Think you can’t take the librarian out of the library? You’d be wrong! You just can’t take the library out of the librarian. The fact is there are many different jobs that librarians (or library science-adjacent professionals) can do from home, so you can have a work-from-home career even if you’re accustomed to climbing into the stacks and reshelving books all day.
If you need something to do in retirement – or just want/need to work from home – there’s a remote job out there that needs you. Read on for eight kinds of job opportunities, and which job boards to check for online librarian jobs!
1. Remote Librarian
As an Online Librarian, the requirements and duties match those asked of traditional librarian positions – apart from the physical duties, of course! You'll generally need a Masters in Library Science or Library and Information Science from an ALA-accredited institution.
University libraries are a good place to find remote librarian jobs and may require you to work with online classes and provide online reference services to their students (both on campus and remote). You may also be called upon for library instruction of university students, as well as some technical support services in assisting them with the use of library equipment and services.
You'll find that previous experience in libraries – and perhaps reference services in academic libraries along with classroom teaching, for university openings – are generally a prerequisite for these positions. You’ll also need excellent communication skills both orally and in writing as with many other work-from-home jobs.
Cataloging is something included in most librarian’s training and involves the preparation of metadata in library and other collections. It may also involve the analysis of current metadata standards and the improvement of current systems – all with an eye toward making the discovery of books, documents, and other resources in the library or collection more easily discoverable by library users. You should be knowledgeable concerning the latest standards in cataloguing systems and the practice of writing metadata and organizing various materials.
For cataloging jobs in libraries, you’ll need a degree in library science. However, you’ll also find that various non-library businesses use cataloguers as well – for example, some media services companies hire folks to write metadata and catalog for contemporary television shows. All those channels get their program summaries from someone, and it could be you!
3. Library Instructor
There is call for library instructors at many institutions of higher education, both in offering classes through the library and in teaching library science online. As a remote educator offering classes through the library, you may work with university students logging online for classes. Or you may work remotely as a professor with a university to educate would-be librarians working through a library sciences program.
The credentials required for an instructor depend on the terms of the job. If you are interested in teaching library science remotely, you will most often be required to hold a doctorate in library science yourself. Some positions may only require a Master’s degree. The requirements for a class you happen to teach online through the library will depend on the subject matter and job listing.
4. Remote Archivist
Archivists may work with specific institutions (such as university or state archives) or may work with various entities per archiving project. In every case, an archivist works with an established collection of items and documents in order to assess the collection in question, organize components of that collection depending on their relative value, and preserve those items through suitable storage. In the past, most archives have been physical – however, the rise of the Internet age has created digital archives that need care and a growing need for traditional archives to also become digital.
While you don’t necessarily need a degree in library science to become an archivist, a Bachelor’s degree is required – and either library science or archival science are the most relevant fields. You can also come to archiving through studying history or art. You’ll find that many archivist positions would prefer someone with a Master’s degree or previous practical experience as well.
Indexing is a librarian-adjacent field – at least by virtue of being book-related and based in organization. Indexers create the indices you find in the back of books – using the final page proofs of the document or book in question, they pull out various keywords, create headings and subheadings in the index, and format it all correctly with the appropriate page numbers. Freelance indexers are regularly hired by everyone from publishing houses to private authors to book packagers, according to the American Society for Indexing.
You don’t need a degree in library science to pursue a career in indexing. Most often, all you need is the ability to organize and pay attention to detail, along with excellent language skills and a passion for books. For some indexing jobs, a subject matter expert may be required – for example, in a highly technical science book, you would need familiarity with the subject in order to understand what keywords should be pulled for the index.
Another position open to librarians is that of tutor – whether in a university writing center or an independent library. Your role here could be very general in helping students learn how to navigate the library and locate the information they need to complete assignments. Depending on your subject matter expertise, you may engage in more direct tutoring with students in science, math, biology or whatever topic they’re struggling with.
Writing Center positions may include assisting students with writing assignments – from developing an outline to writing a thesis statement and beyond. Your English language skills will be heavily drawn upon here, through proofreading writing samples and offering editorial feedback. Your ultimate goal will be to improve the writing skills of the students who come to the Writing Center, whether they’re interacting with you from a physical writing center or logging into a virtual one.
Using a librarian's knowledge and skills in library organization and resources, research is another adjacent field that's primed for a librarian to slip into. You can easily translate your knowledge of online databases, library collections, and research skills into a freelance business assisting people in performing research on various subjects. If you’re an expert in one particular subject area – like medicine or law – that’s even better as far as landing clients who need research done.
This is another field where a degree in library science is not required, but it may require quite a bit of hustling to land clients. Networking can help you here, or you may consider working with a research service when first starting out – get started with my post, “11 Awesome Online Research Jobs: Get Paid for Being a Know-It-All.”
8. Freelance Writing
If you’ve retired from physical librarian work, consider using all your experience and skills to become a freelance writer. From writing grants to corporate white papers, your knowledge of various library resources would serve you well. You could throw in some freelance editing as well, through adapting science papers written by non-native English speakers to sound more natural or ensuring thesis papers are formatted correctly with accurate works cited lists. Your librarian background has practically endless crossover utility.
You can also write about various subjects of interest to librarians on a personal blog or for publications such as American Libraries (the official magazine of the American Library Association) and Library Journal. The only limits are your imagination and determination; you can find my primer for how to start a blog and succeed here.
Where to Look for Online Librarian Jobs
Many of the types of positions listed here can be found in the usual places, from Indeed to Simply Hired to remote.co. However, there are some specific job boards more closely related to library science and related fields that it would benefit you to check:
- ALA JobList – the official job board from the American Library Association and the Association of College & Research Libraries.
- ArchivesGig – a blog sharing job listings for archivist positions, including some virtual positions.
- HigherEdJobs – a board for jobs and career information in academia, so a good source for university library jobs.
- INALJ – a group of information professionals finding and sharing jobs and advice, they post a list of open jobs almost daily.
- LibGig – a job board specifically designed with librarians and other knowledge and information professionals in mind.
Now, my detail-oriented and organized friends, you should have a list of actionable items to get started on as you look for your online librarian job – don’t forget to return and let me know when you find it.