A masterís degree in library science (MLS) is necessary for librarian positions in most public, academic, and special libraries and in some school libraries. The Federal Government requires that the librarians it employs have an MLS or the equivalent in education and experience. Many colleges and universities offer MLS programs, but employers often prefer graduates of the approximately 56 schools accredited by the American Library Association. Most MLS programs require a bachelorís degree, but no specific undergraduate program is required.
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Most MLS programs take one year to complete; some take two. A typical graduate program includes courses in the foundations of library and information science, including the history of books and printing, intellectual freedom and censorship, and the role of libraries and information in society. Other basic courses cover the selection and processing of materials, the organization of information, reference tools and strategies, and user services. Courses are adapted to educate librarians to use new resources brought about by advancing technology, such as online reference systems, Internet search methods, and automated circulation systems. Course options can include resources for children or young adults; classification, cataloguing, indexing, and abstracting; library administration; and library automation. Computer-related course work is an increasingly important part of an MLS degree. Some programs offer interdisciplinary degrees combining technical courses in information science with traditional training in library science.
The MLS degree provides general preparation for library work, but some individuals specialize in a particular area, such as reference, technical services, or childrenís services. A Ph.D. degree in library and information science is advantageous for a college teaching position or for a top administrative job in a college or university library or large library system.
In addition to an MLS degree, most special librarians supplement their education with knowledge of the field in which they are specializing, sometimes earning a masterís, doctoral, or professional degree in the subject. Areas of specialization include medicine, law, business, engineering, and the natural and social sciences. For example, a librarian working for a law firm may also be a licensed attorney, holding both library science and law degrees, while medical librarians should have a strong background in the sciences. In some jobs, knowledge of a foreign language is needed.
States generally have certification requirements for librarians in public schools and local libraries, though there are wide variations among States. Many require school librarians, often called library media specialists, to be certified as teachers in addition to having courses in library science. An MLS is needed in some States, often with a library media specialization, while in others a masterís in education with a specialty in school library media or educational media is needed. Twenty-four States also require certification of librarians employed in local library systems, while several others have voluntary certification guidelines.
Librarians participate in continuing education and training, once they are on the job, in order to keep abreast of new information systems brought about by changing technology.
Experienced librarians can advance to administrative positions, such as department head, library director, or chief information officer.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook
Librarian Work in General
Librarian Working Conditions
Librarian Job Outlook
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