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Duties & Responsibilities of a Periodicals Librarian

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While the head librarian might be in charge of processing periodicals or serial publications in a small library, large libraries delegate these library materials to the care of a specially trained person. The periodicals librarian processes current issues of magazines and newspapers, and she handles the binding and storage of older issues. In many cases, older items are stored electronically, so the periodicals librarian maintains the equipment necessary to access them.


A periodicals librarian, also known as a serials librarian, begins her career with a bachelor’s degree in any field. If she plans to work as a periodicals librarian in a public school, she must attain teaching credentials. To finish preparing for this career, she must complete a master’s degree in library science, or MLS. A library degree includes courses in acquisitions, cataloging and library administration. While specialized training in the field of periodicals is not part of the MLS curriculum, serials librarians may participate in continuing education classes and workshops offered by their peers to improve their knowledge of their profession.


The timeliness of periodicals makes them a key reference tool in any library. A periodicals librarian must look for ways to make newer electronic formats available and easy to access for library patrons. The initial cost for the periodical is often more than its bound counterpart. Because the periodicals librarian operates within a budget, she must choose serials for her library carefully. As new materials arrive in the library, the librarian follows standard procedures to process and catalog them in the library’s electronic card catalog. The librarian is responsible for working with patrons, demonstrating how to find materials and introducing them to materials on hand in the library.


A head librarian oversees the work of the periodicals librarian. She should have a good grasp of her job’s responsibilities and be able to work unsupervised. A librarian works is responsible for having the necessary electronic equipment to use periodicals presented that way. This includes any databases that library patrons have access to for research purposes. She may also prepare demonstrations and talks with public and professional groups in her community. Often, the librarian takes a leadership role in local, state and national librarian organizations.

Job Outlook and Salaries

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects growth in the demand for all librarians to be 7 percent between 2010 and 2020, which is slower than the average for all jobs. The American Library Association indicates that periodicals librarians earned between $19,277 and $117,157 in 2009, with an average salary of $51,244.


Denise Brown is an education professional who wanted to try something different. Two years and more than 500 articles later, she's enjoying her freelance writing experience for online resources such as and other online information sites. Brown holds a master's degree in history education from Truman State University.

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