Training, Certifications, Skills, Advancement: Librarians

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 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; any liberal arts major is appropriate.

Most MLS programs take 1 year to complete; some take 2. 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.

Usually, an MLS also is required of librarians working in special libraries. In addition, most special librarians supplement their education with knowledge of the subject 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. In some jobs, knowledge of a foreign language is needed.

State certification requirements for public school librarians vary widely. Most States require school librarians, often called library media specialists, to be certified as teachers and to have had courses in library science. An MLS is needed in some cases, perhaps with a library media specialization, or a masterís in education with a specialty in school library media or educational media. Some States require certification of public librarians employed in municipal, county, or regional library systems.

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.