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How do I Learn about Careers in Library Science?: Academic Libraries

Learning About Academic Librarians

Academic Library [ak-uh-dem-ik  lahy-brer-ee] - "A library that is an integral part of a college, university, or other institution of postsecondary education, administered to meet the information and research needs of its students, faculty, and staff." (definition courtesy of ODLIS)

Academic libraries may also be referred to as:

  • college library
  • departmental library (specialized libraries that focus on specific disciplines; typical on larger campuses)
  • graduate library
  • research library
  • undergraduate library
  • university library

Academic libraries may also be either general or specialized on a specific subject, as in a business library or law library.

Academic librarianship offers a diverse array of career options. The larger the library, the more specialized a librarian's role. Smaller academic libraries typically have librarians performing multiple librarianship roles.

Here's a sample list of roles/tasks in academic librarianship:

  • Research Assistance desk
  • teaching
  • cataloging new books/materials
  • selecting books/materials in particular areas
  • serving as faculty and departmental liaisons
  • maintaining library web pages and online collections

Again, roles and responsibilities will vary by position.


Search for librarian jobs in academic libraries currently open on ALA Joblist and check out the job's responsibilities or desired/preferred qualifications to get an idea of what types of roles are out there.

Most professional-level librarian positions require an ALA accredited master's degree in library and information science.

In addition, some academic library positions will require a second master's degree in a different subject area.

Tenure vs Non-Tenure Positions

What is tenure?

Tenure is the guarantee of permanent employment, granted by an academic institution to a faculty member for satisfactory performance upon completion of a specified number of years of service and accomplishments. Naturally, nothing is permanent and even tenured faculty can be terminated only for adequate cause (incompetence, criminal activities, etc.).

What does the tenure process involve?

Every insistution will have different guidelines/criteria that deteremines the tenure process. Academic librarians on the tenure track (the process to get tenure) in addition to their daily duties, must research and publish/present their findings, as well as be involved with service at the campus and/or professional level.

Do all academic librarians go through the tenure process?

Nope, only academic librarians who have faculty status are often held to similar tenure and promotion requirements as other faculty. Faculty status for librarians will vary by library and job type. Always review the job description to find out if tenure would be a requirement.

difference between non-tenured faculty and tenured. "Tenured vs. Untenured," Piled Higher and Deeper. April 20, 2010.

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