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Library Science: Everything You Need to Know

Librarians are lifelong learners who safeguard knowledge and serve their communities. If you’re interested in pursuing this valuable profession, you’ll need to obtain a master’s degree in library science. In this guide, we’ll talk about library science and what it entails. 

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What is library science?

Library science is a field of study concerned with managing books and multimedia content. Those who study the field learn how to collect, preserve, and organize information within libraries. Coursework typically explores topics such as cataloging techniques, data organization, research techniques, library management, and information technology. Sometimes students specialize in overseeing particular types of libraries such as legal or public libraries. 

Students who do well in the field are naturally curious, have an eye for detail, and possess top-notch organization skills. They must also be passionate about serving people and helping their community. Because a master’s degree is usually required to become a librarian, those who study library science typically do so at the graduate level. When seeking a Master of Library Science (MLS) program, it’s best to choose one accredited by the American Library Association (ALA)

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Life as a librarian… 

After obtaining their MLS degree, many graduates go on to become professional librarians. Geared toward service and learning, librarians play a crucial role in helping members of their communities gain knowledge and seek information. Job duties typically include the following tasks:

  • Create databases of library materials
  • Organize materials so they are easily accessible
  • Help patrons find books and conduct research 
  • Maintain existing collections and seek new books and videos for purchase
  • Teach classes about information resources
  • Train and supervise library technicians, assistants, and other support staff

In 2020, librarians made a median annual salary of $60,820. Of course, pay varies based on location and job title. Those who work in rurally-located libraries tend to earn less than those  who work in urban settings. Not to mention, cities are more likely to have larger libraries that employ a variety of positions. While those working in small libraries commonly oversee all aspects of operations, those who work in large libraries often specialize in one area such as technical services or administration. Below are some of the various types of librarians: 

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Academic librarians 

Academic librarians are employed by colleges and universities. They help students research topics for class, and assist faculty and staff in locating resources related to their research projects. Some academic librarians specialize in a particular area. 

Public librarians 

These are the folks who work at public libraries that are open to all members of the community. Public librarians commonly help patrons find books to read for pleasure. They may also plan programs for patrons, including book clubs, story time for children, and other educational activities. 

School librarians

Also known as library media specialists, these professionals work in elementary, middle, and high school libraries. In addition to helping teachers develop lesson plans and find materials for classroom instruction, they also teach students how to use library resources. In some states, a bachelor’s degree and teaching certificate are enough to get a job in this field. 

Special librarians 

Special librarians work outside of school and public libraries. Sometimes referred to as information professionals, they typically work for museums, businesses, and government agencies that have their own in-house libraries. These librarians may need an additional degree in the area they specialize in. Here’s a few examples of special librarians:

1. Corporate

Corporate librarians work for private businesses such as consulting firms, insurance companies, and publishers. They maintain company-owned information resources and help employees conduct research. 

2. Law

These librarians work in law firms and law school libraries. They help lawyers, judges, law clerks, and law students locate and analyze legal resources. 

3. Medical

Also known as health science librarians, these folks help physicians, medical students, and other health professionals locate medical information and literature. 

4. Administrative services librarians

As their name suggests, these librarians handle the administrative side of things. They prepare budgets and negotiate contracts for library materials and equipment. They may also perform public relations or fundraising activities for the library. 

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Other career options 

While becoming a librarian is the natural progression after studying library science, it isn’t the only career option. Those who study library science gain crucial research, writing, and organization skills that are transferable to other fields. We’ve listed a few below: 

As you can see, library science is a valuable field of study that can lead to many rewarding career opportunities. 

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Next steps

As you consider what to study, you should also give some consideration to how you want to pay for your studies! If you secure scholarships and figure out your student loan situation, you’ll have a wider range of options for places and topics to study. Additionally, if you graduate with less debt, you’ll have more freedom to pursue your passions after graduation rather than needing a high-paying job.

A great place to start for financial aid is our free scholarship search tool. We’ll custom-match you with vetted scholarships that update automatically for your situation. We also have a great guide to student loans to help you learn how much you can take out and what your options are. Finally, check out our guide to how much student loan debt is too much. This helps you determine whether a certain program is financially feasible for you. Good luck!