Q: I am about to finish my library degree in the United States and want to know if I can use my degree in Canada, and how do I find jobs there?

Q: I am about to finish my library degree in the United States and want to know if I can use my degree in Canada, and how do I find jobs there?

SM: I have met several Canadian librarians working here in the States, but I haven’t heard much about U.S. librarians working in Canada. If you have ever perused Canadian job ads for librarian positions, you have probably seen the message, “Canadians and permanent residents of Canada will be given priority.” Even though this sentence sounds discouraging, don’t let it stop you from sending in your resume. Here’s why:

An MLS degree or its equivalent from an accredited U.S. school is recognized in Canada (and vice versa). Library schools in Canada and the United States are accredited by the same organization – ALA’s Office for Accreditation & Committee on Accreditation.

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) makes it easier for librarians in the U.S. to cross the border to work. Librarians who are U.S. citizens can qualify for a work permit under Chapter 16 of the NAFTA regulations. The NAFTA applies to four specific categories of businesspersons: business visitors, professionals, intra-company transferees, and traders and investors. Librarians are included in the list of professionals.

All businesspersons covered by the NAFTA are exempt from the need to obtain approval from Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC). This means that Canadian employers do not need to have a job offer approved by HRDC to employ a U.S. librarian. For more information, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has a helpful site.

U.S. librarians with a job offer from a Canadian employer are classified as NAFTA Professionals, and may apply for an employment authorization at a Port of Entry, at a visa office abroad (in the U.S.), or from within Canada if the applicant is already in Canada as a visitor. The duration of NAFTA Professional status is for an initial period of one year and an unlimited number of one-year extensions may be subsequently obtained. Canadavisa.com offers more information on employment authorization for non-Canadians.

Although NAFTA makes the process of getting into Canada easier, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be easy to procure a job. It really depends on where you would like to go and how much competition there is in that particular city and/or province. There are fewer library schools in Canada than in the United States, and also fewer jobs. But, if you are serious and you are qualified, you should by all means apply for positions in Canada. Just make sure the employer knows about the NAFTA Professional status.

Currently, the job market for librarians in Canada is fair, and the unemployment rate is below average. The HRDC hosts a Job Futures site that provides information and statistics on different careers in Canada.

The following library job sites either list Canadian job openings or link to sites with job postings:

Canadian Library Association Classifieds

LIBJOBS – mailing list and web archive, international in scope

Library Job Postings on the Internet


TA: As a brief follow-up to the excellent ideas from Susanne, I would add a note about the importance of networking and staying involved professionally. In many ways, my response to this question will mirror many of the suggestions from the answer to the above question. Beyond the basics of wanting to work abroad (learning the language, researching labor laws and the work visa issues, etc.), the key to successfully entering any job market (here or abroad) is who you know. Make professional contacts through professional organizations (ALA, CLA, etc.). Check out web sites, monitor e-mail lists, and attend annual conferences. Contact professionals currently working abroad, or folks who have worked abroad in the recent past, and schedule an informational interview. You can speak to individuals who have successfully worked abroad and ask them how they got started. You can also speak with other librarians currently working in the area to which you may be considering relocating. In addition to gathering information about the area, information interviews will also widen your network of professional contacts.

Below are a few links to online resources that I hope you will find helpful in your research:

ALA International Relations Committee (IRC)

ALA International Relations Office

ALA International Relations Office list of International Associations, Organizations and Conferences

ALA International Relations Round Table (IRRT)

International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA)

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