How To Get a Job at a Library
Updated March 10, 2023
If you enjoy surrounding yourself with books and sharing your love of reading, consider working at a library. Working at a library comes with a wide variety of benefits including job stability and a competitive salary. Understanding the library positions you can pursue can help you make a more strategic career decision. In this article, we explain the benefits of working at a library, provide you with the steps for how to work at the library and list common library jobs for you to consider.
What are the benefits of working in a library?
Understanding the benefits that come from working in a library can help you determine whether or not you want to follow this career path. If you find the benefits worthwhile, you can start planning your future career with greater confidence. Here are some benefits of working in a library:
Competitive salary: Working in a library offers a competitive salary—especially once you reach mid- to senior-level positions. However, even working at the entry-level allows you to make a sizable income.
Employment benefits: Apart from salary, many library positions offer other benefits including health insurance and paid time off. Having these benefits can provide you with a greater quality of life and greater job satisfaction.
Variety of positions: If you enjoy working in a library, you have a wide variety of positions to choose from. While you can always become a librarian, you can also pursue a career as an archivist or library director. Keep in mind that the size of the library often dictates the variety of positions available.
How to get a job at a library
To get a job at a library, it helps to follow a certain set of steps. Planning out how to pursue your career ensures you're qualified for the positions you apply for in the future. Use these general steps to get a job at a library:
1. Explore different types of libraries
Before you pursue any type of library work, research the various types of libraries. Each type of library presents different benefits and available positions. Understanding the differences between each type of library can help you narrow down your job search. Here are some of the various types of libraries:
Academic library: Colleges and universities have academic libraries available for both staff members and students. Apart from supporting the staff's and student's needs, they also support the school's curriculum. Some larger campuses have multiple libraries, with each specializing in certain areas such as history or law.
Public library: A public library offers the general public access to its collection of books and resources. Often funded by public sources, many cities across the U.S. have this type of library. Public libraries house an organized collection of books and media for the community to use. They may also offer services to the public such as story time, a book club or various STEM activities for children.
School library: As part of a school system, school libraries serve students from kindergarten through grade 12. Many school libraries even offer media learning opportunities for students.
Special library: Special libraries provide guests with specialized resources on a certain topic. They also serve a specialized clientele with specialized services for that clientele. You can find a special library at a hospital, military base, government building or museum.
National library: Established by a government, a national library offers a complete source of information. Unlike a public library, they rarely allow the general public to borrow a book since they typically house rare and important works.
2. Research library positions
Once you know the type of library you want to work in, consider the jobs it tends to offer. Think of the capacity in which you want to work and research every job title you're interested in. Look into the common duties and qualifications for each role. Having a better understanding of the job positions available and the requirements for each can help you determine which position you want to pursue. It also helps you know how to pursue the specific position you're interested in.
3. Consider volunteer work
Gain experience and more knowledge about library work by spending time as a volunteer. Ask your local public library about their volunteering opportunities. As a volunteer, you may get to shelve books, help guests at the circulation desk or help repair old books. This experience lets you know what it's like to work in a library before you pursue a professional career in this field.
Related: 7 Reasons To Consider Volunteering
4. Check the library website or bulletin board
When you know the type of position you want to pursue, start your job search by checking various library bulletin boards and websites periodically. Both bulletin boards and websites may announce open positions you might find interesting. If you find a job you're interested in, pursue it. If you don't meet the qualifications, work on meeting them so you can get a similar position in the future.
5. Visit the library
When you find a position that meets your experience level and overall interest, consider visiting the library offering the job. When you're there in person, evaluate the environment and your experience, ask the library staff your questions and check out its available resources. Getting to know the library can give you greater insight regarding the job you're interested in and help you determine whether or not you still want to apply.
In fact, acquiring general familiarity with the libraries in the vicinity of your job search can give you deeper knowledge not just to the particular library, but to local libraries in general. Deeper knowledge translates to deeper talking points in the interview and on the job. For example, you can offer suggestions on how to improve the library experience for guests or come up with ideas on how to improve the library's programs. Make sure you gather as much information as you can about the library as it can impress hiring managers.
6. Apply for available positions
Some library positions can be competitively sought or only available during specific periods. This means as a person pursuing library work, you want to be an active applicant—get those applications submitted. Since many companies use computers to scan resumes, make sure to use certain keywords from the job description. Using these keywords gives you a better chance of getting picked for an interview.
Related: Guide for How To Become a Librarian
Common library jobs
If you want to research job titles before deciding whether or not you want to pursue library work, consider these common library positions:
National average salary: $25,274 per year
Primary duties: Library assistants help a library staff organize resources and materials. They lend and collect books and help library patrons find the information they need. Library assistants also answer questions from patrons and help them meet their technical needs.
2. Library aide
National average salary: $29,272 per year
Primary duties: Library aides ensure the organization and efficiency of a library. They help library guests find what they need, answer incoming library calls and catalog or reshelve books. Library aides also maintain circulation records, process new books and maintain the computer database.
National average salary: $34,929 per year
Primary duties: Library technicians perform tasks that help keep a library running. They assist librarians, help library guests find the information they're looking for and organize library resources and materials.
National average salary: $59,388 per year
Primary duties: A librarian gathers, organizes and offers library resources to the public. They catalog books, perform audits, use library systems, issue resources and provide customer service to all library guests. In addition, they help library guests find and check out books, maintain a budget for new reading materials and supervise the library staff. Advanced schooling is expected for this competitive but deeply rewarding field.
Related: Learn About Being a Librarian
National average salary: $65,084 per year
Primary duties: Archivists collect, organize, evaluate and preserve both records and archives. They decide whether or not to keep a document or material in an archive. Archivists also scan archival documents, work alongside other archivists, manage on-site archival collections, help people find the data they need and create safety protocols to best protect the archives. A minimum of a bachelor's degree is expected of people on this career path. Given that specialized careers in the library sciences can be quite competitive, some employers may also expect a master's degree of their archivists.
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