How to Become a Librarian in Montana

Montana Librarian Education

Recently, the Montana State Library, which had been sharing space in the Joseph P. Mazurek Justice Building in Helena, moved into its own 7200 square foot building on Helena’s 11th Avenue. The building was formerly occupied by the Office of Public Instruction. Montana State Library had been under-utilizing the 27,300 square feet of space it leased in the justice building, as the library moved its collections online and changed to a digital-first model of service. The physical demands of the library therefore shrunk, and the OPI’s vacated space made more sense, both physically and economically, for the Montana State Library to house. 

The move of the state library is the perfect example of a switch in library delivery services that is occurring all across the United States. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, many libraries were beginning to offer more digital services than physical, in-person services. The pandemic increased many libraries’ offerings of digital and online services, when in-person services were no longer feasible. Now, many libraries are looking at downsizing their space in keeping with the needs of the library and its patrons. 

As of fiscal year 2019, the Montana Public Library Task Force reports 424,227 registered library users, with total circulation of 6,120,962. There were 4,052,887 statewide library visits that year, with registered library users making up 43 percent of the total service area population.

Becoming a librarian in Montana can make for an exciting, fulfilling career. If you want to learn more about how you can enter into this customer and information service profession, you have come to the right place.

What Does a Montana Librarian Do?

There are more than just public librarians working across Montana, of course. Other types of librarians include, but are not limited to, school, academic, medical, science, law, archive, and museum librarians. While their job descriptions all differ, a few tasks are likely the same among them, such as:

  • Help in the development, implementation, and assessment of the library’s online infrastructure
  • Support existing online users
  • Assist library patrons with both in-person and online requests and queries
  • Assist library patrons in usage of library technology and online services
  • Be comfortable working with diverse staff and library patrons
  • Communicate well both orally and in writing
  • Develop and present library programs
  • Liaison with the community, promoting the library

What Education is Necessary to Become a Librarian in Montana?

Librarians in Montana should have a Master of Library Science (MLS) or Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) or related degree, from a program that holds accreditation through the American Library Association (ALA). Although there are no ALA-approved degree programs within the state of Montana, your degree may be from any state or online, as long as it is ALA-approved. Some librarian positions at smaller public libraries or specialty libraries may accept librarians who have a bachelor’s degree and experience in lieu of a master’s degree. Additionally, school librarians in Montana generally need a master’s degree and a teaching license, although some may accept school librarians with a bachelor’s degree and a Class 2 teaching license. 

What Certification is Necessary for Montana Librarians?

Only public library directors in Montana need to be certified. Certification is voluntary for all other librarians. Continuing education is mandatory for public library directors and encouraged for all other staff. 

Public library directors must complete the Library Administrator Track, including 60 continuing education credits in four years, with 20 of those credits in library administration and 10 in other CE categories (collection management and technical services, library services to the public, and technology). If a director has a MLS or MLIS degree earned within the last four years, they can apply for certification immediately. All certificates are valid for four years, and directors must complete CE requirements every four years to maintain certification.

Montana’s school librarians must also have a teaching certificate/license and endorsement in the library media services area. This involves getting a master’s or bachelor’s degree, and passing a variety of tests. 

Where Do Librarians Work in Montana?

Jobs within Montana public, school and specialized libraries are posted on the Montana Library Association’s job list as they become available. Montana library jobs may also be found at the ALA’s JobLIST, the Pacific Northwest Library Association’s job list, and the Mountain Plains Library Association’s jobline

What Do Librarians Earn in Montana?

Montana’s professional librarians make an hourly mean wage of $25.71 and an annual mean wage of $53,470, per the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2021 figures). Those working in the Billings area earn higher than average salaries, making $35.92 per hour or $74,720 per year. Librarians working in the Missoula area also earn higher than the average mean wage, at $26.14 per hour or $54,360 annually.

Job Prospects for Montana Librarians 

Montana librarian jobs are scattered across the state, with the majority being found in the larger cities such as Missoula, Helena, and Billings. Some examples of open library positions as of December 2022 are:

  • Assistant Professor, Instructional Technology Librarian – Montana State University, Bozeman
    • Salary: $60,000 annually 
    • Must have a MLS or MLIS from an ALA-accredited program
    • Must have knowledge of best practices and trends in educational technology and information literacy
    • Previous experience working in instruction and public services in an educational environment preferred
  • Library Director – Town of West Yellowstone Public Library
    • Salary: $60,000 to $65,000 annually 
    • Bachelor’s degree required; MLS or MLIS preferred
    • Must be currently certified or certified within four years of employment by the Montana State Library 
  • Program Manager – The University of Montana Western, Dillon
    • Salary: $18.68 hourly
    • Must have a bachelor’s degree
    • Must have previous supervisory and financial management experience 
    • Previous library experience preferred
    • Previous experience working in higher education preferred
  • Archivist – US National Park Service, West Glacier
    • Salary: $54,727 annually 
    • Must have a bachelor’s degree with a major including 18 hours in archival science and 12 hours in archival science, history, American civilization, economics political science, public administration or government 
  • Assistant Director of Library Services – Rocky Vista University, Billings
    • Salary: $69,200 to $89,900 annually
    • Must have a MLS or MLIS from an ALA-accredited program
    • Must have experience in an academic or medical library setting
    • Must have supervisory experience
    • Must have instructional experience in a post-secondary academic setting