Public Libraries


Working in Public Libraries

With over 16,000 public libraries in the United States, public libraries are embedded in communities of all types and sizes and are often described as serving community members for a lifetime. Public librarians are staunch defenders of the rights of citizens to have free access to information, and they are committed to making libraries the great equalizers in their communities.

As technology and the ways in which we access information continue to evolve, public libraries are helping bridge the digital divide by providing instruction and tech support in addition to access to the latest digital technologies. Public librarians continuously strive to meet the information needs of the communities they serve, whether that is by providing extensive programming for teens and children that promotes learning and literacy, or by helping senior citizens catch up on quickly changing technology, and everything in between.

In 2016 (the most recent year for this type of survey), the Pew Research Center Internet & Technology report described the ongoing importance of public libraries to their communities, noting that while those surveyed continue to value libraries as “comfortable places for reading, working, and relaxing,” they also thought of them as sources of digital training, various types of “makerspaces,” technology centers, and cultural events. A substantial number, 66%, of respondents indicated that if their local library closed it “would have a major impact on their community,” a belief likely to grow as young adults ages 18-29 are now visiting their libraries in higher numbers (53%) than their elders (40%).1

Source: Libraries 2016, Pew Research Center Internet & Technology

The following pages present an overview of public libraries – what is unique about them, the various roles that you can fill, sample job postings and salary information, and tips to help you land your dream job.

1.Libraries 2016, Pew Research Center Internet & Technology; accessed September 21, 2020 at


Types of Public Libraries

Public libraries are government institutions – they are funded by and an integral part of the civic system of a specific state, county, or city. Public libraries serve their communities. They differ in response to the size, location, and specific needs and resources of the community they serve.


Job Titles and Responsibilities

Regardless of what sort of position you are applying for in a public library, there are several key skills that are valuable for all public librarians.



As you might imagine, the salaries of librarians vary greatly throughout the country.


Voices from the Field
Interviews with Two Public Librarians

We interviewed two public librarians from the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library in Corvallis, OR to get a look at life as a public librarian. These two women have over 35 years of public library experience between them and offered valuable insights on the current trends in public librarianship.