3 Reasons to Pursue Academic Librarianship

3 Reasons to Pursue Academic Librarianship

An Academic Library

While many might think they know what a librarian’s job entails, this idea almost certainly reflects the responsibilities and day-to-day activities of a public librarian rather than an academic one. Academic librarianship is generally less understood than the role of public library counterparts, but a career in an academic library offers many unique benefits and opportunities that often cannot be replicated elsewhere.

The role of the academic librarian is varied. While in general they may help patrons on a one-by-one basis with specific research questions, they also teach students (one classroom at a time) how to access information (bibliographic instruction[1]), they work in scholarly communications[2] (managing the wealth of research the college or university generates), they manage special collections[3] and archives, as well as apply for and manage grants and projects.

While librarians from all different types of backgrounds find jobs in academic libraries, those from the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields are in high demand[4]. With that in mind, here are three key reasons to pursue academic librarianship:

The Responsibilities of an Academic Librarian

At its core, the responsibilities and duties central to academic librarianship are a major draw for many who are contemplating joining the ranks of academic librarians. While a role as an academic librarian shares some similarities with other disciplines within the field of library and information science, a number of unique and distinguishing responsibilities of academic librarianship make this an exciting career path for those with the right aptitudes and inclinations.

First and foremost, an academic librarian’s role is to help support the needs of the library’s patrons. This is true for all librarians, but academic librarians deal with specialized groups ― students and professional academics ― who have more demanding and esoteric information requirements. Some academic librarians do end up concentrating most of their work in one specific area of study, such as Renaissance-era literature. Many academic librarians, however, cover the wide range of subjects that their patrons need help with while researching, providing them with an intellectually stimulating and varied day. For many who enter the field, this need to maintain an internal catalog of information to best serve their patrons is energizing and one of the key reasons they entered the profession.

Due to the impact of technology on the profession as a whole, each academic librarian must focus much of their resources on examining new technological tools and discovering the best way to implement these new practices into their existing framework. Much of this responsibility comes back to a focus on servicing library patrons in general. For those who are natural problem-solvers and like innovating and forging new solutions, this aspect of academic librarianship can be particularly fulfilling.

In general, the field of academic librarianship calls upon the librarian to use a varied array of tools and approaches to solve an equally vast range of problems. Those who find this set of responsibilities exciting might be a good fit for academic librarianship.

Benefits of a Career as an Academic Librarian

While enjoying the prospect of the day-to-day responsibilities and tasks of an academic librarian is important for those considering the field, most potential librarians are also interested in learning more about the tangible benefits of this career path. Fortunately, academic librarianship is a field that comes with many advantages, from salary outlook to the potential for long-term career growth.

First, the median salary for academic librarians is the highest among all of the potential career paths in library and information science. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for librarians employed in university, college, and professional school libraries nationwide was $60,300 as of May 2015. In comparison, the median annual salary for the librarian profession as a whole was $56,880, and all fields of librarianship far outstripped the average earnings of the American worker, which stood at $36,200 in 2015.

Second, the potential for growth within the academic librarianship field is exciting. While the employment rate for librarians as a whole is projected to grow by 2 percent by 2024, the demand for academic librarians is expected to be more robust over the same period. A duo of librarians from Rutgers University and the University of Central Florida set out to analyze job postings from ARL Job Announcements, the ALA JobList, and The Chronicle of Higher Education, the main sources of job listings for academic librarians. These researchers found that the number of jobs available for librarians in this field increased by almost 6.5% between 1996 and 2011. This level of employment growth is very encouraging for those considering entering the field.

Lastly, a career as an academic librarian offers many of the same perks as any academic faculty member. These include strong retirement and health benefits, a recognized place within the institution’s faculty, and generous vacation time.

The Career Opportunities Available to Academic Librarians

Of course, the main responsibility of any academic librarian is to support and help enhance the learning and research efforts of their library’s patrons. Working in an academic library, however, offers other exciting opportunities for those who are dedicated and able to prove their skills.

For example, potential librarians who are also interested in teaching may find opportunities to lead workshops and seminars on their particular topics of interest. Such workshops are often conducted by an experienced academic librarian in conjunction with the appropriate college or university department. For many who were also considering pursuing a path in college-level teaching, this opportunity can offer the best of both worlds.

Similarly, many academic librarians who are interested and have the proper background are given the opportunity to pursue research endeavors of their own. While this is not true of all institutions and for all academic librarians, those academic librarians who are able to secure tenure track positions are often afforded these research opportunities. This potential to conduct original research is another example of a complementary role that satisfies the interests of many considering entering academic librarianship. One librarian at the University of Souther California assists researchers who analyze ancient manuscripts, including the Dead Sea Scrolls[5].

In general, all academic librarians are expected to keep abreast of new information and research as presented in scholarly journals, new book releases and other media, many who pursue this path are able to satisfy their personal intellectual curiosity and interest in knowledge. Academic librarianship is not well-suited to all potential librarians; however, those with the proper inclinations and aptitudes can find that the benefits offered by this career path are vast.

Does a career as an academic librarian appeal to you? A Master of Management in Library and Information Science online from the University of Southern California can help empower you to achieve your goals by providing you with the skill set and theoretical foundations needed to succeed in academic librarianship. To find out more, visit the University of Southern California online.


[1] http://jan.ucc.nau.edu/~kjr/bikatheewebpage.html

[2] http://www.arl.org/focus-areas/scholarly-communication#.WQjz02nyuUk

[3] http://www.arl.org/focus-areas/research-collections#.WQj03mnyuUk

[4] https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1069536

[5] . https://libraries.usc.edu/article/technology-developed-leta-hunt-shines-light-dead-sea-scrolls