Reference Librarian: Job Description, Salary and Duties

May 05, 2021

With a master's degree in library science it is possible to begin a career as a reference librarian. Librarians help people find information or specific material of interest to them. They also maintain and organize the content of a library so that people can access it easily.

Essential Information

A reference librarian is responsible for helping patrons find books and other materials in a library. Many of these professionals work for public libraries, schools and universities. However, some corporations hire these professionals to assist in finding information that could help the company's performance. A master's degree in library science or library and information science is typically required to work as a reference librarian, and individuals may opt to earn law or teaching credentials alongside the degree. In addition, teacher certification may be required for those working in public school libraries.

Required Education Master's degree in library science
Projected Job Growth (2019-2029) 5% for all librarians*
Median Salary (2020) $60,820 annually for all librarians*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Requirements

An aspiring research librarian should have a master's degree in library science, which can take two years to complete. An undergraduate degree is typically required to enroll in a Master of Science in Library Science (MSLS) or a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) program. In these programs, students learn how to evaluate resources and determine their appropriateness for a given audience, to organize materials in a library and to determine how patrons may use information. Some schools offer programs that lead to certification as an education professional or to a dual degree that allows students to earn a master's degree in library science and a law degree simultaneously.

Duties of a Reference Librarian

The American Library Association's (ALA) Reference and User Services Association notes that a research librarian's job is to assist users in finding information. The ALA describes a research librarian's duty as organizing reference materials in a system that is easy to access. In addition to providing direct service to patrons, a reference librarian's duties include staying up-to-date on the different types of references available.

Salary and Career Information

The BLS does not differentiate between salary amounts for different types of librarians, such as a reference librarian and an automated systems librarian. The organization did project that between the years 2019 and 2029, the number of job openings for librarians in the United States will increase by 5%. In May 2020, there were 135,070 individuals working as librarians. The BLS reported in May 2020 that librarians earned a median annual wage of $60,820.

From 2019-2029 the job growth expected for librarians will be faster than average when compared to all occupations. Applicants need to have a master's degree in library science to compete for jobs in this field.

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