How to Work at a Library

Three Methods:Understanding Entry-Level Library WorkGetting a JobTraining for a Librarian Career

Library staff range from volunteer students shelving books, to professional librarians with multiple master's degrees overseeing a specialized collection. As an entry-level job seeker, your best option is to volunteer or to apply for library assistant jobs at small libraries. Competition for these positions is often high, so keep reading to find out more about them and how to increase your odds.

Method 1
Understanding Entry-Level Library Work

  1. Image titled Work at a Library Step 1
    Ask about volunteer work at your local public library. The staff member at the reference desk can give you more information on volunteering, or direct you to someone who can. Public libraries often have volunteer opportunities for people without any library-related experience or education. Your volunteer work might include shelving books, repairing damaged books, helping patrons at the circulation desk, or assisting the children's librarian.
  2. Image titled Work at a Library Step 2
    Consider becoming a library page. Library pages are usually paid, but may be temporary or part-time employees. The work is similar to what a volunteer would do, typically shelving books. This may be your best bet at paid library employment if you are not a college student, and do not have a college degree.
    • The librarian at the reference desk should be able to tell you about this program as well.
  3. Image titled Work at a Library Step 3
    Inquire about other jobs at the library. It's important to note that not every library job role involves being a librarian or requires a library science degree. Almost all libraries need a janitor, and the larger ones need security guards as well.
  4. Image titled Work at a Library Step 4
    Look for opportunities at your college or university. If you are a college or university student, visit your school's library. It may hire students as library assistants. These positions can often be scheduled around the student's class schedule and may or may not be connected to the student's financial aid package.
  5. Image titled Work at a Library Step 5
    Compare library assistant job requirements. A library assistant position is an entry-level job opening that handles the day-to-day work in the library. Requirements vary greatly between libraries. Small libraries are more likely to have low requirements, and may even train high school students. More commonly, you'll need a high-school diploma, and sometimes college-level coursework in library science.
    • Some libraries use the term "library technician" interchangeably with "library assistant." At others, technicians are at a higher rank and have higher educational requirements.

Method 2
Getting a Job

  1. Image titled Work at a Library Step 6
    Check the bulletin board or website. Most libraries have a bulletin board where they display notices of special events and, occasionally, open positions. Check this occasionally so you can apply for jobs you're qualified for, or to find out what requirements you can work toward. The library may also advertise job openings on its website, or on local government websites.
    • Most libraries are non-profit institutions supervised by a board. Compared to most employers, this gives them less leeway for discretionary hiring. You're unlikely to be hired based on personal connections, and meeting the stated requirements is usually mandatory.
  2. Image titled Work at a Library Step 7
    Visit the library before applying. When you see a job opening that fits your level of experience, visit the library in person. Evaluate the service you receive and the experience of visiting the library. Ask questions of the library staff. Look at the program schedules, the technology available, and other library resources. All these things give you material to talk about in your interview, both for showing that you've done your homework, and for offering suggestions of things you could contribute.
    • For example, if you visited a library program, come up with ideas to improve it. If a kids' gardening program is popular, suggest starting a seed library.
    • Gather as much information as possible about the library where you are applying for a job:
      • the domains the library covers
      • the classification system used
      • the database used
      • whether the library has digitized versions of books
  3. Image titled Work at a Library Step 8
    Send in your resume. Many public library jobs, especially in large cities, have a computer scan the resumes rather than a human being. These resumes must include certain key words from the job description, or the applicant will not be considered for an interview.
    • In your cover letter and during the interview, highlight the qualities that would make you a good librarian (organizational skills, attention to detail, social skills), as well as your interest in the library and the domains it covers.
  4. Image titled Work at a Library Step 9
    Research local politics. Find out everything you can on politics which might affect the library, before you interview there. Has its funding been in jeopardy, or have hours or services cut? Consider a role as an advocate or supporter of the library. Look into a "friends of the library" group which may be serving this function.
  5. Image titled Work at a Library Step 10
    Network. If possible, get acquainted not only with the librarians on staff, but with the board members who do the hiring. If, after applying, the library invites you to meet the board, the friends of the library, or another citizen's group, treat it as an extension of the interview. Be professional and engaged.

Method 3
Training for a Librarian Career

  1. Image titled Work at a Library Step 11
    Look for jobs that require a college degree. Some librarian positions in public libraries require only an associate's or bachelor's degree. These types of positions are often for teen and children's librarians.
  2. Image titled Work at a Library Step 12
    Study for a Master's in Library Science. Almost all intermediate and advanced level library jobs require a Master's in Library Science (MLIS). These professional librarians have more advanced duties, such as overseeing the assistants or updating the library's collections.
  3. Image titled Work at a Library Step 13
    Specialize. Librarians fill many roles, including reference librarian, corporate librarian, cataloguer, library manager, collections manager (deciding which books are added and removed), children's librarian, teen librarian, school librarian (K-12), academic librarian, systems librarian (involves IT work), or running the circulation desk. Research the roles that sound interesting to you, and focus your education towards these positions.
    • Many library science programs also offer a specialization in archives. Archivists handle historic texts, preserving them physically and granting access to them for research.
  4. Image titled Work at a Library Step 14
    Train for an academic library. Many academic librarians also hold an additional master's degree in a specific subject. If you're passionate about an academic subject, such as art, law, music, business, or psychology, this path can combine it with your interest in libraries.
  5. Image titled Work at a Library Step 15
    Consider working in a special library. Special libraries are usually private, company libraries that hold collections centered on legal, business, medical, or government resources. Most librarian positions in special libraries require a minimum of a master's degree in library science. A librarian may also need to have degrees or experience in the special library's specific subject area. Example subjects include law, business, science, and government.


  • Public and academic libraries will often require staff to work flexible schedules to cover evening and weekend shifts.
  • Library workers must have strong customer service skills to assist patrons.
  • If you are a new librarian who has just earned the MLS and have little or no library experience, consider relocating to less urban areas or applying for positions at small libraries.
  • Find library jobs through public and university library websites and library associations like the American Library Association and the Special Libraries Association.

Article Info

Featured Article

Categories: Featured Articles | Libraries