Working in Special Libraries or Information Centers

"Special libraries fill a unique niche in the library community. Their collections are often heavily weighted to one area of interest in support of a specific user base. Because of this specialization, the libraries often house special collections that are invaluable not only to their own users but also to researchers around the world. In short, special libraries serve unique populations that are outside the realm of school and public libraries" (OCLC).

According to the American Library Directory, 2015-2016, there are approximately 8,152 special libraries or information centers (including government and armed forces) in the United States, and their missions vary from curating specialized collections such as that of a presidential or museum library, to providing research support to staff at a hospital or to business analysts in an international consulting company.

Information professionals and specialized libraries or information collections can be found in the fields of

  • law
  • medicine
  • business
  • science
  • government
  • military
  • many other fields 

Special libraries and their staff often have different focuses and priorities than public or academic libraries; depending on the organization, more emphasis may be placed on the user and the user's needs rather than on the collection. Thus, it is hard to take such varied career environments and place them into a single category. Because there are many types of special libraries and many different roles for information professionals in these settings, LIS professionals have a wealth of opportunities available to them.

MLIS and MARA graduates work in an array of settings from tech start-ups to hospitals to law firms, among hundreds of other types of organizations.  The responsibilities of special librarians are tailored to meet the needs of their organizations, though there are often many commonly desired skills and responsibilities, including research and analysis, marketing, support, IT, data management, and user experience.

See the pages below for an overview and examples of the types of special libraries and information centers, the various positions that you can fill, salaries, and resources to help you learn more.