School Librarian Career Guide

School librarians work in elementary schools to universities organizing media collections, maintaining reference services, and assisting patrons in finding information. This guide provides information on what librarians do, how to become one, and librarian salary and job outlook.

Table of Contents

How to Become
Job Description
Salary & Job Outlook
Additional Resources
Frequently Asked Questions
Related Pages

How to Become a School Librarian

School librarians usually must have a master’s degree in library science, library studies, or information science/studies. In most states, K-12 public school librarians must obtain state licensure; this typically requires a graduate degree plus a passing score on the Praxis Library Media Specialist test. The typical path toward a public school librarian career is:

  1. Earn a bachelor’s degree.
  2. Complete a master’s degree program in library science, such as a master of library science (MLS) or Master of Library and Information Studies (MLIS).
  3. Take your state’s required tests for public school librarians.
  4. Apply for a license to work as a librarian in K-12 schools.
  5. Begin applying for open K-12 librarian positions.

Many school libraries prefer candidates to have a master’s degree from an American Library Association (ALA) accredited program. Accreditation from the ALA shows that a program meets the association’s standards; a list of ALA-accredited programs is available on the association’s website.

Another option is to complete a program that is recognized by the American Association of School Libraries (AASL) through the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). A list of recognized programs can be found by selecting “American Library Association (AASL)” under “Nationally Recognized Program Search.”

Teachers who are licensed in another subject may choose to add a school librarian endorsement to their existing license by earning a master’s degree in library science. In some states, current teachers may also be eligible to add a school library endorsement after completing a graduate certificate in library science, though according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), there are only a handful of certificate programs available in the field.1 Regardless, due to the small number of openings for librarians overall and the typical graduate education for these positions, a specialized master’s degree program may lead to more job opportunities.

School Librarian Job Description

school-librarianSchool librarians in primary and secondary schools teach students how to locate and check out books and how to use the library’s resources for research. They also help teachers find resources to use for lesson plans in the classroom. School librarians at universities help students conduct research and access information. Similarly, they might assist college professors with finding and using resources for their classroom, or for their own research projects.

Common Tasks

School librarians assist patrons in learning how to use information retrieval systems, provide suggestions on books and information sources relevant to patron inquiries, and maintain collections. School librarians may also be responsible for the acquisition of new materials for library collections, which requires familiarity with school budgets. With experience, school librarians may also become responsible for supervising junior librarians, clerks, and parent volunteers within the library. School librarians should be prepared to continue training and developing their skills in the information sciences throughout their careers.

Helpful Skills and Experience

Well-developed organizational skills, communication and presentation skills, and problem-solving skills are important for prospective school librarians. Specialization in one area complimented by a demonstrable skill set in the information sciences can give school librarian candidates an edge in the job market. School librarians may specialize in certain areas of library science like fine arts or collections.

Possible Job Titles for This Career

  • School Librarian
  • Media Specialist
  • School Library Media Specialist
  • Teacher Librarian

School Librarian Salary and Job Outlook

The salary for school librarians can vary widely; salaries tend to be higher in larger libraries and frequently differ from state to state. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), librarians and media collections specialists earned:

Average Annual Wage (median)2Lowest 10% (median)2Highest 10% (median)2Public Schools (mean)2Colleges and Universities (mean)2

The BLS notes there are 131,680 librarians, and predicts average job growth for librarians of all types over the 10-year period between 2022 and 2032, at 3%.3

Advancement opportunities for school librarians are available to assistant director and library director, where salaries are commensurate with experience and the added responsibilities these positions entail. In large library systems, school librarians may alternately advance to specialist positions such as conservator.

Additional Resources

Library Science Career Interviews

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Do school librarians get summers off?

Answer: Depending on the school, school librarians might get their summers off. Check with the individual school to find out more.

Question: What types of courses do I take to become a school librarian?

Answer: The courses required will vary depending on the school, but school librarians will likely take courses in children’s literature, learning technologies, and library management. Talk to your school’s advisor or refer to your state board of education to find out what courses are required in your state.

1. National Center for Education Statistics: https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics May 2022 Occupational Employment and Wages, Librarians and Library Media Collections Specialists: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes254022.htm
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Librarians and Library Media Specialists: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/librarians.htm