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Academic Libraries Career Pathway

University of Tennessee Hodges Library Entrance

Academic librarians work ininstitutions of higher education, including four-year institutions, community, and technical colleges. The main objective of academic librarianship is supporting their constituents’ learning, teaching, research, and service efforts. They help students, faculty, staff, and members of the general public find and use information effectively, and shepherd the growth and maintenance of scholarly collections in print and electronic formats, while ensuring current and future users will have access to the resources they need to fulfill the institution’s mission. Academic librarians may also conduct their own research, and many have instructional responsibilities of their own.

Academic Librarians: Positions Titles and Description Examples

Modern academic librarian positions are extremely varied and represent a wide variety of responsibilities. These are but a few of the many positions academic librarians hold. For more position titles and job requirements, consult the ALA JobList.

  • Public/User Services Librarians assist users with information needs, instruct users (frequently large groups) in the effective use of information resources, act as liaison to one or more academic departments, centers, or other campus groups; and manage one or more areas of the collection.
  • Technical Services Librarians might catalog new additions to the collection, or oversee ordering and processing of new materials. Because technical services departments typically employ more staff members than degreed librarians, this type of position frequently includes supervisory responsibilities.
  • Electronic Resources Librarians may work in Technical Services or Systems. ER Librarians are responsible myriad tasks associated with licensed electronic resources.
  • Systems/Access Services Librarians may be responsible for maintaining the library’s web site, managing the Integrated Library System (ILS), or implementing digital initiatives.
  • Assessment Librarians are tasked with overseeing the library’s efforts related to demonstrating value and impact. They create research tools, implement studies, collect data, write reports, and distribute information about the performance and plans of the library and its employees.
  • Special Collections Librarians/Archivists work with specialized materials in a college or university’s collection. They may identify and solicit materials donations, process collections, design tools to provide intellectual access to special collections, and/or promote the special collections to the public. They may also assist the public with special collections use.
  • Digital Initiatives Librarians are involved with academic libraries’ digital collections and projects. They may identify materials for digitization, design and implement metadata for digital collections, or develop workflows and procedures for digital assets management.
  • Data Services/Curation Librarians assist faculty with developing research data plans, manage data repositories, and interact with other university and funding agencies.

Preparing to Enter the Profession of Academic Librarianship:

Professional Development:


    • The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL): Division of the American Library Association
    • Other ALA divisions depending on interest


    • ACRL’s biennial Conference
    • Others, depending on interest area

Publications of Note:

    • The Journal of Academic Librarianship
    • College & Research Libraries and College & Research Libraries News (published by ACRL)
    • portal: Libraries and the Academy

In addition to completing the courses required for the MSIS degree, students with an interest in academic librarianship might consider enrolling in some of these courses (please note that this listing is not a substitute for consulting with the MSIS Program Advisor)

Recommended SIS Courses (INSC):


    • 552 Academic Libraries
    • 599 Practicum

Strongly recommended, regardless of interest area:

    • 504 Research Methods for Information Professionals
    • 550 Management of Information Organizations
    • 558 Planning and Assessment
    • 559 Grant Development for Information Professionals
    • 560 Development and Management of Collections

Technical Services/Electronic Resources:

    • 521 Cataloging and Classification
    • 522 Cataloging of Non-print Materials
    • 524 Metadata
    • 565 Digital Libraries
    • 597 Information Architecture
    • 598 Web Design

Public/user services:

    • 531 Sources and Services for the Social Sciences
    • 532 Sources and Services for Science and Engineering
    • 533 Sources and Services for the Humanities
    • 534 Government Information Sources
    • 587 Mining the Web

Specialized settings:

    • 547 Health Sciences Information Centers
    • 562 Digital Curation
    • 564 Archives and Records Management
Other academic librarianship-related courses at UTK:

(please note—students typically must secure permission from the course instructor prior to registering for courses offered outside CCI. These courses also may be offered on campus only)

Specialized research/bibliography courses in area of interest:

    • MUSC 510 – Music Bibliography
    • FREN 519 – Bibliography and Methods of Research
    • GERM 519 – Bibliography and Methods of Research

Courses offered in the Higher Education Administration/Educational Leadership and Policy Studies graduate programs offer unique insight into academic life:

    • HEAM 505 Leadership and Organizational Theory in Higher Education
    • HEAM 521 Multiculturalism in U.S. Higher Education
    • HEAM 543 American Higher Education in Transition
    • ELPS 615 Research Design
    • ELPS 617 Case Study Methods in Educational Research
    • HEAM 619 Administration and Governance of Higher Education
    • HEAM 625 History and Philosophy of Higher Education
    • ELPS 695 Students in Postsecondary Education

Real-World Experience:

Recent Practicum Settings:

    • UTK Hodges Library Integrated User Services Department
    • UTK Hodges Library Digital Library Initiatives
    • UTK Hodges Special Collections
    • Preston Medical Library
    • Maryville College

Recent Placements of UTK-SIS Alumni:

    • University of Alabama
    • Vanderbilt University
    • Millersville University (PA)
    • University of Tennessee
    • Savannah State University
    • University of Maryland
    • Mississippi State University