How to Become a Librarian in Tennessee

Tennessee’s Regional Library System, which was started in 1937, organizes the state’s public libraries into nine different service areas:

Tennessee Librarian Education
  • Obion River Region
  • Hatchie River Region
  • Red River Region
  • Buffalo River Region
  • Stones River Region
  • Falling Water Region
  • Ocoee River Region
  • Clinch River Region
  • Holston River Region

Regional libraries serve to support the public libraries within their service area. Each regional library employs six positions:

  • Regional Director
  • Assistant Direcgtor
  • Administrative Services Assistant
  • Technical Services Assistant
  • Library Information Systems Specialist
  • Network Service Consultant

Tennessee is home to 187 public library systems, according to the Tennessee Public Library Statistics for FY 2021-22. Thirty-one of these public library systems serve populations over 50,000, while 40 serve populations under 5000. There are many more public libraries that exist in-between these two extremes of populations serving Tennessee residents. In addition to the physical complexes of Tennessee’s public libraries, the Tennessee Electronic Library provides residents with free access to more than 400,000 electronic resources, from the comfort of their own homes.

Of course, there are more than just public libraries in the state of Tennessee. Those who wish to become Tennessee librarians may choose to work in schools, universities, colleges, medical and science libraries, law libraries, archives, and additional specialized libraries. The possibilities are almost endless. Working as a librarian in Tennessee can be an exciting and rewarding career choice.

What Does a Tennessee Librarian Do?

There are so many places Tennessee librarians may choose to work, and the duties of their positions may change from library to library. Some librarian job responsibilities remain constant for most librarian jobs, such as:

  • Promoting the mission of the library among staff, patrons, and the community
  • Participating in the continuing development of the library
  • Providing library instruction, collection development, and reference services for patrons
  • Coordinating with other library staff to create, implement and maintain electronic and instructional resources
  • Lead library programs and workshops
  • Stay up-to-date on the latest professional developments in librarianship
  • Market the library and its services to the general public and community, as well as to patrons
  • Maintain strict confidentiality regarding library patron records

What Education is Necessary to Become a Librarian in Tennessee?

Tennessee librarians need a Master of Library Science (commonly referred to as an MLS degree) or Master of Library and Information Science (called a MLIS degree) from a school program that has been accredited by the American Library Association (ALA). One such program currently exists in Tennessee (but you may attend any ALA-accredited program in any state or online):

  • Master of Science in Information Sciences – University of Tennessee Knoxville- available in online and on-campus formats, offering the following pathways:
    • Academic librarianship
    • Archives and records management
    • Assessment librarianship
    • Data curation and data management
    • Digital collections
    • Geographic information
    • Information organization
    • Public librarianship
    • Science information
    • User experience (UX)
    • Youth services (including school librarianship)

What Certification is Necessary for Tennessee Librarians?

Currently, public librarians in Tennessee need not be certified. A public library certification program has been proposed, but has not yet been signed into law. School librarians in Tennessee must complete a MLS program approved by the Tennessee State Board of Education, receive a teaching license, and pass the Praxis II Library Media Content Test and Praxis II Principles of Learning and Teaching test appropriate to the grade levels they wish to tach. Existing teachers must pass the Praxis School Library Specialist test to receive an endorsement to a current teaching license.

Where Do Librarians Work in Tennessee?

Jobs for Tennessee librarians are posted on the Tennessee Library Association’s Career Center. They may also be found on the ALA’s JobList, as well as on online classified job forums. 

What Do Librarians Earn in Tennessee?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that Tennessee librarians earn $27.30 per hour (mean wage) and $56,780 per year (mean wage), circa May 2021. Those working in various parts of the state earn higher or lower wages than these means, as you can see below:

Tennessee areaMean wage (hourly)Mean wage (annually)
Memphis TN/MS/AR$28.64$59,570
Kingsport/Bristol TN/VA$28.53$59,340
Chattanooga TN/GA$28.39$59,060
Johnson City$26.66$55,450
East nonmetropolitan area$25.96$53,990
South Central nonmetropolitan area$24.96$51,920
North Central nonmetropolitan area$24.15$50,220
West nonmetro area$23.95$49,820

Job Prospects for Tennessee Librarians 

Librarians in Tennessee should find diverse jobs available statewide. In January 2023, the following jobs were posted for librarians in Tennessee:

  • Library Director – Maury County Public Library, Columbia
    • Salary: $66,011 – $71,835 annually 
    • ALA-accredited MLIS or MLS needed
    • Fiver years of professional librarian experience needed
    • Valid Tennessee driver’s license needed
  • Librarian I- City of Chattanooga, Chattanooga
    • Salary: $51,907 – $64,884 annually 
    • Bachelor’s degree plus four years of experience, or ALA-accredited MLS, required
  • Librarian – Shelby County Schools, Memphis
    • Salary: $44,800 – $56,800 annually 
    • Bachelor’s degree and endorsement in library media specialist required
  • Librarian – Motlow State Community College, McMinnville
    • Salary: $47,520 – $50,520 annually 
    • MLIS or MLS needed (prefer ALA-accredited)
  • Assistant Regional Library Director – Tennessee Secretary of State, Clinch River Regional Library, Clinton
    • Salary: $44,160 annually 
    • ALA-accredited MLIS or MLS needed
    • Three years of experience in library work, preferably in a public library, in an increasingly responsible position needed
  • Archivist – Sewanee, Sewanee
    • Salary: $45,600 – $57,700 annually
    • ALA-accredited MLIS or MLS with an archival concentration needed
    • One to two years of hands-on archival processing experience needed