How to Become a Map Librarian

Career Path Guide

If you want to become a map librarian, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for your skills and interests. If the following description sounds like you, then you’re probably well suited for this profession:


• You have a service oriented approach to work

• You have a master’s degree in library studies

• You have cartographic and managerial competencies

• You have an aptitude for teaching and developing user-oriented documentation

• You have GIS knowledge and experience


Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as a map librarian. We've also included helpful occupational information for this line of work, such as a general job description, an overvieew of the typical job duties and salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



Education Needed to Become a Map Librarian

Although the educational requirements for becoming a map librarian may vary by employer, you typically need a master's degree in library science or library and information studies to enter this profession, with significant coursework in geography or related disciplines that make use of maps and geospatial data.


Some employers may also require you to have a GIS certificate or have completed GIS related coursework, or have significant GIS experience in order to qualify for a job as a map librarian. 





General Job Description

Map librarians are service-oriented professionals that are responsible for providing reference and research consultation for print and digital maps and other cartographic resources, such as aerial photos, atlases and digital geospatial data.


Their core functions (identifying, collecting, organizing, and preserving resources) ensure that maps, digital geospatial resources, and other cartographic resources are available to the general public and specialized groups, such as students and academic researchers.


Map librarians are also responsible for maintaining and expanding map and geospatial data collections and services. They often work closely with a team of colleagues from a range of disciplines for the purpose of building and promoting their library's e-research and data services. 



Typical Job Duties

• Develop cartographic materials collections

• Oversee the development and maintenance of websites and online guides

• May oversee the integration of digital library systems 

• Develop or maintain organizational methods of library

• Sort and catalogue cartographic materials

• Provide research and reference consultation to students, researchers, hobbyists, businesses and other parties

• Print cartographic materials and digital geospatial data

• Liaise with other library departments

• May prepare budgets

• May hire and train staff



Who Employs Map Librarians?

Map librarians are typically on a part-time, full-time or contractual basis by the following types of organizations:


• Public libraries

• College and university libraries

• Private research institutions and libraries

• Map publishers and editors

• Museums and archives

• Not-for-profit organizations

• Research or information brokerage firms

• Municipal, provincial/state and federal government departments





Working Conditions for in This Profession

Work Setting: Map librarians typically work in either small or large libraries where they provide specialized resources and reference information to the public or a specific group of people, such as students. Some map librarians have private offices, but those in smaller libraries usually share their workspace with others.


Working Hours: Map librarians primarily work full-time, standard business hours, although many map librarians work part-time. Academic and public libraries may require map librarians to work evening and weekend shifts.



Map Librarian Salary

The actual wages and salaries of map librarians can vary greatly, typically depending on the following factors:


• Their level of education and experience

• The amount of responsibility inherent in their job

• The size and type of their employer

• Whether they work part-time or full-time hours

• The structure of their financial benefits package, if they have one

• The region in which they work

• Their salary negotiating abilities

• Many other factors


Map Librarian Salaries in Alberta: According to the 2019 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, the average salary level of Albertans working in the “Librarian” occupational group is $51,535 per year.


Salaries in British Columbia: According to WorkBC (Province of British Columbia), those working in the “Librarians” occupational group earn an annual provincial median salary of $50,003.


Salaries in the United States: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of Americans working in the “Librarians” occupational group is $59,050 per year.



Skills and Traits Needed to Be Successful

To be successful in a career as a map librarian, you need to have a certain set of personality traits, skills and competencies. These attributes will allow you to perform your job duties with effectively, and will help you maintain a positive attitude towards your work.


Many of these skills, traits and competencies are often requirements for employment with certain organizations; you may see them on Map Librarian job postings.


• Demonstrated project management skills

• Demonstrated understanding of cartographic and geospatial resources and concepts

• Demonstrated aptitude for teaching and developing user-oriented documentation

• An understanding of web design and emerging technologies

• Proficient in GIS software, such as ArcGIS and QGIS

• Knowledge of metadata and cataloging concepts

• Excellent interpersonal, and communication skills

• Demonstrated initiative, flexibility, and accountability

• Ability to work both independently and as a team member

• Knowledge of the strategies used to obtain different types of maps, imagery, and spatial data

• Understanding of federal, state, and other governmental information, its sources, and they way it is distributed

• Understanding copyright considerations and the ability to negotiate licensing agreements for databases and collections

• Ability to manage multiple GIS related budgets, such as those for hardware, software, data, staffing and supplies

• Understanding of common web and open source technologies for geospatial data such as XML, Python, GeoServer, PostGIS, OpenLayers, and GDAL/OGR as well as APIs



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Careers Similar to This One

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to "map librarian", as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.





Map Editor

Medical Librarian




Please consult the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a map librarian.



Occupations in Alberta:Librarian.” (March 29, 2017). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved February 27, 2020.

Education, Training, and Library:Librarians.” (September 4, 2019). United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved February 27, 2020.

Explore Careers: Librarians.” (December 11, 2018). WorkBC website - Province of British Columbia. Retrieved February 27, 2020.

Sites:What Should a GIS Librarian Do?.” Tsering Wangyal Shawa (n.d.). American Library Association website. Retrieved January 1, 2020.



Scholarships for Becoming a Map Librarian

Scholarships listed for majors that apply to becoming a map librarian can be found on our Geography Scholarships and History Scholarships pages.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Relevant University Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point for getting started in this line of work. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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