Librarian Career and Salary

In recent years, the topic of whether or not librarians are still an essential part of modern society given technological advances has been much discussed. Although some maintain that libraries are a thing of the past, the fact of the matter is that libraries and librarians have done an excellent job at evolving with the times to ensure modern relevance.

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As librarians have evolved their skill sets, the salary potential for careers in library science have expanded as well. A wide range of factors can influence librarian earning potential including: job setting, level of professional education, and years of experience. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a Librarian can earn anywhere from $34,300 per year (in the bottom 10th percentile) to $91,620 per year (in the top 90th percentile), as of 2017.

What Do Librarians Do?

Librarians, on any given day and in a variety of settings, can be found doing a variety of different tasks relating to information, literature, data, and preservation to name just a few of the areas many librarians touch upon. Although the basic job function of a librarian may change depending on the environment in which the work (i.e. in a university setting vs. a public library), the most simplistic explanation for what a librarian does is assist individuals or groups in finding information, help efforts in conducting research, and cultivate assets belonging to public libraries, colleges, and other institutions.

34% of librarians work in elementary or secondary schools

Source:Bureau of Labor Statistics

Librarians can practice their craft in many settings, as there are different types of libraries that exist across the globe. The primary types of libraries are categorized into four major groups: academic libraries at universities, public libraries, school libraries for K-12 students, and special libraries in unique locations such as hosptials or museums.

How Much Do Librarians Make?

As stated above, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported a wide range of potential librarian salaries, with the the median earnings falling at $58,520 per year in 2017 which equals about $28.14 per hour. In discussing how much Librarians earn per year, we are mostly referring to masters-holding practicing librarians in academic institutions or government offices. Numerous other jobs exist under the larger umbrella of librarianship including library clerks or technicians, and, to a less related extenet, curators and archivists. Typically, these careers will hold less earning potential than those librarian positions that require applicants to hold a masters in library science degree. Below we have outlined the main factors that dictate how much earning potential a career in library science will hold.

Top Factors Influencing Librarian Salary Potential

1.) Level of Education:

Individuals armed with a bachelors degree only are often eligible for clerical and assistant jobs in library systems, as it is commonly required to hold a master’s in library science. For those looking to advance their knowledge even further, PhD programs in library science also exist, but are not required for most positions in a run of the mill library.

2.) Work Environment:

Salary in the field of library science will often depend on where you are practicing your craft. For example, the BLS reports that the highest earnings can be found in university settings, while the lowest earning potential exists at the public library level.

3.) Years of Experience:

It is relatively standard in any profession for increased tenure in the field to result in higher pay, and this is also true of the world of library science. As you advance within whatever system you are practicing in, supervisory and higher level administration positions may become available to those with extensive experience.

Librarian Career Paths

University or Academic Librarian

Librarians at the collegiate level, commonly referred to as academic librarians, are integral parts of the average campus community. Assisting students with research projects, maintaining university assets, and aiding professors and administrative employees with day to day operations are just a few of the many functions a university librarian might practice. The BLS reports that 19% of practicing librarians are currently employed by colleges, universities, or professional schools and the average salary for librarians in this setting is $62,880 per year – the highest among all library work environments.

Elementary and Secondary School Librarian

Librarians practicing in elementary and secondary schools are charged with introducing students from kindergarten to high school to a wide variety of topics, from literature to the dewey decimal system. In school settings, on any given day, librarians might lead a workshop on proper citation methods for students, assist a student with a research paper, and aid teachers and students with media in the classroom. In the modern world, a new position in elementary and secondary schools called a “library media specialist” has emerged that allows those with technical knowledge to leverage their abilities. This is the most common place of employment for librarians according to the BLS, with 34% working in schools for an average annual salary of $60,440.

Public Librarian

Public librarians typically work in libraries that exist to serve various communities in city or suburban settings. On any given day they might help patrons locate novels for pleasure reading, offer classes to members of the community, and sort through the libraries resources of books, movies, and more. Roughly 30% of librarians work in public libraries or settings similar to a public library, making it the second most popular work environment among all possible career paths. The BLS reports that public librarians earn an average annual salary of $52,520.

Information Librarian

Information librarians, also referred to as “special” librarians, often work in unique settings such as law libraries, private corporations, hospitals, and museums. It is typical for some information librarians to take on the role of an archivist or curator of special collections (of books as well as other assets) in addition to their basic job functions. This is the least common career path for graduates of library science masters programs, comprising only 5 percent of all working librarians in America. Information Librarians enjoy an average annual salary of $56,370 according to the BLS.

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Career Outlook for Librarians

Although, once again, much has been discussed about the future relevance of librarians given the modern emphasis on technology – librarians from 2016-2026 are expected to enjoy job growth of about 9% – which is on par with the average careers expected job growth. In fact, according to a cutting edge report from Pearson entitled The Future of Skills, librarians, curators, and archivists will be among the ninth most in demand occupation in the years between now and 2030! Although the librarians of the future might hold different basic job functions – with an increased emphasis on the technical parts of their job – the field of librarianship is undeniably here to stay.