How do I Become an Academic Librarian?

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  • Written By: B. Miller
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 19 September 2018
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An academic librarian is one who works in the library at a college or university. Often, though not always, they specialize in a specific subject or department. Academic librarians have a number of job functions, but many include assisting students or faculty members of the university with research, teaching visitors to the library how to retrieve information, managing and cataloging the library resources, and improving the collection of the library both in physical and technological forms, among others. To become an academic librarian, it is necessary to have an Master of Library and Information Science (MLS) degree, and to be passionate about sharing information with others.

For those who already know they want to become an academic librarian, it is best to start work as early as possible. Even in high school, you may be able to get a job at a library. If not, libraries are almost always looking for volunteers. This way, you can begin learning exactly how a library works, and what librarians do while they are at work all day. It is certainly not just sitting around and reading books! Librarians should certainly enjoy books and reading, however, and most are very well-read.


It is necessary to attend college for a bachelor's degree as the next step to become an academic librarian. Many librarians have bachelor's degrees in the English or Liberal Arts areas, though it is a good idea to take classes in the Information Technology department as well, because so much work and research in the library is now done on the computer. It may also be beneficial to take classes in a common foreign language, such as Spanish. Having that knowledge may make it easier to communicate with library patrons in the future.

Once again, it is extremely important to get a job working in the on-campus library, as this may even lead to gainful employment once you have graduated and want to become an academic librarian. Many colleges offer both paid and unpaid internships for work in the library. After you have obtained a bachelor's degree, it is time to pursue the Master of Library and Information Science degree.

These degrees are offered at many universities and even online; just make sure that the program is accredited by the American Library Association (ALA). Most offer students the ability to choose a specialty, or to simply take various classes to see where their specific interests lie. However, if you have already been working in a library for many years, there is a good chance you already know what subject or department you want to specialize in.

Once you have your degrees, and have officially become an academic librarian, you can use your contacts in the field to find employment. It is helpful to be relatively open as to your desired geographical location. There are numerous colleges and universities around the world that will be willing to hire a new academic librarian. As with any job interview, it is important to appear professional, personable, and knowledgeable in the subject area.



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