Back to top

Career Pathway - Academic Libraries

You are here

Academic Librarianship Pathway PDF

“Academic librarianship is the profession practiced by those working in libraries associated with institutions of higher education (also referred to as postsecondary or tertiary educational institutions) of various types and levels including community, technical and liberal arts colleges, universities, and professional schools.

The primary responsibility of academic librarians is to support the teaching, learning, and research efforts of the parent institution’s faculty and students. They fulfill this mission by working with faculty, staff,   and students in finding the information they need and by selecting, acquiring, organizing, providing access to, and preserving the library’s collection.

In addition, some academic libraries, especially in publicly supported institutions, include service to the community as a part of their mission, and they provide at least limited services to individuals not formally affiliated with the institution.”1

Academic Librarians: Positions Titles and Descriptions

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 ServicesLibrariansmay 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

Required Courses For All Students:

Recommended Courses (in SIS) for Everyone:

Strongly recommended Courses

Regardless of Interest Area:

Technical Services

Electronic Resources:

Public/ User Services:

Specialized Settings:

Recommended Courses (Outside SIS):

Visit the current online UT Graduate Catalog to view descriptions of these courses.

Specialized research/ bibliography courses in area of interest:

Higher Education Administration courses:

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

1 Moran, Barbara B. and Elisabeth Leonard. (2010) “Academic Librarianship”, Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences, Third Edition.