How to Get a Library Job With No Experience Getting a Job at a Library: Required Positions How to Get a Job in a Library How to Apply for a Library Job Questions Often Asked at a Library Job Interview Top 5 Highest Paying Librarian Jobs Final Word
How to Get a Library Job With No Experience Getting a Job at a Library: Required Positions How to Get a Job in a Library How to Apply for a Library Job Questions Often Asked at a Library Job Interview Top 5 Highest Paying Librarian Jobs Final Word
Updated 24/11/2020

How to Get a Library Job With No Experience

Although the highest paid jobs in any academic library would require a master’s degree in library science. Private and public libraries still have many more other positions giving applicants a chance without library experience to unlock their potential. Find out how to find a library job and how to apply for it.

Although the highest paid jobs in any academic library would require a master’s degree in library science. Private and public libraries still have many more other positions giving applicants a chance without library experience to unlock their potential. Find out how to find a library job and how to apply for it.

In today’s depressing economic climate, a ‘library job’ implies different positions for people with different skills and backgrounds. Some see themselves working as librarians while others can make do with a page position or as a summer reading tutor. Let’s try to untangle how library degrees fare in the job market and what kinds of library jobs are available for applicants with various skills.

Forbes has been including Master’s in Library and Information Science (MLIS) in the Top 10 Worst Master’s Degrees for Jobs for a decade now. Drawing on early and mid-career pay and job prospects, Forbes ranked MLIS fourth in 2016 and seventh in 2017 because of mid-career salary ranging from $46,800-$55,000 and pay growth of 17%. To this, the President of the American Library Association responds by taking higher moral ground and citing “fulfillment in their work because [librarians] provide essential services for patrons of public, school, college, university, and other libraries.”

While you are contemplating whether to join the profit-centered Forbes or a seemingly altruistic ALA, take a look at real hard data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics: if you are just entering the librarian job market, you may find yourself in the bottom 10% of librarians earning $34,630 or less. At the same time, you can aspire to move up and reach the top 10% achieving a salary of at least $94,050. If this salary bracket fits your ambitions nicely, let’s see what the market can offer you.


Getting a Job at a Library: Required Positions

The role of a librarian requires professional qualifications, such as knowing how to organization systems work, how to use library software, etc. At the very least, you will need a bachelor’s degree for a librarian assistant position. If you want to work at a university library or move up the professional ladder, an MLIS or a related degree is needed. MLIS degree holders learn how to work with archives, manage digital and analog data, and maintain digital libraries. As you can see, modern librarians need to be tech-savvy and digitally literate, among other things.

However, libraries employ not only librarians. That is where your no-experience background can fit in. If you get hired, you can later try to move up the career ladder. Let’s see what you’re choosing from:

  • Library Assistant. Some libraries may accept library assistants with any bachelor’s degree or even without a degree. Your work duties will include helping people look for a book they need, checking out books, and charging overdue fees.

  • Page. Pages may have no library-related qualifications apart from their willingness to work with books. They are in charge of returning books to their shelves. Often pages work part-time.
  • Library Manager. This position is more about managing in general, as their responsibilities include managing employees, budgets, and work schedules. If you have managerial experience, it is quite possible to find employment in a library as well.
  • Summer Reading Tutor. It’s a temporary position for running special activities to attract new guests and entertain patrons. Usually, students come in the summer to read stories to preschoolers or help young students who struggle with reading skills to ‘catch up.’
  • Miscellaneous. Each library may have one or two unorthodox positions depending on its workload and work type. Some libraries are active in throwing Meet the Author events; others host courses for immigrants, and they all need someone to arrange and control all the details.

As you can see, libraries offer a variety of career opportunities. So if you are puzzling over how to get a library job with no library qualification, pay attention to the above positions and look for them on job boards. Remember, you can land a library job even without an MLIS if you have the necessary skills.

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Skills and Qualifications for a Library Job

If you have never worked in a library, don’t linger on your lack of experience. Focus on your skills. For example, see whether you’re good with people or computers. Both technical skills and communication skills can come in handy when looking for a role at a library. Usually, hiring managers expect applicants for a library job to have:

Strong Interpersonal Skills. Librarian jobs involve close contact with people of any age, social group, education level, and culture. In addition to constant communication with library users and staff, librarians also teach classes and hold lectures.

Customer Service Skills. While helping to find a book on the shelf or instructing how to use a database, librarians are expected to possess a service-oriented attitude. Polite and patient, a good librarian always demonstrates their willingness to help a customer.

Administrative and Organization Skills. Librarians not only keep an eye on late fees and getting books on the shelves but are also responsible for fundraising and promotional activities for the library. From organizing materials on analog and digital shelves to supervising events and support staff, librarians are in charge of making it easier to find information.

Computer and Internet Literacy Skills. Modern libraries are equipped with computers and give access to digital databases. Librarians should be comfortable instructing library users on how to search for the data they need. Also, they need to know how to index and update online library resources.

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How to Get a Job in a Library

Finding a job in any field entails standard steps: visiting the websites of the companies where you would like to work, checking out job boards, and networking. To narrow it down to a library job search, make sure you try out all of the below-mentioned job searching methods:

  • Job Search Websites. This is the go-to method for any job search. When seeking a library job, check out as many job search websites as the Internet names you. Such websites usually have well-organized search engines, and you can look for other positions where the skills you have are required.
  • Bulletin Boards. As non-profit organizations, libraries use bulletin boards to fill in the workforce they need. Each library has an online bulletin board for announcements as well as currently available vacancies.
  • Local Government Websites. Many public libraries advertise their vacancies on local government websites.
  • Recruiters. Look specifically for recruiters specialized in libraries and database-related positions ( Top recruiters stay in touch with hiring managers and let you know about open vacancies.
  • LinkedIn. Finding a library job through social media is not as straightforward as the other methods. It will require you to find out the profiles of heads of libraries or hiring managers and follow them. Become active in creating and responding to interesting library-related content. Also, prune your LinkedIn profile: add your professional goal, list your skills and achievements, mention the latest certificates and courses.
  • Networking. Knowing librarians and other library staff may help you learn quickly about job openings and other important information. Besides, hiring for libraries is often done by the board, so getting to know the board members can help. Use your polished LinkedIn profile to reach them or attend a job fair. When you are in the middle of a job search, Forbes suggests job seekers ask themselves daily: “Have I networked with five or more people today.”
  • Research local politics, as wikiHow recommends. Look for information about the library and its funding. If you find out that it has services cut, think twice about applying there. You can end up just wasting your time.

Getting a Library Job without Experience

When you have no professional experience in the library environment, volunteering is always a convincing first step. You are so keen on working at a library that you do it for free for the time being!

After you get the hang of assisting with displays, shelving books, and arranging literacy programs/fundraising/book donations, you will have a better chance to get a paid position.


How to Apply for a Library Job

Applying for a library job starts with application writing: resume + cover letter. These application documents are a must in today’s job market. Our recommendations will help you make them effective and increase your chances of landing a job interview even without experience.


If you never wrote a resume in your life, you need to get a sense of the rules and conventions of job application submission.

  • Use keywords. Most companies use computer applicant tracking systems to screen job applicants. To get through the ATS, include keywords from the job listing. For example, if you use ‘BA in English’ instead of ‘Bachelor’s in English’ as in the job description, the system will not mark your resume as meeting the requirements.
  • Tailor your resume for each librarian job you apply to ensure you meet the particular needs of the potential employer. Don’t use a generic resume for all instances of job search.
  • Include relevant experience. If you are entry-level, here’s experiences that can be useful in a library job: customer service, volunteering at a library, doing extensive research for a thesis, working with the Dewey Decimal System or the Library of Congress Classification System, etc.

Check out ready-made resumes for a librarian position and a library assistant job.

Cover letter

Each resume requires a cover letter to give a brief description of your motivation and qualifications.

  • Highlight your organizational skills, communication skills, and computer competencies that would make you an excellent fit for the position.
  • Demonstrate your interest in the library and activities it organizes.

See samples of a librarian cover letter and a library assistant cover letter.

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Questions Often Asked at a Library Job Interview

Whether you have library experience or not, prepare for an interview by thinking about situations in the past and in the future where you used or will use library-related skills. Think about how you would answer these questions to get ready for an interview:

  • Tell about your experience working in customer service?
  • Give an example of a time when you successfully resolved a dispute between coworkers.
  • Do you think libraries are still important in a highly digitalized world?
  • Have you ever researched any topics extensively? Which research methods did you use?
  • How would you handle a disturbance in the library?
  • Do you have any psychological tactics to calm down an angry patron?
  • How do you direct library users when they ask you about a specific book?
  • What is good customer service for you?

Top 5 Highest Paying Librarian Jobs

Earlier, an MLIS degree was mentioned as one of the requirements for the role of a librarian. If you have a master’s degree in library science, you can look for a job outside public libraries. Your degree may qualify you to earn a higher salary than at a local library. Here are the Top 5 highest paying librarian jobs:

  • Federal Government Librarian. The US government pays well. If your degree and skills allow you to find employment with the Library of Congress, Air Force Materiel Command, Office of the Secretary of Health and Human Services, National Archives, or Environmental Protection Agency, you will be able to make more than $70,000 a year.
  • University Librarian. University and college librarians usually get higher salaries than school librarians. Which also means higher competition, though. As of October 2020, the median salary is $76,000.
  • Special Librarian. Medical, legal and corporate libraries need librarians who brandish not only an MLIS but some experience and knowledge in a specialized field. For example, a master’s in political sciences, law, or public policy can win you the role of a librarian in a legal library. In turn, law librarians have a median salary of around $56,000.
  • Private library employee. Employers at private libraries commonly offer librarians a better pay than for similar positions at public libraries.
  • Curator. Your advanced library degree can bring you a position in an adjacent field, such as an art curator or a historic exhibition curator. Curator salaries starting from $49,000 and are expected to grow by 16% by 2021.

Final Word

Our last word of advice is to work on your application documents. We currently live in a world where appearances matter the most at the initial stages. Recruiters and hiring managers don’t know you, so your resume and cover letter help create a proper impression. If you have no MLIS degree, you can still get your foot in the door of a library and land a position by submitting a polished and well-worded resume and cover letter. Even having no experience, correctly crafted application documents showcase your skills and education in the most beneficial way.

Don’t get discouraged if you have dreamed of a library job for a long time but turn out lacking some skill. If working at a library has long been your burning desire, start from an internship or a page position, and work your way up. It’s always heart-wrenching to begin looking for a job without experience. But your efforts are worth it because it is this job that will give you the experience and skills that will take your career to a new level in the future. Chin up! You’re on the right track.

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