Library Science Degree Online Programs

An online Library Science degree may appeal to on-the-go and mid-career adults who want to develop professional library skills, reference techniques and digital literacy. Library science has become a dynamic field where technology has transformed many traditional practices. Because of this, today’s online library science graduate students might gain up to date skills and knowledge. This might include the know-how to use media technology for effective storage, classification, research and retrieval of information. Plus, through the online format, this advanced knowledge could be available at your fingertips.

Library Science Online Degree written by Rana Waxman

What Is an Online Library Science Degree?

An online library science degree is an online program of study that focuses on the methods used to manage all types of information - from print to computer data and multi-media. The practices of library science extend beyond the collection, conservation and organization of library materials. Today’s library and information science professional also studies how materials are searched for and accessed online by different users.

Library Science Online Coursework

Library science degree online coursework is often a mix of information technology, management, and archival studies. That said, many schools do offer programs focused on a specific area of study. For instance, a program focused on school librarianship might require courses in book and digital preservation, children’s literature, school media, leadership and collection development. By contrast, a focus on information science might help students develop their analytic capability. Coursework in this type of program might delve into systems design, information architecture, information literacy, and usability. 

Online Library Science Degree Concentrations

Sometimes, students may also select an unique area of

emphasis within their online library science degree program. Through an optional focus area, students may tailor their pursuits to mirror specific interests. In some schools, students who pursue a focus area take about 5 courses. Some of these are required, but the others might be chosen from a list of courses relevant to the topic.

Academic Librarianship: Students who pursue a focus in academic librarianship may take courses that prepare them to plan and deliver information literacy programs. Topics of study might include web design for libraries and information centers, and information use specific to college and university libraries.

Law Librarianship: The focus in law librarianship may require courses in legal research, information management and administration.

Special Librarianship: A focus in special librarianship may help students develop the ability to use current technologies. A varied course of study might prepare them to evaluate, analyze, organize, package, and present information in a way that maximizes its usefulness. For instance, coursework could tackle technical subjects such as database design, metadata, and knowledge management.

Public Librarianship: Students who pursue a focus in public librarianship may develop the skills needs to serve various users and run a public library. As a result, coursework might draw from collection development, administration, technical services and outreach.

Youth Services: An emphasis in youth services may require students to take courses in literature and resources for children and young adults.

Archival Studies: A focus in archival studies may prepare learners to select, arrange and preserve records for long-term collections. Some courses might discuss digital libraries, web design and special collections librarianship. Other courses are likely to address museum informatics, archives, manuscripts and genealogical sources. 

Digital Libraries: Those who pursue a focus in digital libraries are likely to study the human-computer interaction. Some courses might introduce students to concepts in web design for information organizations as well as digital library technology. Other topics could include metadata, geographic information systems and database management. Students may also become familiar with digital preservation, digital curation and electronic records management.

Accreditation for Online Library Science Programs

When choosing among online library science programs, you may want to seek those accredited by the American Library Association (ALA). The ALA is the oldest and largest library association in the world. Graduates from ALA accredited online library science programs may meet with “better job opportunities”.i

ALA accredited programs are specific masters programs in library and information studies that have been reviewed and approved by the Committee on Accreditation. These programs help develop a series of core competences that librarians who work in school, academic, public, special, and governmental libraries may need to possess.

  • Professional ethics
  • Information resources such as management of collections
  • Organization of recorded knowledge and information
  • Technological knowledge and skills
  • Reference and user services
  • Research methods
  • Administration and management (e.g. budget, personnel)

DID YOU KNOW? Three skills that library media specialists need are reading, active listening and speaking.i

Types of Online Library Science Degrees

Online library science programs may award a graduate certificate or degrees at the masters or doctorate level. When choosing amongst online library science degrees, it is important to consider your interests, goals and experience level. While all touch on topics in library science, each may have their own requirements and outcomes. Below is a brief overview to get you started.

Online Masters in Library Science

Some of the common variants of online Masters in Library Science degrees are the Master of Library Science (MLS) degree, Master of Science in Library and Information Science (MSLS) or Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree.

Online Master of Science in Library Science (MSLS) or Online Master of Library Science (MLS): These programs typically prepare students to navigate environments like corporate, academic, or public libraries. Aside from core library science courses that discuss the principles of collection development, students may take courses that examine reference tools, digital search, school library administration, ethics, and children’s literature. 

Online Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS): Students who pursue this degree might study the basics in how information is organized, stored, searched, and used, along with concepts in librarian studies. Technical courses might include data science, database administration, web development, enterprise network management, and project management.       

While admission requirements vary, applicants who seek an online masters degree in library science must typically have earned a bachelors degree in any major and successfully passed the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).

Although there is some variance, most programs entail about 36 credits and may be completed in about three years of part time study. Those who pursue their Masters in Library Science on a full time basis may be able to complete their program in one to two years. Many programs require a capstone project or thesis, as well as an internship experience or practicum before the master’s degree is awarded. Some programs may also prepare graduates to sit for the School Librarian Certification exam. Programs vary, so contact schools directly for details.

Online Graduate Certificate in Library Science

Some schools offer online graduate certificate in library science programs. These short term programs may require about 12 to 18 credits which students may be able to complete in about one year. As themed programs, certificates may help current professionals refine their skills, develop new insights and methods, or prepare for a full masters degree. For instance, a Youth Services Certificate may help students understand the resource needs of younger groups. By contrast, an Archives Studies Certificate might help students develop a grasp of special collections and how they need to be managed, maintained and preserved.

Online School Library Media Licensure or Endorsement

Students who hope to pursue a career as teacher librarians in K-12 public schools typically must have a teaching certificate and Library Media Endorsement. Coursework for a school library media programs is likely to mix pedagogy, information literacy, and management, along with collection development for children and young adult learners. Since state regulations vary, schools may offer different academic paths to further these goals. Some examples follow.

Online Masters Degree and School Library Coursework: While in an online MLIS program, enrolled students may be able to take specific coursework required for the Library Media Endorsement. These could be based on state standards and may be about two thirds of the credits required for the MLIS. This option may align with the needs of those who would like both the MLIS degree and the possibility to pursue a career in a K-12 public or private school.

Online Certificate in School Library Media Endorsement: In some universities it may be possible to enroll in a separate certificate program for the School Library Media Endorsement. This may require less course preparation. For instance, instead of about 42 credits, a certificate might entail about 25-credits. This option may require a teaching certificate. As a result, it may suit those who only want the Library Media Endorsement and not the full degree.

Candidates for School Library Media licensure generally must also pass the subject test of the PRAXIS ii Library Media Specialist Test. i

Online PhD in Library Science

An online PhD in Library Science is a research degree that may prepare students to pursue careers in research, academia, and leadership in the field of library and information science (LIS).i Applicants to some library science PhD online programs must have earned a masters degree from an ALS-accredited program in LIS or masters degree in a related area. Other required material might include an updated resume, essay, and GRE scores.

The various components of a PhD in Library Science might include coursework, practica, and dissertation requirements. In some universities, students are provided with a one-to one mentor or faculty advisor, and may begin to conduct their own research from the get-go. They may also take part in monthly online seminars and meet in-person while at brief on-campus residencies.

Due to the heavy emphasis on research, many programs build on the strengths of their own faculty. Some examples of study areas might include archives and preservation, reference, metadata, scholarly communication, information retrieval and visual information systems. 

Schools that offer Library Science PhD online programs may allow students to complete their degree on a full-time or part-time basis. Graduation times will vary based on enrollment.

Why Earn a Library Science Degree Online?

Many traditional universities offer online library science degree programs which mirror their campus programs. In fact, online students may even have the same access to library collections, career services, mentoring, and other resources. 

Format and Structure

Except for a brief and initial on campus orientation in some schools, many library science graduate programs are fully online. Instead of a daily commute, students earn their library science degree via computer, wherever they have internet. While each school sets its own format and structure, students may get to log into their virtual classrooms when it is convenient. Professors usually deliver lectures and post assignments via an electronic course management system. Students use this portal to ‘attend’ classes, share documents, take exams, and exchange ideas with faculty and classmates.

Prepare for a Career in Library and Information Science

Library and information professionals help create links among individuals, information, technology, and libraries. If you are a current library technician or assistant and hope to advance, an online library science degree may be a step in the right direction.ii Most librarians need a Masters in Library Science (MLS) degree although, some positions in law, medical or corporate libraries often require a PhD.iii The online format may make it easier for students to continue working while earning the degree they seek.

Take the Next Step

You have a passion for strategic search and research but need a graduate program that can fit into your schedule. Take your interests forward with an online library science degree. You can easily find library science programs online with the on-page tools. Refine by degree level to browse results at the masters, doctorate or certificate levels. Then, contact the providers right away through the form provided. Take the next step now!

[i] | [ii] | [iii] 




Find Schools