The number of new jobs for what might be called traditional librarians—those who work for school libraries or local community libraries—is expected to grow 8 percent between 2008 and 2018, which is an average rate of growth. However, due to the aging population of current librarians (two out of three are 45 or older), many retirements are expected to provide jobs in the coming years.
Jobs for librarians outside traditional settings are expected to grow the fastest, as the expanding amount of information available continues to require professionals who can find, sort and process it. As a result, librarians increasingly are working for private corporations, nonprofit organizations and consulting firms.
Others are becoming independent information professionals, also called information brokers, and setting up businesses to research and manage information for clients.
Salary & Wages
Salaries of librarians vary widely, depending on experience and responsibilities. Median annual earnings of librarians in May 2008 were $52,530. The middle 50 percent earned between $42,240 and $65,300, while the lowest 10 percent earned less than $33,190, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $81,130.
Salaries of librarians in nontraditional settings may be higher. According to the Special Librarian Association, whose members include librarians who work in places such as corporations, hospitals, law offices, and other nontraditional settings, in 2008 its U.S. members averaged salaries of $71,812.
Information broker earnings are difficult to quantify. Amelia Kissel, a veteran information professional who writes about the industry, estimates information brokers gross from $40,000 to $200,000 annually. Net revenues vary widely, depending upon a broker's expenses, experience and enterprise.
What is a Librarian and Information Broker?
Librarians acquire, classify and manage books and other sources of information—including digital media such as audiobooks, CDs, and DVDs; digital libraries; and online databases. They may manage special collections of historical and governmental documents or other materials. They know how to perform research using public and private databases.
Those who work in traditional libraries help students or other library patrons find information. Some librarians perform administrative and supervisory tasks to help run the library; others specialize in technical or user services.
Some librarians work for corporations as business librarians; duties may include gathering competitive intelligence. Some work for hospitals or pharmaceutical companies as medical librarians. Some work for nonprofit organizations; duties may include gathering detailed information about potential donors (these information professionals are sometimes called prospect researchers or donor researchers).
Some information professionals go into business for themselves to provide information for a fee to corporations, nonprofits and individuals. Usually, information brokers or information entrepreneurs do best if they develop subject niches, such as in healthcare or technology; skill niches, such as genealogical research, patent research, database design or indexing; or work within defined geographic regions. Some information brokers provide consulting services in addition to research.
Education & Degree Path
Librarians are required to hold Master of Library Science (MLS) degrees. Many colleges and universities offer library science programs, but employers often prefer graduates of schools accredited by the American Library Association.
Librarians who wish to work in a special library, such as a law, medical or corporate library, often add degrees in subject areas, such as law, business, engineering, sciences or medicine.
Some schools that offer MLS degrees also provide concentrations or seminars in information entrepreneurship and information marketing for those who may wish to become information brokers.
However, information brokers do not necessarily need an MLS degree. The Association of Independent Professionals (AIIP), which represents many information brokers, is comprised of former librarians but also former police and private detectives, market researchers, computer data miners, and journalists, among other professions.
Author and AIIP member Amelia Kassel, who mentors new information brokers, says about half of AIIP members hold MLS degrees, while the rest have a variety of other degrees.
Additional skills needed to become an information broker include business-building and marketing knowledge, as well as advanced research skills, which may or may not be earned via academic degree.
Licensing and Certification. Librarians in public schools and local libraries usually are required to be certified, depending upon the state. Fourteen states require school librarians to hold either an MLS or a master's in education with a specialization in library media. About half of states require school librarians to be certified as teachers, though not all require teaching experience. Some states require exams; some states have certification standards for local libraries.
There is no licensing or certification required to become an information broker. However, some states do require private investigator licenses for brokers whose jobs involve researching other people.
Entering the Field. Those who wish to work in school or local libraries need to earn an MLS, which does not require a specific undergraduate major.
Those who wish to become self-employed information brokers may wish to join a professional association to find training resources and networking opportunities.
Information brokers may need to begin as part-timers or moonlighters in order to build a client base. It may take two or more years before they are able to work in the profession full-time.
Career Changers. Careers that involve information gathering lend themselves to the information-brokering profession, such as police detective or private investigator, journalist, computer data specialist or data miner, lawyers, or market researcher.
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Source for salary and job growth for librarians is the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For more information, visit Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition, Librarians. Sources for salary and job growth information about information brokers and nontraditional librarians include the Special Libraries Association Salary and Workplace Survey and Amelia Kissel, president of Marketingbase.com.