What advice do you have for an aspiring librarian?

Last week as I was writing for the Day in the Life Project I got an email from Shannon asking for professional advice, since I’m not a School Librarian, I feel ill equipped to give it.  Instead I suggested that I post the questions on my blog for other librarians to answer.  I know we’re a really great group people that love to give advice!  Shannon said she was up for it, so here is a modified version of her email.

Hi my name is Shannon. I got your email from your blog that was listed on the Day in the life of a librarian wiki. I just wanted to know if you could give me some advice on switching careers to become a school librarian or a librarian who specializes in youth literature etc.

I have a B.S. in Journalism and Mass Comm from North Carolina A&T State University and a MS in New Media from Syracuse University. I work as a online producer/video editor at a newspaper.

My plan was to become a teacher (teaching English literature) work for a 2 or 3 years then get a Masters in Library Science with an endorsement in school media. This will take me roughly 6 years because it will take a year in a half for me to do my pre-reqs then the certification program is 3 semesters long. I planned to do this first since I’ve heard that school librarians/media specialist need to have teaching experience.

But now I am torn and do not know if I should go straight for the MLS with a concentration in school media. I will have to get the MLS through distance learning and I have already found the list of ALA accredited  Masters programs online. The only problem is none of them are in my state (Virginia). I want a MLS so I can have options in the library field outside of just a school library endorsement.

Could you tell me what would be the best path to achieve the career as a librarian that I am interested in? Do all librarians get to teach classes on certain topics, teach children about items too? Thank you so much you help is greatly appreciated

I know someone, or several someones, out there have answers to her questions.  She is reading so please let her know what you think!

3 thoughts on “What advice do you have for an aspiring librarian?

  1. Hi! I’m currently an out-of-work school librarian in the UK. It’s kind of sad but the library does attract some kids who are socially excluded and they can be really hard work at times. One of the most rewarding things you can do is getting them to participate with others on library projects and sometimes building new friendships. Sounds kind of patronising but one of the things I miss about working in a school is those kids who come in every day just to have a chat : ) It’s such a great job.Good luck.
    I nearly forgot to mention the fact that PEOPLE ARE CRAZY! Sometimes when working in libraries it helps to remind yourself of this.


  2. First off: don’t go into librarianship expecting that you can get a good job without relocating. Geographic flexibility is key to happiness if you want more than a job. And while this sounds cynical, it’s really just practical. If you go into pub or school libs, a huge chunk of your job will be managing user behavior (proof in the stack of law enforcement biz cards I have accumulated in the past year). A lot of people don’t want to learn how to fish. They want you to catch, cook and serve the fish up to them. As a public librarian, I’ve stopped trying to edumacate those folks and focus on the ones who show delight when they realize they are not helpless. That’s what keeps me going.


  3. My biggest piece of advice is to be sure that this is the direction you want to go in. I knew a lot of people who went to library school and then realized they didn’t want to do it after all once they became familiar with what libraries are really like vs. what people think they are like.

    As a previous commenter said, you will need to be geographically flexible to get a job (I moved from the north east into Michigan and interviewed in places like Oklahoma and the deep south where I never would have considered moving otherwise). And be willing to take a pay cut (probably) and accept the risk of constantly losing your job (libraries are not the most stable places funding wise, but hey, if you’re coming from journalism you’re probably used to it).

    My best piece of advise is to go volunteer at your local public library for a little while to make sure that this is the direction you want to go in. If you volunteer there for 6 months or a year and you still want a career in childrens librarianship – then GO FOR IT. Life is too short to be unhappy. But if you realize 2 months in that you can’t stand cleaning up bodily fluids or aren’t tough enough to handle teens (this is why I’m not a childrens librarian – I’m too thin skinned), then you haven’t lost anything.


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