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Career Pathways

Career Pathway: Library & Information Science

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Library and information science is a dynamic and multidisciplinary field. Library and information science professionals are the architects of knowledge, utilizing a blend of technological expertise and organizational skills to facilitate access to information. Whether it’s in traditional libraries, digital archives, or information-rich environments, you can play a crucial role in connecting people with the resources that they need. As we’re becoming increasingly dependent on information, the skills acquired in Library and information science are invaluable not only to librarians, but also to those in industries such as data management, research, and technology. It’s a skillset that helps to drive business strategies that benefit both people and organizations alike.

Not convinced yet? Here’s some information to give you an idea of what the industry has to offer and where it’s heading.

An infographic explains three benefits to developing library and information science skills, including far-reaching impact, desirable payscale, and knowledge sharing.
Source: UNESCO Institute of Statistics

Let’s review this skill set together by discussing how library and information science expertise can be acquired, applied, and transformed into a fulfilling career. 

What can I do with library and information science skills?

Library and information science professionals perform a wide range of tasks depending on their specific roles and expertise. Let’s delve into several key responsibilities typically associated with individuals possessing library and information science skills.

Information management — Develop expertise in organizing, cataloging, and managing information resources, allowing you to create efficient and accessible systems for organizing data, whether in traditional libraries or digital environments.

Research and analysis — Acquire skills in information retrieval, data analysis, and research methodologies, making you adept at conducting thorough investigations, extracting valuable insights, and providing well-informed solutions. 

Technology integration — Stay at the forefront of technological advancements, gaining the ability to leverage emerging tools and platforms to enhance information access, storage, and dissemination. Become an asset in roles related to information technology, data science, and digital content management.

Listen as David Mercer, a librarian and graphic designer, shares a must-have skill in the library & information science field. 

A headshot of David M.

And I would stress that for people first entering the field, you’re going to make mistakes because a key aspect of the field in information science is, it’s what they pay you for, processing large amounts of information. So it’s a certain skill set and a certain way of thinking. You have to be very comfortable with learning. Increasingly, into the 21st century, with information science, you have to be rather tech savvy. I’m thinking of some events such as girls that code. And also 3D printing is a big trend in libraries. One of the events I plan on attending is called computers and libraries. It’s a conference here. It’s for the most part located in Arlington, Virginia. I think being very comfortable with technology and then embracing the technological trends as they arrive. And you also want to be proactive in this area. Because if you don’t, it’s really difficult to remain relevant in the field.

Discover your career opportunities

A career in library and information science opens the door to a wide range of career opportunities where knowledge can be shared in diverse ways. Here are some roles accessible to candidates possessing this skill set.

An infographic shows library and information science-related job titles.

Expert advice

“Critical skills for librarians and information professionals include information literacy, adaptability to technological changes, effective communication, strong customer service, organizational abilities, proficiency with technology and databases, reference and research skills, problem-solving, cultural competence, and collaboration.”

– Irene T., career expert at edX

How can I acquire library and information science skills and turn them into a career?

If you’re interested in pursuing your own career in library and information science, we recommend considering these steps:

Research is key in any career, and a career in library and information science is certainly no exception. Take advantage of all the information available, whether browsing the internet for job titles, listening to relevant podcasts, or getting connected to professionals in the areas or positions that interest you.

Pro tip:
Explore your career possibilities. As part of your research, take every opportunity to learn more about topics in your desired field. Browse the edX course catalog at edx.org to see what library and information science-related topics, courses, and programs interest you, and start building your library and information science skills today.

One key part of the research phase is networking. This simple step is often overlooked and undervalued but can significantly impact your career trajectory. To clarify your career goals and aspirations, you must talk with professionals about what the work looks like. 

You open a door of opportunity in your career by reaching out to professionals in your targeted fields, positions, and companies. Connecting with library and information science professionals who could vouch for you and provide hard-to-find intel about the industries or organizations of interest is invaluable.

Pro tip:
We highly recommend scheduling informational interviews to learn from and connect with library and information science professionals and hiring managers to gather information. These contacts can help you learn new skills, offer advice, and share job opportunities.

Check out our Networking guide and Networking outreach samples for help getting started.

To supplement your understanding of what others are doing professionally, gain clarity on your goals and aspirations. Ask yourself what it is about library and information science that interests you — the possibilities are endless.

As a library and information science professional, you will need transferable skills that will help you to serve diverse groups of people with various information needs. Below is a list of skills relevant to success in the field of library and information science.

Transferable skills

  • Time management
  • Social media savvy
  • Customer service 
  • Data-driven 
  • Attention to detail
  • Strong communication 
  • Organized
  • Project management
  • Quality-assurance
  • Ethical responsibility 

Library and information science-specific skills

  • Library and cataloging
  • People management
  • Budget management
  • Teaching
  • Data storage
  • Public relations
  • Archiving
  • Database administration
  • Content development and management
  • Research

There are many ways for you to learn library and information science skills. We recommend selecting a path that aligns best with your needs and learning style. Here are a few options to consider:

Self-education — If you are looking to learn asynchronously, informally, or casually, self-education is a great place to start. Many approaches to self-education support various career goals, budgets, learning styles, and time commitments. Here are some ways to self-educate in library and information science: 

  • Informal opportunities: Gain a greater understanding of the industry by reading. Explore books, articles, and even research papers to expand your knowledge and learn what’s happened or is happening in the field. In addition to reading, there are plenty of videos, podcasts, and other forms of multimedia that can teach you a thing or two about careers or work related to library and information science.
  • Online Courses: If you prefer a more structured or socialized learning experience, online courses might be a good option. edX.org offers several instructor-led and self-paced courses that may be of interest.

Professional certifications — Adding professional certifications to your library and information science resume is a great way to learn new skills and refine existing ones. edX.org offers many certificate programs in the field of library and information science that may interest you.

Degree programs — To gain a deep understanding of library and information science, research and teaching methods, strategies for sharing knowledge, and user-interaction, a degree in library and information science may be a good choice for you. A degree will help you establish authority in the field and speak to various approaches within library and information science.

Interviewing for library and information science positions will likely rely on behavioral interviewing questions. These questions will ask about your behaviors in past scenarios as a way to gauge how you would react in future settings. Potential employers will want to know how you stay adaptable, manage tasks, and how you engage with clients.

Helpful resources:
The career team at edX has resources and workshops to help you fine-tune your application materials and prepare for interviews. Start with the Library and information science sample interview questions, Sample LinkedIn summaries for library and information science professionals, and Library and information science resume sample.

Once you achieve your career goal, celebrate your success. The career journey is full of ups and downs; every victory deserves acknowledgment.

With that said, your journey doesn’t end here — it’s only just beginning. Give yourself grace and understand that careers are not linear. Here are some ways you could continue growing your library and information science skills.

Continued learning — Always make sure to reference our course catalog on edX.org for continued learning opportunities. Now that you’ve secured a career in library and information science, it never hurts to build upon industry knowledge or become a subject matter expert in areas that apply to your work, interests, or something in between.

Promotions —  As you gain experience and exposure to the various facets in library and information science, you may find opportunities to advance your career. To position yourself well for promotions, you will need to stay up to date with library and information science topics and trends and develop leadership skills. 

Promotions in library and information science:
Here are a few senior roles you may want to work toward as you advance your career in library and information science:

Senior librarian —  Manage library staff and oversee specific departments in the library. 

Library director —  Responsible for the overall leadership and management of all aspects of the library. This includes strategic planning, budgeting and community engagement. 

Chief information officer (CIO) —  Oversees the management of library and broader information technology functions. 

Regional manager — Manage regional resources and lead librarians within the region.

What could my career look like with an library and information science skill set?

It is difficult to say exactly what your life would look like with a library and information science skill set, but we can provide some insight. Consider how these may factor into your life plan:

Diverse career opportunities — Library and information science professionals have access to a wide range of career opportunities. Managing and organizing information in various settings requires a diverse skill set, and with this, library and information science professionals can work in fields ranging from libraries, archives, and museums, to data management, information technology, and research. 

Adaptability in the digital age — The diverse skill set of library and information science professionals ensure that they are well-equipped to manage digital resources. Living in the digital age where information can be accessed from anywhere, library and information science professionals are well positioned to develop digital libraries and manage electronic databases. 

Information literacy advocacy — Information literacy is a key factor in library and information science, and these professionals are responsible for educating individuals on how to effectively locate and use information. 

Community engagement and outreach — Libraries and information centers play an important role in communities. Professionals in the field often use their skills to engage with communities by providing educational programs, workshops, and outreach services. Many libraries also accept volunteers from the public to contribute to community work.

Expert advice

“In today’s world, the information literacy and critical thinking skills that a librarian is trained in are very valuable skills to show others. Many people use information sources that have little credibility, and a librarian can help show people how to acquire information in a way that gives them a more balanced, reliable and researched understanding of whatever topics they are interested in.”

– Frank P., librarian

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What are my next steps?

Learn more about library and information science:

Register for a course on edX to learn about a variety of topics within the field of library and information studies, such as Public Library Marketing and Public Relations, Identifying Community Needs for Public Library Management, and Strategic Planning for Public Libraries.

Watch a session

Watch a relevant session on our Events page to learn more about the industry.


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