How to Become a School Librarian

Libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no libraries. Anne Herbert

School librarians have the opportunity to pass on a love for reading to students of all ages. School librarians also teach student the fundamentals of using a library and its resources. Often times, these librarians collaborate with teachers to help them find necessary materials and resources to enhance classroom instruction.

Qualities of a School Librarian

An effective school librarian will love books and love to inspire children to read. They must have effective communication skills and should be able to work well with others. Depending on the school and budgets, school librarians may work a full time schedule similar to teachers. However, some schools may have part-time school librarians.

Job Growth

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the employment growth for a school librarian to be 7%. The demand for librarians may be hindered by budget cuts and an increased use of electronic resources.

What are the Requirements for Becoming a School Librarian?

Education Requirements for a School Librarian

A basic requirement for becoming a school librarian is to hold a Bachelor's Degree and pass any district-required Librarian examinations. However, many school districts require a Master's Degree and a teaching certificate as well. Sometimes, school librarians may be required to have experience as a teacher before being able to become a certified librarian.

As mentioned earlier, some states may require a Master's Degree while other states require only certification or licensure. If you are interested in becoming a licensed school librarian, you may contact your state's department of education for specific requirements. Librarians with a Master's Degree will have more selection in regard to options for employment with other types of libraries. With a Master's Degree in a related field, you will be able to have a broader range for your career.

Many school librarians earn a degree in Library Science.

Master of Library Science (MLS)

The Master of Library Science (MLS) is a common graduate degree program for pursuing a career as a school librarian. Those planning on working as a school librarian will need to make sure their chosen program is accredited by the American Library Association (ALA). Graduation from an accredited ALA program is a requirement in some states to work as a school librarian. Master's program classes will usually involve courses in library management, children's literature, and learning technologies.

Tests to Pass for Becoming a School Librarian

In addition, candidates will need to pass the required exams. The National Evaluation Series (NES) tests can be taken to fulfill the Library/Educational Media testing requirement. In addition, other knowledge tests may be required.

Library Certification from Another State

Keep in mind that numerous states accept library certification from other states. If you have earned your librarian certification in another state, you can check with the local certifying agency to see if you can transfer your your certificate.

School Librarian by Degree Level

The tables and charts below break down the education level obtained as averaged across the U.S.

Degree LevelPercent (%)
Less Than High School Diploma0.1%
High School Diploma0.2%
Some College8.8%
Associate Degree5.2%
Bachelors Degree22.0%
Masters Degree58.7%
Doctorate Degree4.9%

Data taken from BLS Educational attainment for workers 25 years and older by detailed occupation, 2010-11 (http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_table_111.htm)

What Does A School Librarian Do?

School librarians are responsible for organizing and managing collections of journals, books, magazines, newspapers, electronic documents, and other data resources. At the elementary school level, librarians may also be responsible for organizing mini lessons, crafts, and story time. School librarians will often work with children to help guide them to material of the appropriate reading level. Throughout all levels, they monitor the checking out and returning of books. In addition, they are responsible for helping students find and understand information within the library that they may need. Depending on where they work, school librarians may have their own office where they can carry out administrative tasks.

School Librarian Jobs & Job Description

An integral part of every school, school librarians are a knowledgeable resource that encourages literacy, critical thinking and research at both the elementary and secondary levels. While jobs are similar between the elementary and high school librarians, below is a standard list of job duties for each role.

Elementary School Librarian

A fundamental part of teacher programming and literacy, elementary school librarians:

  • Supervise library technicians, volunteers, and student assistants
  • Ensure that students and staff are effective users of ideas and information
  • Empower students to be critical thinkers, enthusiastic readers, skillful researchers, and use information ethically
  • Foster a love of learning and reading in each student
  • Ensure access to information for all students of varying abilities
  • Collaborate with teachers, specialists, and curriculum consultants for the design and implementation of units and lessons
  • Assist student learning and the effectiveness of instruction
  • Provide leadership and expertise for necessary to ensure that the school library program thrives
  • Align with the goals and objectives of the school and the school district
  • Maintain role as an integral component of the instructional program
  • Create an environment where collaboration and creative problem solving work in partnership to pursue education
  • Share communication skills; instill enthusiasm in others by showing how they are an important part of the library
  • Foster an environment of creativity, innovation, and openness to new ideas
  • Help create consensus and anticipate future obstacles
  • Remain a visible and active leader within the school community
  • Advocate for the school library program by serving on school committees
  • Take a role in school improvement and accreditation activities
  • Facilitate benchmarking the library program to school, state, and national standards
  • Share expertise by presenting at faculty meetings, parent meetings, and school board meetings
  • Create a resource-based environment that is conducive to active and participatory learning
  • Share instructional practices, and collaborate with teaching staff
  • Maintain and follow up-to-date district policies regarding materials selection, circulation, reconsideration of materials, copyright, privacy, and acceptable use
  • Encourage instructional technology to engage students and to improve learning,
  • Collect and analyze data to improve instruction and to demonstrate correlations between the library programs and student achievement
  • Maintain active memberships in professional associations
  • Remain an active, accessible, and informed proponent of the school library profession
  • Participate in the curriculum development process at both the school and district levels
  • Ensure that support material for curricula include information, media, visual, digital, and technological literacy to support all students
  • Meet content standards and develop lifelong learners at every grade level
  • Collaborate with teachers and students to incorporate multiple literacies and foster critical thinking

High School Librarian

As students explore the broader field of research, high school librarians form a critical part of programming and analysis. Secondary school librarians:

  • Participate in planning learning experiences by providing group and individual instruction, assessing student progress, and evaluating activities
  • Join teachers and other internal and external stakeholders to plan and implement meaningful experiences that will promote a love of reading and learning
  • Plan and provide professional development opportunities within the school and district for all staff
  • Provide leadership and expertise in the selection, acquisition, evaluation, and organization of information resources and technologies in all formats
  • Provide expertise in the ethical use of information
  • Ensure equitable access and responsible use of information by developing and maintaining a collection of resources appropriate to the curriculum, the learners, and the teaching styles and instructional strategies used within the school
  • Cooperate and network with other libraries, librarians, agencies and stakeholders to facilitate access to resources outside the school
  • Model effective strategies for developing multiple literacies like text, advertising, media, online, etc.
  • Evaluate, use and promote technologies to support independent and teacher-driven teaching and learning
  • Supplement school resources by connecting the school and classroom with the wider learning community
  • Communicate with students and teachers
  • Facilitate round-the-clock access to library services
  • Guide software and hardware evaluation for library and school use
  • Develop fair processes for software and hardware evaluation
  • Understand and promote copyright, fair use, and licensing of intellectual property
  • Assist student and teacher patrons with understanding and observance of copyright, fair use, and licensing of intellectual property
  • Organizing the library's collection of resources for maximum and effective use
  • Empower students to become critical thinkers, enthusiastic readers, skillful researchers, and ethical
  • Guide students to read for understanding, and for exposure to diversity of viewpoints and genres, and for pleasure
  • Use information to build on prior knowledge and to construct new knowledge
  • Embrace the world of information and all its established and emergent formats
  • Facilitate peer work for successful collaboration for learning
  • Define library program policies
  • Guide and direct all activities related to steering policies
  • Maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of the school library program
  • Strategically plan for the continuous improvement of the school library program
  • Effectively manage personnel, resources, and facilities
  • Develop and implement program goals and objectives
  • Support program goals and planning through evidence based outcomes
  • Generate evidence that demonstrates efficacy and relevance of the school library
  • Supervise and evaluate support staff, including teaching assistants, computer education assistants, volunteers, and student assistants
  • Prepare, justify and administer the school library program budget to support specific program goals
  • Establish processes and procedures for selection, acquisition, circulation, resource sharing resources amongst schools, staff and students

Where Can A School Librarian Work?

School librarians can work in a variety of settings including private and public schools.

Public Elementary, Middle, and High Schools

Public schools are free and are not allowed to charge tuition. They receive money from the state and federal government. Local school districts make the decisions in regards to funding, hiring, and other rules and regulations. Students in the United States have the right to a free education, so public schools cannot turn away any student that lives within the school district. Public schools are often highly populated and include students from various ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Private Elementary, Middle, and High Schools

Private schools are independent from government control because they often charge tuition. They are self-directed, and have the ability to set their own standards for faculty and students. Private schools tend to have smaller class sizes and may have higher educational standards than public schools.

Charter Elementary, Middle, and High Schools

Charter schools are a unique combination of public and private schools. They are free, but are typically independently run. They have greater flexibility and are often held at a higher standard for performance and functionality. Charter schools tend to have a small student population and may have more stringent requirements for faculty and students.

School Librarian Organizations & Associations

What is the Salary of a School Librarian?

School librarians in the public school system have an average salary of $53,000 per year. However, in private schools the average librarian salary is approximately $5,000 to $10,000 less. Librarians who work in a public school will earn exceptional health and retirement benefits in addition to their yearly salary. Benefits provided to private schools librarians will vary from school to school. School librarian salary does increase with years of experience and tends to level off around $60,000. Librarians hoping to maximize their annual salary are advised to continue advancing their degree.

Salary (2013) and Job Outlook (2012 to 2020) by State

According to the published BLS data from 2013, the national average salary for Librarians is $57,550, with an estimated 136,510 being employed nationwide. Also, the job outlook growth projection from 2012 to 2020 is expected to increase by 7.4%.

StateProjected Growth (%)Avg Salary
Alabama6.0%$52,340
Alaska5.3%$65,620
Arizona13.9%$55,180
Arkansas10.8%$51,440
California9.5%$69,610
Colorado12.6%$65,880
Connecticut3.9%$67,840
Delaware5.4%$64,380
Florida10.1%$57,020
Georgia23.4%$58,270
Hawaii6.9%$62,500
Idaho7.1%$40,400
Illinois1.7%$56,390
Indiana8.3%$49,600
Iowa7.7%$46,460
Kansas10.1%$49,560
Kentucky10.0%$54,900
Louisiana9.8%$50,960
Maine-$48,730
Maryland6.2%$68,840
Massachusetts7.5%$65,460
Michigan-$52,250
Minnesota3.0%$56,080
Mississippi11.7%$44,200
Missouri5.3%$49,130
Montana8.5%$48,680
Nebraska7.8%$45,980
Nevada6.1%$62,630
New Hampshire5.0%$52,030
New Jersey-$65,400
New Mexico16.6%$49,520
New York-$64,270
North Carolina10.1%$50,880
North Dakota11.4%$48,610
Ohio6.7%$52,800
Oklahoma9.2%$43,580
Oregon10.8%$59,120
Pennsylvania3.2%$55,970
Rhode Island-$63,030
South Carolina10.0%$53,000
South Dakota3.6%$38,650
Tennessee12.5%$49,700
Texas19.5%$54,440
Utah22.8%$54,780
Vermont3.2%$47,270
Virginia14.0%$61,770
Washington12.4%$63,790
Washington, DC-$74,740
West Virginia-$47,490
Wisconsin4.3%$51,250
Wyoming7.9%$50,910

Data taken from BLS Occupational Employment Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/oes/) for Librarians (SOC Code: 25-4021)

Salary (2013) By Largest Metropolitan Areas

AreaEmployedAvg Salary
New York, White Plains, Wayne5,440$66,760
Chicago, Joliet, Naperville4,050$60,960
Washington, Arlington, Alexandria3,340$73,990
Boston, Cambridge, Quincy2,540$72,750
Los Angeles, Long Beach, Glendale2,530$71,630
Nassau, Suffolk2,530$73,490
Atlanta, Sandy Springs, Marietta2,250$58,680
Houston, Sugar Land, Baytown2,230$56,860
Philadelphia1,890$61,350
Dallas, Plano, Irving1,680$56,310
Baltimore, Towson1,560$62,240
Seattle, Bellevue, Everett1,460$68,680
Minneapolis, St. Paul, Bloomington1,450$59,370
Pittsburgh1,440$50,580
Edison, New Brunswick1,370$65,560
St. Louis1,320$54,980
Cleveland, Elyria, Mentor1,250$55,810
Bethesda, Rockville, Frederick1,140$78,930
Newark, Union1,130$67,090
San Francisco, San Mateo, Redwood City1,100$76,500

Data taken from BLS Occupational Employment Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/oes/) for Librarians (SOC Code: 25-4021)