Erin Dorney

Blogging life & librarianship

So, you’re thinking about becoming a librarian?

with 42 comments

One of my favorite things about being a new librarian is that I now have a little bit of experience to offer to others. I am in constant communication with people across the country who are considering becoming  librarians or who are going through library school. These people find me a number of ways, including:

Other potential librarians find me through mutual acquaintances, Facebook, internet searches that turn up my blog, or Twitter. I have even had faculty members encourage their students to talk to me about my recent experience in library school. These communications are fascinating to me! Sometimes they consist of a phone call, sometimes in person, sometimes off the cuff, via email and even through Facebook messages and chat. I truly enjoy this aspect of now being an “MLIS-toting” librarian – I hope that my honesty can assist these interested parties in making a decision on whether this is the right career choice for them.

I think that this is certainly another area where librarians can utilize their networking skills. Not only do both parties benefit (you get connected to library newbs and get to share your passion while they gain insider information about the field from someone with experience), but you never know when relationships will develop. You might just kindle a friendship or professional working relationship that can last years. It’s also another way to get your name out there and encourage new and innovative people to join the field. Librarianship as a profession is not uber-complicated, but I think the misunderstanding of who we are and what we do encourages a certain level of secrecy that potential newcomers may be intimidated by. When I talk to someone, I try to be as open as possible, sharing  both my positive and negative experiences.

Recently, I was contacted by a student at my undergraduate alma mater, St. John Fisher College in Rochester, NY. She found my name through the CARD database mentioned above and asked me a few questions about my job. Below are her questions along with my responses. Do you have anything to add? I encourage all librarians to get involved in mentoring newcomers… most colleges and universities already have systems in place where you can enter your information in order to be connected to current students and recent graduates. Not only is it good for networking and information sharing, but the PR effect of having librarians listed in these types of directories can do a lot for the changing image of our profession!

What is the level of schooling needed for your career?
In order to be a librarian, you need to attend graduate school. A list of programs accredited by the American Library Association can be found here: It’s important to go to an ALA-accredited school.

Are there any specific courses or classes you would recommend I take?
All of the library programs are basically the same. You will learn stuff like customer service, cataloging, reference and research assistance, collection development, how to use databases, etc. Most programs have a management class as well, and sometimes a marketing class. I would recommend technology-related courses, anything with digital libraries, web design and development, and marketing.

Are there internships or shadow days that I can take advantage of?

It is almost imperative. Many students graduate from their library program with no experience in an actual library. It is very difficult to find an entry-level position with no experience. If you can’t find a position as a staff member (technician, part time, etc) while you are in school, interning somewhere or volunteering is a great way to gain that experience. I worked at Lavery Library while I was an undergraduate, then I worked as a clerk in a public library for a few months and then as an interlibrary loan technician at RIT while I was getting my master’s degree. That experience allowed me to secure a permanent position in an academic library before I even graduated. Most libraries are very willing to accept interns and volunteers, especially future librarians.

Is it important to make the patrons feel comfortable? How do you go about doing so? (I volunteer in a library occasionally, and that always plays a big role in to who visits, and when.)
It is very important. For me, it’s a little easier to do in an academic library setting – the students are close to my age, so I think they feel more comfortable asking me for assistance than the older, more experienced librarians. They won’t ask for help if the perceive you to be busy or unwilling to offer guidance. So it’s important to look approachable. I try to make eye-contact with people as they walk by and ask if they need anything. I think making sure that your lines of verbal and non-verbal communication is beneficial. I’m sure you know this from volunteering, but once people establish a repport with you, they will come back time and time again. This leads to mutually beneficial relationships because the patron feels more and more comfortable asking you for assistance and feedback.

What is the end that makes all the means necessary? Do you want to sell a product or endorse something or do you want to improve someone else’s quality of life?
I think I’ve chosen the perfect profession. I get to go into work every day and help people with whatever they need. Every day is different. In an academic library I get to be surrounded by a culture of learning. I love the fact that I don’t have to work for some evil corporation and especially that I don’t have to meet sales quotas, lie during pitches, or reprimand people. I simply help them have a better experience in the library and hopefully find the information their looking for.

Do you create your own schedule or do the people around you do that?
I have to say, I have a sweet job at the moment. I am at an academic university where the librarians are considered faculty members (people refer to me as Professor, which is a mind-trip!). As such, all library decisions are made at the departmental level, which means 12 librarians. We don’t have direct supervisors and I don’t report up. I simply work for the best interest of the library and the students. I get to set my own schedule, which is amazing. I have never had such freedom and flexibility in a job before. Along with that comes a high level of responsibility, but I think it’s totally worth it!

Do you mentor other people or do you emulate others?
I do both. I mentor lots of people who are considering entering the library profession, including former classmates, student workers and people who ask me for help (such as yourself). Lots of people find me through my blog, Facebook, Twitter, or the Syracuse University website where I am listed as an alumni class leader. So I help a lot of people by just sharing my experiences with them. I try to emulate the librarians and library professionals who I look up to. I read a lot of blogs, participate in conferences and presentation, networking, etc. I think we can all learn a lot from each other.

Is your field growing or staying the same? What are potential opportunities arising in your field? Do you think that, when I graduate in two years, your career will still be open?
There will be lots of people retiring from the library field in coming years. Sometimes that is referred to as “greying of the profession.” At the same time, libraries are changing dramatically. Positions that have been filled in the past are being revamped, updated, and eliminated. New and less traditional positions are appearing. Lots of them are technology related, some are like mine, dealing with public relations and marketing (I am the Outreach Librarian), some are customer service oriented like User Experience Librarian. There are tons of opportunities for newcomers. Everyone I have encountered so far has been helpful and appreciative of new blood entering the field. There are places and people where that is not the case (librarians who dislike the change that is accompanying the generational shift), but for the most part, people are open. I think if you keep your goal in mind throughout school, and participate in activities that bring you closer to that goal, you should be fine. Just realize that the old days of the card catalog and shushing librarian are (for the most part) already far gone.

How do you see your place in the world? Is there anything specific you hope to achieve? (Monetary amount, personal goals)
I see my place as helping students on their educational journey. I want to help them become better, more educated and experiences citizens who can achieve their goals. I want their experience with the library to be a positive and beneficial one so that they will become library champions, utilizing their public libraries in the future and with their children, appreciating literature and reading, using technology to interact with the global community and being knowledgeable about the viewpoints of humanity. These are some of the things I hope to achieve.

Who do you rely on? A personal coach? Friends? Family? Assistants?
I have a huge network of people I rely on daily. I have many professional contacts including librarians from around the country. I have close friends who I attended graduate school with, and friends from every stage of life. Their constant support is imperative to my mental state of mind. They present opportunities for me, help me to make decisions, and support my personal and professional journey. I hope that I offer the same to them.


Written by Erin Dorney

August 1, 2009 at 9:25 AM

42 Responses

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  1. You are amazing. Your resounding passion for higher education, mentoring, and enjoying life are matched by no one. Millersville is lucky to have you.


    August 1, 2009 at 5:47 PM

  2. Aw- thank you, Ashley 🙂 I miss you tons!! Happy birthday tomorrow


    August 1, 2009 at 6:22 PM

  3. thank you so much for this post…i am embarking upon finishing my ba and then moving onto the mlis. I am trying to get some shelver jobs and having a hard time even though the postings list minimum requirements as ged and high school applicants ok. I am way more qualified than that after 20 years in the work force…is that my problem or are they really only hiring folks that have previous library background. If so why don’t the job postings say that?
    I would really appreciate any insight and mentoring.



    August 2, 2009 at 12:51 PM

  4. Hi Dina – No problem! Getting into the library field can be somewhat challenging – I know that some libraries won’t hire over-qualified people for positions like shelving. Because those positions are more aimed at high school students or volunteers, you might be better off searching for a support staff position. Something like Interlibrary loan technician, evening circulation supervisor, etc. If you have past work experience in a different field you can often craft your resume to cover the same skills as you would use in a library even though your experience was in a different environment. Lots of people work as support staff while they are earning their MLS, and this might be a good point for you to include in your application – libraries might be more apt to hire you if they know you are dedicated to the profession. Most librarians seem to want to help our newcomers as well, so they might take you under their wing a bit. Please feel free to send me an email and we can talk more, or I can go over your resume/cover letters with you if you don’t seem to be having any luck. Of course, it could be economy related – everyone seems to be having trouble! Thanks for reading!


    August 3, 2009 at 3:55 PM

  5. Great post, Erin! You capitalized on a great opportunity to articulate what a lot of up-and-coming librarians (okay, maybe just me) enjoy and respect about librarianship. If it hadn’t been for you, I never would have considered my time at Lavery Library more than a work study job. With ten months of my degree program left, I know I’ve made the right choice. I owe a lot of that to you!


    August 3, 2009 at 11:58 PM

  6. I think now is a terribly difficult time to find a library job of any sort, and it may continue that way for some time. Contrary to all of those reports about the graying of the profession and openings popping up all over the place, it just ain’t happening. There are considerably more people interested in working in libraries than ever before and library schools are churning out graduates like it’s a production line. Couple all of that with the difficult economic times where libraries of all types are getting their budgets slashed, then you have a recipe for extremely difficult hiring prospects. I got my MLIS in 2006, have been unemployed for over a year now (and have never gotten a paid library job since graduation). I know several other people from my cohort who are un- or under-employed, so I know I’m not alone. I’d love a librarian job, but unfortunately it seems like my time in school has mostly brought me only a large amount of student loan debt.


    August 5, 2009 at 8:22 PM

  7. […] check out the post So, you’re thinking about becoming a librarian? by Erin Dorney. One of the best pieces of advice I can give is to talk to librarians to see what […]

  8. Here’s a question for you, Erin. Is it experience in a library in general, or what you actually DO in that position that counts when job-hunting? I worked as a page at the library my senior year of college (Special Collections, inspiring my love of old/rare/really cool books and forever cementing my identity as a nerd) and I’m currently volunteering at a historical society, working on a collection for which I’ll write the finding aid. Sadly my full-time job keeps me from doing much more than that. My experience is related (academic publishing) but the actual library experience on my resume is limited. I graduate in March (THE END IS NIGH!!!!) so time is a-tickin’. Thoughts?


    August 5, 2009 at 9:56 PM

  9. In answer to the Q:
    Are there any specific courses or classes you would recommend I take?

    The author states:
    “All of the library programs are basically the same.”

    That statement has not been true for many, many years. LIS programs are now drastically different.

    The author states:
    “You will learn stuff like customer service, cataloging, reference and research assistance, collection development, how to use databases, etc.”

    This is no longer true. Yes, these areas of study used to be required courses for anyone wishing to become a librarian. They should still be required today, but they are not. Most programs (though not all) offer these courses but they are not required. To say, “You WILL” learn stuff like… is simply not the case. Collections (an area of the field that most librarians deal with on a daily baisis) is no longer required in MOST of our programs. Some don’t even offer it annually anymore. It is possible to graduate from most LIS programs with no exposure to collection mgt whatsoever. The same is true in at least one of our LIS programs for reference/user services. Very strange, but true. Most no longer require cataloging. The courses are a watered down version, usually called something like “Organization of Information.”

    LIS education is in major need of reform, but too many LIS schools have a vested interest in doing as they please, not teaching future librarians what they need to know. This author needs to know that (unfortunately in this regard) times have changed.

    Ann Maxwell

    August 5, 2009 at 10:24 PM

  10. I’m one of those greying (or in my case, completely grey) librarians, but not inclined to leave the profession any time soon, particularly since things seem to be getting really interesting! I graduated (from SU, when it was still “library school”) in 1976, and there was a dearth of library jobs then, too. It took me almost a year to get a professional job, and I had 7 years of support staff experience by then, in virtually every aspect of the library. Thirty-plus years later, I can urge those feeling discouraged not to give up, and to look (as Erin also suggests) for volunteer and intern possibilities. Also look outside traditional libraries, in government, commerce and other areas where there is a growing realization that librarians know how to organize and preserve information (imagine that!).

    Diane Hillmann

    August 5, 2009 at 10:43 PM

  11. Thanks for the comments, everyone!

    Karen – Thanks! Good times at Lavery Library, I learned so much as a student worker there and I’m glad I briefly had the chance to work with you there. Good luck with the final few semesters!

    John – I agree – I have colleagues who graduated the same semester as I did who are still looking for meaningful library employment. I also know lots of people in other fields looking for work, so I don’t think it’s libraries alone. I feel your pain on student debt as well. I think a real gap exists between entry level librarians (like me) coming right out of graduate school and the few positions that are opening up because they are mostly higher-level. From what I see, employers are looking for 3-5 years of experience, supervisory experience, etc. It’s tough to convince them to take a chance on someone right out of school. Best of luck with your searching, I hope you find something!

    Kate – That’s a great question. I think that you can make any of your experiences working or volunteering in a library meaningful and relatable on your resume. In college I worked as a periodicals assistant and basically just checked in, stamped and shelved newspapers and magazines. But when I put it on my resume and talked about it in interviews, I spoke about how I learned more about paying attention to detail, contacting publishers if issues were missing, familiarizing myself with the library organization and setup, etc. I also learned a lot about the inner workings of the library – organizational structure, about different librarian and support staff positions, etc. So you can swing it any way you want. Plus, the inspirational quality of your time in Special Collections will always be important when people ask you about why you wanted to become a librarian/work in Special Collections. And a finding aid will be a great piece for your portfolio (it helps to have one and bring it with you to interviews)! Congrats on being so close! What school? Where do you want to go next?

    Ann – You’re right, I shouldn’t have made such a generalized statement about library programs since I’ve only been through one. I think some of the finer details and differences between different programs would become more apparent when an interested student began researching which school he or she wanted to attend. As for the classes, those are all things that were included in my program at Syracuse from 2006-2008, so I wanted to give this student a taste of some things she might encounter in classes. I agree, and definitely think that library programs could make some changes as well.

    Diane – Thanks for the comment and not being offended by my use of the “greying” phrase (I occasionally find a random grey hair of my own and can foresee my inevitable future). I am very glad to hear you have no interest in leaving – I think that the multiple generations of librarians could learn a lot from each other. I would love to chat with you more about what the SU program was like back in 1976 and what it was like in 2006-2008 when I attended!


    August 5, 2009 at 11:11 PM

  12. Hi! I’m a current library school student and I’d add a few pieces of advice.

    1) While money spent on a degree is important don’t go to a school you are uncomfortable with just because it is the cheapest, ask about tuition discounts for professional associations and look at all your options. You can probably find a place you actually like within $1,000-3,000 and trust me you do not want to end up hating your school.

    2) Make sure that the programs you apply to fit A) your learning style and B) your learning needs. I.E. if you don’t like learning through Blackboard don’t apply to Drexel’s online program which is conducted completely through Blackboard with only a few professors providing verbal as well as written lectures.

    3) As someone brought up earlier not all programs/tracks provide a well rounded education. This is partially because these programs are catering to a broader range of library professionals, coporate vs. public/academic etc. It is up to you to ask for advice and then follow it. If you want to work in a public, academic or research library make sure that you take cataloging & classification, collection development, and a managment course there are a lot of smaller libraries/branches out there where there is only one or two librarians like the non-profit research library I volunteer at which has only one librarian.

    4) If you can’t get a paying job see if you can find a non-profit library to volunteer at, they generally need all the help they can get so you can write your own ticket to a certain extent on what you learn just by letting them know what you are intersted in helping them out with. They love volunteers!


    August 6, 2009 at 1:30 AM

  13. This is a fabulous article!! While I have approx 3 years experience in a library (ILL, Special Collections), I do not have my Masters and I find it extremely difficult to find a job that doesn’t require one, while I go and get one. I know many of the libraries in Texas are looking to hire people but several also have had budget cuts. Would you recommend going and talking face to face to the head librarian or someone who might be able to hire me either as an intern or support staff? Thanks!


    August 6, 2009 at 9:52 AM

  14. If you’re able to go to library school full-time, do more than just go to class and assigned homework. Volunteering or internship in a library–that’s good. Don’t forget to have some fun too, like joining a student club that interests you.


    August 6, 2009 at 12:16 PM

  15. Great post! Its useful and approachable. [subscribe]


    August 6, 2009 at 12:22 PM

  16. Thanks Leah! I just added yours to my RSS feed 🙂


    August 7, 2009 at 12:26 AM

  17. Great advice, Elisa! Thanks 🙂


    August 7, 2009 at 12:26 AM

  18. Hi Rachel – I think that would be an excellent idea. One thing that worked for me was to do “informational interviews” with different librarians. You can explain that you are trying to learn more about a particular position or library and you basically just meet with them and ask them a few questions about what they do. It’s a great way to “grow your network” of contacts because then they will know you (to keep you in mind for upcoming openings or to recognize your name off a pile of resumes). And you’ll probably learn a lot too! I did an informational interview in college that led to my marketing internship which then lead to my position as a support staff person while I got my MLIS (all at that same library). So you never know where those contacts will lead you. I would say go for it! Can’t hurt 🙂


    August 7, 2009 at 12:30 AM

  19. Thanks for the comments, Kiyomi! I agree, looking for scholarships can make a sure difference when you are deciding which school to attend. The Syracuse online program seems similar to Drexel (is that where you are going now?), with a mostly Blackboard-esque setup.


    August 7, 2009 at 12:32 AM

  20. Hi Erin! Yes I’m a Drexel student. One of my fellow students, now graduated, went through the entire program and hated that it was on Blackboard. I always wondered WHY they even applied to Drexel’s online program if they disliked it. I love it! I get to comment/respond much more than in a traditional classroom and it makes it easy for me schdule things like my internship at a local Reserch Library. It’s an interesting combination because it’s actually used by a local graduate program in botany but it’s a sparate non-profit institution. I agree about the networking, I went to the place for a school interview a librarian project and walked out a volunteer intern!

    If anyone in southern California needs an internship and doesn’t mind that they don’t pay you can just about anything there.


    August 7, 2009 at 1:08 AM

  21. Kiyomi-I’m at Drexel too! I think the success of an online class depends on the prof (well, so does a regular on-campus class, but probably more so here). I’ve had terrible ones that give us like 4pg “lectures,” but I’ve got one now who is FANTASTIC. Overall it’s been fairly successful. Can tell you this, though-I wouldn’t have been able to start the program when I did without online classes. I lived too far away and wasn’t sure when I’d live close enough. I hear a lot about distance learning, and some people are against it for whatever reason, but as a commuter it is a HUGE help. I prefer on-campus by far, but there is no denying how wonderful the flexibility of online classes can be.


    August 7, 2009 at 11:35 PM

  22. Hi Kate! I agree it really depends on the professor, I am paying a lot of attention to what other students are saying about various professors online teaching style/effectivness before registering for class. So far I’ve been pretty lucky 🙂 How far along are you? I’m in my second full-time quarter taking 520,660, and 674.


    August 8, 2009 at 4:48 AM

  23. Kiyomi, I’m in my 6th part-time quarter. 660 is Cataloging and Classification, right? I LOVED that class (well, not the prof, but the material). I really think it should be required for MLS students. My email is if you want to chat more! I’d be happy to tell you about the profs I’ve had, if you plan on taking the same classes I have.


    August 8, 2009 at 11:22 AM

  24. Hello out there! I read a lot of good info and I’m very excited about becoming a librarian!! I’m looking into the 14 ALA accredited distance degree programs online. So I’m in the mist of looking at universities reviews, job posting, specialites, etc. My background is IT and I make a pretty decent salary but it looks like I’m going to make considerably less! Can anybody point out some higher paying positions in the library combined with IT?? I’m also considering a dual degree with JD. Anybody out there?


    October 9, 2009 at 12:28 PM



    October 9, 2009 at 12:29 PM

  26. Hello KNK,

    ‘Systems Librarian’ or ‘Electronic Resource Librarian’ positions would involve a lot of IT and pay the highest salary, other than library director positions. Good luck!



    October 13, 2009 at 2:47 PM

  27. The title of this post, “So you’re thinking about becoming a librarian?” pretty well describes my stance right now. I’ll explain my situation.

    I am a recent college graduate with a BA in Music Education. I did my student teaching this last spring and landed a job in a small rural school in Iowa, teaching PreK-12 vocal and instrumental music. In other words, running the music department…and under a half time contract! I did not do well in that position, to say the least, and I had to resign before the end of the semester due to stress and a lack of classroom control with middle school.

    The experience taught me a lot, but it has left me wondering whether I should jump back on the teaching horse or consider a different career. For the last few months, I have been absolutely miserable. I found that although I CARED for my students, I was not very good at managing them, and it got to the point where I felt like I could no longer serve their needs. I have completely burnt myself out.

    I’m currently looking into substitute teaching, as a temporary fix. But I keep wondering if I would be better off in a different environment. Classroom teaching might not be the best fit for me. I’ve found that I’m not very good managing large groups of children, but I LOVE interacting with people of all ages on a more personal level – one on one or in small groups.

    I spent a couple summers as a tour guide for a church-owned historic site, and I loved the work. Even when I was leading groups as large as 60 at a time (ironically), but they were mostly adults.

    Anyway, I’m considering exploring the field of LIBRARY work. I’m not sure if the impulse is simply out of aversion to teaching, but the more I look into the career options, the more appealing it’s becoming.

    I am sure that the reality of being a librarian is profoundly different than the fantasy. I don’t expect I would be getting paid to read all day and sip coffee. But I do like idea of being able to serve people on an individual level, helping them find information, doing research myself, using the latest technologies, and being in a collaborative environment.

    Perhaps I should look into what it takes to be a MUSIC LIBRARIAN – obviously a specialized field. But academic or public library work also sounds pretty good to me. I’d have to get my masters, of course, and find work in the meantime.

    As you can tell, I’m pretty mixed up right now. I don’t really know WHAT I want to do. But I’m seriously considering this avenue. Any thoughts?


    November 28, 2009 at 11:58 AM

  28. Ryan, getting a library job of any type is EXTREMELY competitive. People with MLIS degrees and previous library experience are competing against each other for paraprofessional library jobs (library assistant, library associate, library technician) and are very lucky to nab one. It’s even more competitive to land an actual librarian job. Getting a music librarian job is even MORE competitive. There are a lot of musicians who know how difficult it is to make a living as a musician, who are also attracted to libraries, thinking it’s a more practical choice. I know, I’m one of them. There are so few music librarian positions, that you would be competing against people with very advanced music backgrounds, i.e., players from well established symphonies. If I had it to do all over again, I would have skipped library school and just tried to get a job, any job, in a library and eventually tried to get a paraprofessional library job. Maybe after that I’d try going to library school while working, but maybe not. Btw, I’m the same guy who posted earlier who graduated with a MLIS in 2006. I have never worked in a library for pay after graduating. I had one job for a year working at a non-profit, social justice organization, in a non-library capacity. Since then, I’ve been unemployed for a year and eight months. Next month I move into the category of the vastly under-employed: I got a temporary, four hour per week librarian job that will last about 7-8 weeks. Over $35K in student loan debt and after three years this job is my biggest reward to date. And I’m thrilled to get it. Seriously, very thrilled. My advice to anyone considering library school is to think long and hard about whether it is a worthwhile thing for you to pursue. Kind of like deciding to be a professional musician or actor or athlete. Maybe not quite as difficult as those things, but closer than you might think.


    January 25, 2010 at 2:16 PM

  29. Ryan, check out this post from the Annoyed Librarian blog. Especially check out the many comments to the blogpost.

    You’ll get a lengthy discussion about how the library schools are producing graduates far exceeding the number of librarian job opportunities. It’s not pretty out there.


    January 25, 2010 at 2:19 PM

  30. Thanks for the comments! I have to second what John said – finding a full time library job can be extremely competitive. That’s why internships, volunteering, making contacts in the field and finding your niche are such important factors. Good luck, and let me know if I can help!


    January 25, 2010 at 8:39 PM

  31. Thank you for the feedback, John and Erin. I appreciate your honesty and support. I’ve just started substitute teaching now, and I’m still standing, so we’ll see where this takes me. Maybe back into the permanent classroom.

    After reading the Annoyed Library blog posting and much of the commentary, it’s clear that a professional librarian career is fraught with challenges in today’s economy. Very eye-opening..and sad. But I guess it is what it is.

    Before shelling out a heap-load of money (luckily I’m not in TOO much debt from undergrad), I’d want to know what my prospects are in the field. Once I get a stable job again, I might look into volunteering at a library and get my feet wet a little. Or I might pursue other interests/hobbies. I’m just thankful to be employed at all (subbing, plus part-time grocery store work) in these tough times.

    But looking at the long-term, I’m hoping I can carve out a career path that will bring me satisfaction, serve others, and keep the pantry stocked.

    Thank you for your comments.


    January 26, 2010 at 9:29 PM

  32. Hi there 🙂 I found this through Google – and have a few little questions. I’m twenty years old, and a freshman in community college. I plan on eventually getting a MLIS, but was more curious as to what sort of BA would be most beneficial for real-world application? I’ve been very lucky in that I started last spring volunteering at my local public library (it’s honestly a very small town) and October of last year, I became one of three part-time librarians, none of whom are actually qualified for the job we have, haha. My time there has just made me want to become qualified, to be able to continue this job as full-time. It’s very frustrating to me to be trying to plan my academic course of action and be unable to find out exactly what I should be majoring in. I do plan to continue in public library service – I love the wide range of ages, being able to help toddlers, high school students, parents, and grandparents. I honestly pity those who think librarians just shelve and circulate books! There is so much more done in libraries, even the smallest of them, that no one really realizes.


    July 26, 2010 at 1:21 PM

  33. @ Michele – Thanks for the comment! It’s pretty much open as to what you get your BA in because you will need to get your MLIS in addition. I would choose something you’re interested in. There are ways to apply lots of different bachelor’s programs to librarianship. Some options that might help in a public library environment are education, psychology, humanities, marketing… technology… that’s all I can think of off the top of my head, but I want to stress that your MLIS is the important one – your BA can be pretty much anything without it hurting your chances at a librarian position. Feel free to email me if you have any more questions or want to discuss further 🙂


    August 3, 2010 at 12:40 PM

  34. […] So, you’re thinking about becoming a librarian? […]

  35. […] So, you’re thinking about becoming a librarian? August 2009 34 comments 3 […]

  36. Is it common to end up in the library field after having so many interests you have trouble finding something else to major in? Because that’s possibly where I’m at right now.

    My mom pretty much is pushing me to get further college, I’ve pretty much got my General AA after I get a bunch of paperwork done and apply for it, I’m considering majoring in Psychology for my Bachelor’s because I have a huge interest in Psychology and Anthropology in general, and it’s one of those degrees that supposedly has applications elsewhere, making it easier to transition it to other careers. I have a LOT of interests though – I’m into art, I’m into music, into history, interested in sciences like biology, and of course, reading and writing, both fiction and nonfiction.

    I remember as a kid in middle school, I volunteered as an assistant in our school library and I actually kind of liked shelving books and checking them out. I’m also in great admiration of the librarians both who work in my community college’s library (extremely helpful when I was researching papers!) and who work for the NYPL “Ask a Librarian” service… which is out of area for me (since I don’t live in NY state), but still has helped me with extremely weird questions, such as finding an obscure small town in Texas that my gramma was born in in 1921 and which I wasn’t sure even still existed since I literally couldn’t find it on Google Maps! And yes, they found it – through cemetery records! I love and respect the people who can find hard-to-reach information by quirky, backdoor routes.

    I’m also in admiration of those who manage or preserve collections – such as 19th century ad flyers, obscure indie zines, or the like. Every time I read a Mary Roach book, I’m taken by the wonderfully weird things you can track down with the help of librarians, and as someone who currently works as an archival-quality picture framer (of all things), I understand how difficult and important it is to preserve things (art and documents and memorabilia in my case).

    I also noticed that even though I couldn’t possibly go through the kind of insane bureaucracy public school teachers do for as little pay and respect as they do, that I DO like teaching people or sharing cool info with them. I’m kind of in love with information and sharing of information, I guess.

    I also noticed that while I… am not completely enamored of retail working (though, who is?), I don’t mind helping people find things, and in the retail setting I work in (the framing is a department in a larger store), I like neatening things and making sure everything is in it’s place and properly identifiable both by what it is and its price and everything.

    My biggest passion is “storytelling” – I want to write (I’m focusing on fiction, though I have interest in nonfiction as well), but I know it’s difficult to make a workable living off of writing. And while I DO write, when I get the chance, I want a day job that won’t bore me to tears, to help supplement that (especially since I’m juggling work on three novels at once, none of which is anywhere remotely near completion). Something useful, that exposes me to interesting things, and if I can help people in it, that’s cool too.

    I’ve wondered for a while if all that together would make me predisposed to being a librarian, especially with such a wide range of interests. An archivist or research librarian sounds like a cool profession on the face of it to me – but I’m kind of also awed by the level of skill that the research librarians I’ve talked to and used services by have when it comes to wrangling information. Is this more the thing that you can learn and be taught to do, though? It always seems astounding to me when it’s something really crazy, like finding that town (and the nearest local newspapers from 1921, to boot!), going on nothing more than “I think it’s Wyndom or Windom or Windham or something like that, or it was in 1921, it’s in Texas, and I can’t find it on Google Maps, and I’m not sure it’s still around”. Seriously, they not only found it based on that, they found it through a cemetery listing! Cemetery listing! Which led them to a county and zip code, which helped me find it. That seems borderline magic to me. Do they teach that kind of thing in school or is this something that you kind of learn how to do on the job from other librarians and serendipitous discoveries? I’d love to be able to find that kind of thing.

    Before I take the plunge into going for a Masters, I guess I should find places to volunteer at… you certainly gave me a lot of food for thought!


    October 3, 2011 at 11:58 PM

  37. By the way, some of your links aren’t working! One of them, for the list of ALA-accredited programs, is just out of date, since it gave me a 404. I was able to find information on ALA-accredited programs here:

    So you may want to update that. 🙂


    October 4, 2011 at 12:10 AM

  38. @ Jamie – Thanks so much for letting me know about the broken link, I’ve gone ahead and fixed that. At some point, I plan to go through all of my old posts and double check the links. 🙂

    Having a lot of interests isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It doesn’t necessarily mean that librarianship is the perfect career for you, either. Anthropology would be a cool BA to pair with an MLS… there are a lot of ways you could apply that in a library environment – studying your users, the profession, etc. The University of Rochester has an anthropologist on staff and they have done some really groundbreaking work:

    You won’t do much shelving or checking out of books if you become a librarian. However, I can see from your comments that you have seen the variety of different responsibilities professional librarians have – research help (in person and virtually), preservation, instruction. It’s also a very good sign that you find it important to deliver positive customer service. I think that’s something that gets overlooked in some libraries, but is very important to the experience our users walk away with.

    I am also a writer (mainly creative, but also other things like this blog and different articles for publication) and I find that it pairs well with my academic librarian job (I have time to write, constant inspiration, etc). You can learn anything, if you go into library school with passion and willing to do hard work, I think you can achieve it. I would definitely recommend checking out the hack library school blog to learn more about programs: You’ll learn the basic skills in school, but some of the searching expertise comes from practice – the more you do it, the better you become!

    Thanks so much for your comment. Please feel free to email me if you’d like to talk more about pursuing librarianship. Best of luck!

    Erin Dorney

    October 9, 2011 at 1:13 PM

  39. This is a great resource.

    Evelyn N. Alfred

    November 19, 2011 at 1:23 PM

  40. Hello Erin,
    My name is Zue and I’m 17 years old. I live in Texas and I’m really trying to get a head start as far as becoming a librarian goes. I have always loved to read and I volunteer at my school library. I have basically learned the whole system used to process the books including the check-in and check-out process and the inputting of new books into the system. I am seriously in love with this career however, I do have a couple of questions about which college would be the best to go to for becoming a librarian. Also, before becoming a full time librarian at a school I need to first be a teacher -I have chosen to teach Art for a while- so I need to keep that in mind when searching for a college. If you could help me with that and a couple other questions, I would really appreciate it.
    Thank you so much for your time and help.


    January 2, 2013 at 5:30 AM

  41. @ Zue – Sounds like you are well on your way and you’ve already gotten a lot of good experience. Email me and we can talk about schools (eedorney AT gmail DOT com). Looking forward to talking with you!

    Erin Dorney

    January 4, 2013 at 3:08 PM

  42. Hello Erin

    My name is Renu Arora and I am from India. I have been a library and information science teacher for the last 32 years in my 34 years of working career. I have always loved being a part of this profession although I came into this profession not by choice but due to non-availability of other options in the early 1970s.

    I retired from the position of Head, Education and Training of an information science programme and Editor of the top most library science journal in India. I am presently a consultant – I write and edit lib sci course materials, teach lib sci in open universities, edit lib sci journal and other carry out other LIS related activities.

    Erin I have enjoyed your writing and especially the appropriate wording of the overall piece. God bless you. We belong to a very noble profession and lets keep the good work we are doing on.

    P S : I will pass on this link to many of my students to read.

    Renu Arora

    May 20, 2013 at 3:17 PM

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