School library work might be a great option for a teacher who’s more interested in sharing a love of reading than teaching grammar. And it can be a great option for people who need more flexible schedules: 1 in 5 librarians work part time, according to the BLS.
So what does a school librarian do?
Depending on the grade level you work with (K-12 or post-secondary), you’ll be helping students find the books and resources they need, keeping those books and materials organized, choosing new ones for the library, planning programs and events, coordinating and/or teach classes, preparing and making purchases within a budget, and or training other staff in databases or technology.
Demand for School Librarians
The employment of librarians is slower than average--projected to grow two percent between 2014 and 2024, according to the BLS. Competition is fierce for traditional positions as libraries close, but for those who have the education necessary to work in school libraries, prospects may be better--especially for those who have an affinity for technology.
The most employment for librarians is found in big city areas: the New York/New Jersey, Chicago, Washington D.C, Boston, and Los Angeles areas. But the areas with the highest concentration of jobs with population taken into account are more widespread: Ithaca, NY, Lawrence, KS, Champaign-Urbana, IL, New Haven, CT, and Owensboro, KY.
School Librarian Shortages by State
A shortage area is defined by the U.S. Department of Education as a role in which "there is an inadequate supply" of qualified professionals. The Department allows states to identify their own shortage areas, but encourages them to follow a prescribed methodology based on unfilled positions, positions filled by professionals with irregular certifications, and positions filled by professionals certified in other areas. Because the Department allows states to report shortages as they wish, some states only report teacher shortages while others include administrative shortages as well. Please reference each state's department of education to learn more about their particular shortage areas.
The following states reported a shortage in school librarians:
Teachers on Making the Transition to School Librarianship
“I miss the students so much but I am constantly looking for ways to continue to work with kids. You need to continue with the things you love even within your current job in any way that you can." —Shannon Miller, 8 Questions with a Teacher Librarian Consultant
“Librarians in today’s world have to be extremely open-minded and flexible in order to succeed. The librarian of today is a collaborator, a maker, an advocate, and a digital explorer. We no longer just work with the reading teachers; we must reach out and collaborate with all subjects and all levels.” —Amanda Counts, Outside the Classroom with a Middle School Librarian
Ranked #1 in information systems and #4 for library and information studies among Library and Information Studies Schools by U.S. News and World Report, Syracuse University iSchool offers the opportunity to combine a Library and Information science degree with certificate programs in data science, school media, or cultural heritage preservation.
Most school librarians will need a teacher’s certification. To achieve this, candidates will need a bachelor’s degree (usually in education or a field relevant to their field of interest) and must fulfill a student teaching requirement before seeking licensure/certification in the state they want to work in.
Next, depending on the state, school librarians may be required by their school to pass a standardized test, like the PRAXIS II Library Media Specialist exam.
Or, instead of a standardized test (or in addition to it, depending on the state), a school library may need to earn a master’s in library science (or information studies, or library and information studies--names for library science degrees may vary) that’s accredited by the American Librarian Association. Again, every state is different, and “hard to fill” rural or high-need locations may have different requirements, so make sure you check with the department of education in your area.