Careers in Public Librarianship

Forget what you think you know about public librarians. These days a librarian does a lot more than check out materials and shelve books. Technology expert, information detective, manager, literacy expert, trainer, community programming coordinator, reader’s advisor, children’s storyteller, material reviewer, and buyer are just a few of the hats a public librarian wears. A job in today’s public libraries offers a diverse and exciting range of responsibilities, projects, and opportunities.

Interested in learning more? Read through some of the frequently asked questions below, and visit the resources available online to see if public librarianship is the career for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I find out more about the day-to-day responsibilities of a public librarian?
Jobs in public libraries vary greatly. There is no one list of daily responsibilities, but taking the time to learn more about real public librarians will help you understand the depth and breadth of public librarianship. Read about the experiences of PLA members.

What are the educational requirements?
Most public librarian positions require a Master of Library Science (MLS) or a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree, preferably from a school accredited by the American Library Association (ALA). There are many options regarding program style and size. Undergraduate degrees in almost any subject area are appropriate.

What scholarship opportunities are available?
The American Library Association (ALA) provides a variety of scholarship opportunities. Other library associations and libraries may also offer education reimbursement or scholarships. Check the webpages of your local library or the pages of the organizations listed in the reference section below.

Where can I find salary information?
Public library salaries vary depending upon your experience, the size of the library, and what region of the country the library is located in. Most professional positions within public libraries require a master’s degree in library and information studies. According to The 2009 ALA-APA Salary Survey: Librarian — Public and Academic, the mean librarian salary decreased from $58,960 in 2008 to $58,860 in 2009, a decrease of $100. This survey included 17,018 individual salaries ranging from $22,000 to $256,800 with a median of $54,500. A summary of this survey is available online.

What does the future hold for public librarians?
Available online, the “Occupational Outlook Handbook” suggests that the number of librarian jobs is projected to grow about 4 percent between 2006 and 2016. By 2016, librarians are expected to hold more than 164,000 jobs. In addition, more than 2 out of 3 librarians are aged 45 or older, which will result in many job openings over the next decade as many librarians retire.

ALA Online Resources

ALA JobLIST is your source for current employment opportunities in the field of library science, information science, and technology.
Considering a career as a librarian? provides you with an overview of the variety of jobs available in libraries and for librarians, as well as the skills you to obtain those jobs and information about obtaining a master’s in library science.

ALA-Accredited Programs
Review a listing of ALA-accredited library and information science degree programs, as well as information on how to choose the right program for you and frequently asked questions about getting in to library school.

Library Associations and Organizations

American Association of Law Libraries

American Library Association

Council on Library and Information Resources

Institute of Museum and Library Services

Medical Library Association

Society of American Archivists

Special Libraries Association

Urban Libraries Council