: The ideas expressed in LIScareer articles are those of their respective authors and do not
necessarily represent the views of the LIScareer editors.