Librarian Job Description, Salary, and Skills

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Interested in a job as a librarian? Here’s information on what librarians do, specializations, educational requirements, skills employers seek, and what you can expect to get paid.

Librarian Job Responsibilities

Librarians evaluate books and other informational resources for consideration as additions to collections. They organize resources so that patrons can easily find the material that they desire.

Librarians assess the research needs of individual visitors and identify the necessary resources. Librarians arrange speakers, entertainers, and workshops to educate and entertain patrons. They publicize services to their constituency and endeavor to expand the use of library resources. 

Libraries are increasing the use of digital delivery systems to present resources to patrons at their facilities and remotely through the internet. Librarians evaluate systems for storing and delivering digital content and follow technology trends in the field. They evaluate and purchase computers, electronic databases, and software for their facility.

Library managers and directors formulate budgets and recruit, train and supervise staff.

Work Environment and Specializations

Librarians work for colleges, corporations, schools, law firms, hospitals, prisons, and museums as well as traditional community libraries. Some librarians become specialists with expertise in areas like music, art, law, science, social science or literature collections.

They focus on evaluating materials for purchase and advising patrons regarding how to access and utilize that type of information. Librarians can also specialize in serving specific populations like scientists, artists, medical professionals, lawyers, prisoners, children, or youth.

Educational Requirements

Librarians typically complete an undergraduate degree in any discipline and then acquire a Masters in Library Science. Individuals intending to specialize in a particular content area benefit from an undergraduate major in a related area.

For example, art majors are well equipped to be art librarians, legal studies majors to be law librarians, and biology, chemistry, and physics majors to oversee science collections.

Librarian Salaries

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, librarians earned an average of $59,050 in 2018. The bottom 10% of librarians earned $34,630 or less while the top 10% earned at least $94,050.

Library area managers and library directors earn higher salaries while library assistants and technicians earn considerably less.

Librarian Skills List

Here's a list of librarian skills employers seek in the candidates they hire. Skills will vary based on the position for which you're applying, so also review our list of skills listed by job and type of skill.

Collections Management

Perhaps the most important job of librarians is to be highly accurate custodians of the physical and digital collections for which they are responsible.

  • Acquisitions
  • Archival Collections
  • Cataloging Operations
  • Collection Development
  • Digital Archiving
  • Digital Curation
  • Digital Preservation
  • Digital Projects
  • Document Management
  • Interlibrary Loans
  • LexisNexis Librarianship
  • MARC Records
  • Mobile Environments
  • Organization
  • Preservation
  • Project Management
  • Reference Materials
  • Reference Tools
  • Shelving
  • Special Projects

Communication and Interpersonal

Librarians must stand ready to provide efficient and supportive assistance to library patrons from all walks of life. Whether it’s helping people to locate books and resources, checking out books, or assisting in research, strong communication and customer service skills are essential.

  • Book Selection
  • Circulation
  • Circulation Services
  • Collaboration
  • Communications
  • Computer
  • Customer Service
  • Facilitation
  • Marketing
  • Oral Communication
  • Public Service
  • Supervision
  • Teamwork
  • Training
  • Verbal Communications
  • Written Communications


Librarians use powerful analytical thinking skills to troubleshoot issues, perform library research, identify the individual needs of patrons, and define opportunities for process improvements and policy development.

  • Evaluating Library Services
  • Evaluating Stakeholder Needs
  • Interpreting
  • Library Policy Development
  • Time Management
  • Troubleshooting


With the widespread adoption in all libraries of automated circulation and catalog systems and, most recently, of digital collections, knowledge of current and emerging library technologies is a critical skill for librarians.

  • Computer
  • Information Technology
  • Internet
  • jQuery
  • Learning Updated Technologies
  • Microsoft Office
  • Software
  • WebCast


In both school and public libraries, librarians are often called upon to create educational programs to introduce users to the resources that are available to them.

  • Coaching
  • Instruction
  • Instructional Design
  • Instructional Materials
  • Lecturing
  • Material Selection
  • MLIS Degree


Research librarians are key members of the staff of colleges, public schools, and law libraries.

  • Catalog Searches
  • Database Search
  • Documentation
  • Research Assistance
  • Searching OPACs

Librarian Interview Questions

Below you can review many of the most common questions that are posed by library hiring committees to potential candidates for open librarian positions:

  • Describe a particularly stressful or chaotic situation at the reference desk and tell me how you handled the incident.
  • Tell me about a job you held where you had to multitask. How did you handle successfully completing each task?
  • Tell me about a time when you had a conflict with a coworker. How did you handle the situation? What would you have done differently?
  • What would you do if you were unsure of how to answer a reference question?
  • Imagine you heard a staff member provide a patron with an incorrect answer. What would you do?
  • What would you do if you were assisting a person at the reference desk and the telephone rang?
  • How would you integrate technology into your work with teens and children?
  • How would you recommend promoting reading for secondary school children? Name two books you have read within the past two months and describe one of them as though you were recommending it to a patron.
  • Do you have any experience with audio-visual materials?
  • Do you have any experience with setting up displays?
  • Tell me about a team or group project you have worked on and how you contributed to it.
  • Tell me about a presentation you recently gave at work or school. How did you prepare for the presentation?