How to Become a Librarian in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Librarian Education

The COVID-19 pandemic had an undeniable impact on the learning capabilities of students across the United States. Some of this impact is still being felt, two years later. As students return to physical schooling after months of online learning, teachers are finding that literacy rates among children are decreasing. 

What can libraries do to help solve this problem? A director of a library in northwestern Pennsylvania, Andrew Henley, has gathered the literacy rates for the eight county school districts in his area and reported them to the state’s Department of Education. He notes that areas with high crime and incarceration rates generally are also economically challenged, and children living within these areas tend to have lower literacy rates. 

Libraries such as the New Castle Public Library, which Henley directs, are aiming to help students through offering after-school programs. Students in the University of Pittsburgh’s Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) program are working on implementing programs to be offered within area libraries. As Henley notes, literacy is the mission of all libraries, and helping children within the community will help the community as a whole. 

This is just one example of what librarians in Pennsylvania do in addition to their regular job duties. Working as a librarian in Pennsylvania can be a rewarding, fulfilling, challenging, and busy job, whether you pursue a position as a public librarian, school librarian, or specialty librarian. Here, we will discuss how to become a librarian in the Keystone State. 

What Does a Pennsylvania Librarian Do?

According to statistics provided by the State Library of Pennsylvania, as of 2020, Pennsylvania’s public libraries serve 12,556,094 patrons statewide. With over 460 libraries statewide, as well as many bookmobiles, Pennsylvania librarians are able to conduct outreach to both urban and rural areas of the state. 

When it comes to the job duties of a librarian in Pennsylvania, these will vary greatly depending upon the type of librarian queried. Public librarians, of course, work with the general public; while school librarians work with students in public and private school libraries. The Special Libraries Association (SLA) has posted information on jobs in Pennsylvania for Research Librarians, Digital Resources Librarians, Chemistry Librarians, Intranet Advisors, Academic Librarians, and many more. Each of these positions carry their own job responsibilities, which are too numerous to mention here. Some of the “general” duties of a librarian in Pennsylvania include:

  • Cataloging books, non-print and electronic resources
  • Managing the stacks of the library
  • Serving as the primary point of contact for patrons entering the library or contacting the library electronically, assisting them with inquiries both in-person and online
  • Providing research instructions and assistance to library patrons, educating them in the use of electronic resources as well as in physically finding resources in the library
  • Facilitating groups and programs for patrons of all ages within the library
  • Evaluating library collections and determining what materials should be replaced, added or taken away
  • Assist in selecting new materials for the library
  • Preparing displays for the library
  • Participating in staff meetings
  • Participating in continuing education as required

What Education is Necessary to Become a Librarian in Pennsylvania?

All professional librarians in Pennsylvania must have a MLIS or MLS (Master of Library Science) degree from a program that is accredited by the American Library Association (ALA). As of 2022, there are three schools hosting ALA-accredited programs in Pennsylvania:

  • Drexel University, Philadelphia – Master of Science in Information- Library & Information Science
  • Pennsylvania Western University-Clarion, Clarion – Master of Science in Library Science (online), Master of Science in Library Science-School Library Media (online), and combination programs offering MLS and Juris Doctor or MLS and MA in Applied History degrees
  • University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh – Master of Library and Information Science, with concentrations available in Archives, Academic Librarian, Children and Youth Services, Civic Engagement, Public Library, and School Library 

Prior to admission to a MLS or MLIS program in Pennsylvania, you must hold a bachelor’s degree. Depending upon the school’s requirements, this degree may or may not need to be in library science or library and information science. 

What Certification is Necessary for Pennsylvania Librarians?

Pennsylvania Code Chapter 133 mandates that all public library personnel in Pennsylvania must be certified. This ensures that all who work in Pennsylvania’s public libraries meet minimum standards and are trained and qualified to be there. Once a person is hired for a librarian position, library staff will contact the State Library with their application, and that person will be scheduled for a certification examination. Should the librarian pass the exam, they will automatically be certified. This certification does not require renewal.  

Pennsylvania’s school librarians must also be certified. Those who wish to work in public schools must pass the ETS Library Science PK-12 School Librarian examination with a minimum score of 154. (Private school librarian positions vary depending upon the school, with some requiring certification and some not). 

All other types of librarians in Pennsylvania are not required to be state-certified, but must have a MLIS or MLS degree and whatever other academic qualifications are needed by their positions.

Where Do Librarians Work in Pennsylvania?

With over 400 public library branches across the state of Pennsylvania, there are many opportunities for public librarians to work. School librarians also have 500 public school districts (containing 3287 schools and 120 charger schools) from which to choose. Specialty librarians work in academic libraries within colleges and universities, museums, businesses, medical centers, and more.

What Do Librarians Earn in Pennsylvania?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that as of May 2021, Pennsylvania’s librarians earned an hourly mean wage of $29.44 and an annual mean wage of $62,140. Salaries vary across the state, as is evident from the table below:

Area nameHourly mean wageAnnual mean wage
Philadelphia/Camden/Wilmington PA/NJ/DE/MD$33.26$69,180
East Stroudsburg$25.59$53,240
Southern nonmetro area$24.90$51,780
Northern nonmetro area$21.73$45,210
Western nonmetro area$21.62$44,970

Job Prospects for Pennsylvania Librarians 

The ALA JobLIST lists jobs as they become available for librarians nationwide. Examples of some recent jobs advertised in Pennsylvania include:

  • Science Librarian – Drexel University, Philadelphia
    • Salary: $54,630-68,390 annually  
    • Need MLS or MLIS
    • Need one year of professional experience in an information management organization
    • Preference given to candidates with an undergraduate degree in one of the sciences
  • Library Services Manager – Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
    • Salary: $55,000-$60,000 annually
    • Need bachelor’s degree
    • Need five or more years of progressive experience in supervisory and customer service environment 
  • Head, East Asian Library – University of Pittsburgh Library System, Pittsburgh
    • Salary: $52,000 annually 
    • Need MLS or MLIS degree
    • Need two to three years professional experience 
    • Need proficiency in Chinese
  • Corrections Librarian – Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Wayne County
    • Salary: $54,181-$82,387 annually 
    • Need to meet one of the following education/experience requirements:
      • MLIS or MLS degree
      • BLS and one year of professional library experience 
      • BLS and one year of professional corrections library experience
      • Five years of experience as a Corrections Library Assistant
    • Need to be a PA resident
  • Collection Strategies Librarian – Messiah University, Mechanicsburg
    • Salary: $51,800 – $65,600 annually  
    • Need MLIS or MLS degree
    • Preference given to candidates with a second master’s degree
    • Need three years of academic library experience