become an instructional design librarian title

How to Become an Instructional Design/eLearning Librarian

I really, really like instructional design (aka ID). It is a growing field whether in libraries or without. I often get asked about what I do and I like to peruse/collect instructional design-related librarian job postings.

So here goes!

What does an Instructional Design/eLearning Librarian do?

It varies! (Helpful response, I know!). My job is mostly developing library tutorials and teaching other librarians about effective pedagogy. I promote use/development of Open Educational Resources. I developed and maintain a learning object repository. I’m also the Instruction Coordinator for my library and I have regular reference hours and teach one-shot instruction sessions. I am the first-ever Instructional Design Librarian at Cal State Fullerton, so when I started here I had to figure it all out for myself. And I often feel like I’m still figuring it out!

An Instructional Design Librarian’s duties might include: training the trainer, designing learning spaces, evaluating user experience, developing educational tutorials and games, exploring emerging technologies, promoting OER, etc.

Related job titles include: Online Learning Librarian, eLearning Librarian, Instructional Technologies Librarian, Hybrid Learning Librarian, Educational Technology Librarian, or Learning Design Librarian (got another one? Post it in the comments!).

I don’t have to know computer programming languages, though a basic understanding of HTML and CSS has been very helpful in developing elearning delivery and customizing free learning tools.

To get a better idea of the requirements, browse through ID-related library jobs posted over at Designer Librarian.

As an instructional designer and librarian, I have to be comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty. I have to continually embrace a DIY spirit and talking up my projects and why they’re important. I work with librarians, instructional designers, faculty, department heads, and administrators. As #19 and #20 on this silly listicle point out, instructional design is a liminal career and it’s crucial to be at peace with that.

When you’re at the step where you’re formally applying for academic librarian jobs, check out my post on How to Become an Academic Librarian for crucial application writing and formatting tips.

Required Education/Knowledge

If you want to be an Instructional Design Librarian in title, you will almost definitely have to work in higher education. I’m only able to specialize in instructional design because I work at a large university and we have a lot of librarians. Smaller institutions are often looking for librarians with instructional design/educational technology expertise, but using those skills will only be a small part of your job.

You’ll have to get a masters degree in library/information science, which most academic librarian jobs still require. And which don’t prepare you for teaching. Or instructional design. They just don’t. I did take an instructional design class as part of my program at San Jose State and it was fairly useless.

Technically, you don’t have to get an instructional design certificate/degree to be an ID Librarian, but it really really helps. Many instructional design/elearning librarians are hired without additional education in these areas, but I strongly recommend either formally studying instructional design or doing a lot of self-study. For more on this, see my post Why I Got My Degree in Instructional Design (And You Should Too!).

I’m really glad I got my masters in instructional design. My educational psychology classes completely transformed how I approach teaching. Of course, I’m also really bothered by people that call themselves “instructional designers” but are really just spreading misinformation (e.g., learning styles are NOT A THING!).

Perhaps the most important skill aspiring Instructional Design/eLearning Librarians should work towards is developing the ability to explain to your peers how one instructional strategy is better/worse/different than another, or be able to teach a colleague how to best use a given educational technology, by using explanations based in learning science.

To be able to do this, you will need to know learning science and theory. And to me, at least, it’s crucial to my success at work that I’m able to justify a course of action. It’s how I win over my colleagues and get the resources I need – and also how I push library instruction forward!

Other Career Options in Instructional Design


Like I said at the top, instructional design is very much a growing field. Many academic institutions have a corps of instructional designers that not only support faculty with employing educational technology, but also help move student-centered pedagogical practices forward. Again, instructional design is a liminal field, and many instructional designers complain that faculty view them as merely “tech support.” Part of the problem is that instructional designers can help with a LOT of things, including tech. Arizona State tried to help clear this up a bit with their fabulous infographic: So What Do You Really Mean by “Instructional Designer?”

Instructional Designers are usually considered staff, and the positions can pay well and have great benefits. Keep an eye out for these positions via higher education job boards and listservs.


If you want to be an instructional designer, another way to get there is to get a job in the corporate sector. Many large companies have a large L&D arm (aka Learning and Development*) that is responsible for employee training. A possible career path might involve working your way up from corporate trainer to instructional designer/elearning developer, though a certificate or masters in ID will go a long way to help you out.

To discover instructional design jobs in corporate, sign up for alerts on major job sites like Indeed or Monster. Use the keywords “instructional design,” “elearning/e-learning,” “designer,” “developer,” or search keywords related to software you’re an expert in.

The Final Word

The fact is, in both academia and corporate, know that many people discover they’ve became “accidental instructional designers,” and they just figure it out as they go! In that case, Here Are 12 E-Learning Books to Read This Year.

Blog post coming soon: Crash Course in Instructional Design!


*”L&D” is common shorthand in corporate-land for a training department.