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At a Glance

  • Keep books, magazines, documents, recordings, and films organized
  • Work with the public and staff
  • May work evenings or weekends
  • Have a master's degree
  • Public school librarians may need a teaching certificate

Career summary

Librarians organize materials in libraries and help people locate them.

Librarians select, order, and classify library items. This includes books, magazines, documents, recordings, and films. They also maintain items and make sure they are listed in the library's catalogs.

In large libraries, librarians may specialize in one of the three areas listed below. In smaller libraries, they do all three types of work.

User services

Librarians working in user services help library users find information and conduct a search. This may involve teaching users how to use computers to search for items in the library or on the Internet. Librarians also may develop tools such as indexes, web pages, and online tutorials that help users find materials or learn how to use the library. Librarians also check out items to customers and notify users when items are due.

Librarians explain library activities, rules, and services to users. If a library patron makes a complaint, they respond and try to resolve the problem.

Technical services

Technical services librarians order and receive materials. When materials arrive, they classify them by subject matter. They enter information about books into the computer catalog system. Technical services librarians check the condition of books and repair those that are worn.

Administrative services

Librarians in administrative services supervise other employees and plan activities. They order supplies and equipment and prepare budgets. They also negotiate contracts for services. Librarians educate the public about libraries and organize fundraising events. They may also develop the library's particular policies and procedures.

Librarians who work in settings other than public libraries sometimes have different job duties.

School librarians

School librarians help teachers develop courses and find materials. Librarians may teach classes. School librarians often are called media specialists. Many librarians work at university libraries, where they assist students and professors and also maintain complex collections.

Special librarians

Special librarians work in settings other than school or public libraries. They are associated with businesses, government agencies, law firms, and other specialized groups. Librarians at private libraries conduct in-depth information searches for library users in addition to running the library.

Related careers

This career is part of the Education and Training cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to librarians.

Common work activities

Librarians perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, librarians:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Librarians frequently:

It is important for librarians to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for librarians to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Librarians need to:


Reason and problem solve

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a librarian, you typically need to:

Education after high school

Most librarians have a master's degree in library science (MLS) or library and information science (MLIS). You need two years to complete a MLS after you earn a bachelor's degree. In a master's degree program, you study library science, material selection, and reference tools.

Librarians at special libraries may need an advanced degree in the library's subject in addition to the MLS. For example, to work in a law library, you may need an MLS and a law degree.

School librarians usually need a bachelor's degree in education and courses in library science. Some schools require librarians to be certified both as a teacher and a school librarian. Other schools require a MLS degree with a focus in school library media. Yet other schools require a master's degree in education with a focus in school library or educational media.

To enter a master's program in library science, you need a bachelor's degree. The degree can be in any area.

Work experience

Work as a library technical assistant is a good background for this occupation. Volunteer work at your school or local library is also helpful.

On-the-job training

Many libraries offer additional on-the-job training to learn about specific technologies and library procedures. This training may be hands-on, classroom-based, or both. Training may last a few weeks to several months.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum may be different from your state's graduation requirements. Librarians need excellent knowledge of books. Taking literature courses can help prepare you for this occupation.

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Requirements vary by employer. Most employers require applicants to have at least a Master of Library Science (MLS) degree. However, many smaller public libraries will hire librarians who do not have a library science degree.

At special libraries, an advanced degree in the subject is highly desirable. For example, a librarian in a law firm may have both an MLS and a law degree. Librarians at colleges and universities often need a master's or doctoral (PhD) degree in addition to an MLS. School librarians need to be certified both as teachers and as school librarians.

All employers look for librarians who are experienced with computers. Librarians must be familiar with computers to find information on the Internet. They also use computers to catalog and track library holdings.

Many employers seek candidates who have previous experience working in a library. Working in a library restocking books or doing other similar duties is a good option. These types of jobs are often available to college students.

Many employers prefer graduates of library schools accredited by the American Library Association. For some positions, flexibility and skills specific to the job being offered may be of greater importance than academic experience. Strong customer service skills are also important for jobs in public libraries.

It is sometimes difficult for workers with years of experience in one type of library or with one clientele group to change to other specialties.


Volunteer to work in your local public or school library. Talk with local librarians about their jobs and the effects of technology on their work. Do extensive reading in a specific field of interest, such as children's services. Undergraduate study in an area related to library and information science, such as computer science, business management/administration, math, or communications, is recommended. Join and be active in a professional association.

#Customer service skills comment from Seattle PI article on King County LIbrarians, 3/30/05, CJ.

Costs to workers

In Washington State, librarians working for libraries serving 4,000 people or more must be certified. The fee is $20.

#Certification fee still the same, 3/28/14 cj. no change 1/21/16 lh, or 4/16/18, 4/16/19 cj.


Librarians must be certified to qualify for professional employment in libraries serving populations of 4,000 or more, or if they work in a library operated by the state or under its authority. Librarians working in the state law library or county law libraries, however, are exempt from this requirement.

There are two ways to get certification from the Washington State Library Commission:

For more information, contact:

Washington State Library
Librarian Certification Program (external link)

PO Box 42460
Olympia, WA 98504

Most librarians become certified by meeting the first alternative. People wishing to become librarians in elementary and secondary schools must have a Washington State teacher's certificate, a primary endorsement in library media, and 45-quarter credit hours in information science. Those seeking a supporting endorsement in library media only need 24-quarter credit hours in information science. In the larger cities, both elementary and secondary schools may also require a master's in librarianship.


Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


The average base salary paid to library media specialists, working about 180 days per year in Washington public schools, is $62,448 per year.

#Added salary for library media specialist in public schools from OSPI 2012-13 School District Personnel Summary report, 3/28/14 cj. Updated it 5/11/16, 4/16/19 cj.

Librarians (SOC 25-4021)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $23.24 $29.10 $34.95 $40.28 $46.34
Monthly $4,027 $5,043 $6,057 $6,981 $8,031
Yearly $48,330 $60,530 $72,690 $83,780 $96,380
    Bellingham Hourly $25.48 $28.76 $34.15 $38.53 $43.38
Monthly $4,416 $4,984 $5,918 $6,677 $7,518
Yearly $52,990 $59,834 $71,036 $80,150 $90,234
    Bremerton-Silverdale Hourly $24.95 $28.23 $33.98 $39.61 $45.37
Monthly $4,324 $4,892 $5,889 $6,864 $7,863
Yearly $51,887 $58,734 $70,689 $82,379 $94,361
    Clarkston-Lewiston Hourly $13.35 $17.28 $31.16 $36.01 $38.70
Monthly $2,314 $2,995 $5,400 $6,241 $6,707
Yearly $27,759 $35,939 $64,822 $74,894 $80,504
    Kennewick-Richland Hourly $23.34 $30.90 $35.60 $39.64 $45.48
Monthly $4,045 $5,355 $6,169 $6,870 $7,882
Yearly $48,540 $64,277 $74,055 $82,440 $94,596
    Longview Hourly $19.94 $27.51 $34.80 $40.58 $46.62
Monthly $3,456 $4,767 $6,031 $7,033 $8,079
Yearly $41,473 $57,227 $72,379 $84,410 $96,958
    Mount Vernon-Anacortes Hourly $16.27 $23.25 $30.28 $36.61 $39.96
Monthly $2,820 $4,029 $5,248 $6,345 $6,925
Yearly $33,831 $48,360 $62,971 $76,149 $83,127
    Olympia-Tumwater Hourly $21.82 $26.84 $33.25 $36.76 $40.41
Monthly $3,781 $4,651 $5,762 $6,371 $7,003
Yearly $45,387 $55,824 $69,152 $76,452 $84,066
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $27.48 $32.52 $37.57 $43.52 $48.30
Monthly $4,762 $5,636 $6,511 $7,542 $8,370
Yearly $57,156 $67,629 $78,147 $90,538 $100,465
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly $20.36 $23.62 $29.38 $35.46 $38.97
Monthly $3,528 $4,093 $5,092 $6,145 $6,754
Yearly $42,346 $49,138 $61,114 $73,746 $81,042
    Vancouver Hourly $21.75 $26.92 $32.55 $38.36 $45.64
Monthly $3,769 $4,665 $5,641 $6,648 $7,909
Yearly $45,240 $55,994 $67,698 $79,777 $94,929
    Walla Walla Hourly $17.62 $25.21 $29.81 $35.92 $38.93
Monthly $3,054 $4,369 $5,166 $6,225 $6,747
Yearly $36,647 $52,433 $62,001 $74,720 $80,972
    Wenatchee Hourly $16.51 $25.29 $32.33 $36.49 $38.99
Monthly $2,861 $4,383 $5,603 $6,324 $6,757
Yearly $34,349 $52,611 $67,264 $75,901 $81,084
    Yakima Hourly $19.24 $24.96 $31.90 $36.42 $39.18
Monthly $3,334 $4,326 $5,528 $6,312 $6,790
Yearly $40,021 $51,909 $66,336 $75,760 $81,494
United States Hourly $16.65 $22.18 $28.39 $35.93 $44.74
Monthly $2,885 $3,844 $4,920 $6,227 $7,753
Yearly $34,630 $46,130 $59,050 $74,740 $93,050

Wages vary by employer, the librarian's specialty, and the number of hours worked. In addition, the librarian's level of responsibility and education also affect wages.

Librarians who work full time usually receive benefits. Typical benefits include sick leave, paid vacation, and health insurance. Some employers also provide a retirement plan.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook

In Washington, many librarians work for governments and schools. Some job openings may occur due to new school construction, population increases, and librarians who choose to retire or move from the public to the private sector. The level of state funding for school library programs may impact positions at public schools. Opportunities may be better in special library and information research and management settings.

#ALA division for school librarians has special online course for school librarians on becoming indispensable, proving their value & keeping their jobs due to current school budget cuts & stretched budgets 3/4/14 cj.

The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Librarians (SOC 25-4021)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 3,478 14.4% 16.1% 444
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 59 15.3% 13.4% 8
    Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman Counties 203 8.4% 8.6% 23
    Benton and Franklin Counties 116 16.4% 15.0% 15
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 160 9.4% 11.9% 18
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 213 15.0% 15.2% 27
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 193 13.0% 14.1% 24
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 196 13.8% 14.6% 25
    King County 1,403 17.4% 19.6% 189
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 134 14.2% 13.8% 17
    Pierce County 291 15.5% 15.2% 38
    Snohomish County 300 14.3% 12.4% 38
    Spokane County 191 6.8% 13.9% 20
United States 134,800 6.4% 5.2% 14,700

National employment

Most librarians work in school libraries.

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand for librarians will grow about as fast as average. Budget cuts have reduced the number of hours libraries are open and some libraries have closed. However, communities are increasingly turning to libraries for a variety of services and activities.

The best job opportunities may be for librarians who have experience in electronic and special library searches. Job openings will occur as people retire.

Other resources

American Association of Law Libraries (external link)
105 West Adams Street, Suite 3300
Chicago, IL 60603
American Association of School Librarians (external link)
(Division of the American Library Association)
American Library Association (external link)
50 East Huron Street
Chicago, IL 60611
American Literature Association (external link)
American Society for Information Science and Technology (external link)
8555 - 16th Street, Suite 850
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Association for Educational Communications and Technology (external link)
20 W. 8th Street, Suite 101
Bloomington, IN 47404-3745
Me, a librarian? (external link)
Medical librarian career exploration (external link)
Music Library Association (external link)
1600 Aspen Commons, Suite 100
Middleton, WI 53562
Special Libraries Association (external link)
7918 Jones Branch Drive, Suite 300
McLean, VA 22102
Washington Library Association (external link)
PO Box 33808
Seattle, WA 98133
Washington State Library (external link)
PO Box 42460
Olympia, WA 98504-2460


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupations

Strong Interest Inventory

Holland occupational cluster