At the graduate level, a library science degree program may lead to a certificate, masters or PhD degree. Most library science degrees focus on information collection and organization. Library science programs are also likely to cover the methods used to preserve, classify, and access documents in libraries, information centers and electronic databases. As a result, a graduate degree in library science may entail a mix of information technology, research methods and cognition studies.
written by Rana Waxman
A library science degree may provide a complex and dynamic field of study as the digital age transforms how information is accessed, saved, and retrieved, Sometimes referred to as ‘library studies’ or ‘library and information science’ (LIS), library science applies technology and the practices and tools of records management, archival science, user needs and more.
While library science may conjure up images of librarians and books, it is an interdisciplinary field.
Admission requirements for a library science degree vary from program to program. Some masters programs accept students with a bachelors degree in any major, earned from a regionally accredited institution. They may also look for a minimum GPA of 3.0, GRE scores, letters of recommendation and a statement of academic and professional goals. In some schools, students may undergo a personal interview, and possibly, need to demonstrate computer skills. Students from outside the United States may be required to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).i
PhD in Library Science programs may require students to have a masters degree from a program accredited by the American Library Association. Some schools may look for candidates with a minimum GPA of 3.5, GRE scores and references. Also, doctoral candidates may be asked for material such as an essay, resume, a sample of scholarly research and professional work experience.
DID YOU KNOW?
The first American school for library science was founded by Melvil Dewey at Columbia University in 1887.ii
There is considerable diversity among library science degree programs. To help in your decision, we suggest that you read about programs and reach out to the schools about your specific interests and concerns. Some students may enter a library science graduate program with a career in mind, whether this is in administration, archives, or librarianship for children. If this is you, research the course syllabus to make sure it addresses your needs.
|Library Media/Information Technologies||University of Central Arkansas||MS|
|Master of Science in Library and Information Science||St. John's University||MLIS|
Library science and information science are similar degree paths with some differences. Librarians and information professionals may contribute to the design and development of knowledge management systems such as databases. They also help others locate archival and other resources. In so doing, they bridge the gaps between people, information and technology.
For the most part, those in library science are concerned with the usage of information once it reaches the institution (e.g. library). Also, on how this information is classified, circulated and accessed using various reference services, bibliographies and search tools.
Information science (IS) tends to address the lifecycle of information – from creation to delivery. Furthermore, IS programs are interested in more than how information is collected, organized, stored, interpreted and utilized. Their concern branches out with information analysis, retrieval, distribution and protection.
Masters in Library Science programs may be listed under several names and vary by school. Master of Library Science (MLS), Master of Arts, Master of Librarianship, Master of Library and Information Studies (MLIS), and Master of Science are some examples. Most Masters in Library Science degrees can be completed in two years of full time study and are offered as both traditional and online degrees.
The other things that vary are curricula and number of required courses. For instance, the number of academic credit hours required for a masters degree might range from 36 semester hours to 72 quarter hours. These credits tend to include core courses, electives and a project such as a thesis or capstone experience. Also, masters in library science programs usually have a fieldwork requirement which might be done through a library that is relevant to their interests.
MLS programs typically offer courses in library materials collection and the organization of information. Other courses might explore research methods and strategies, online reference systems, and internet search methods.iii Aside from that, a school may offer a wide variety of electives or areas of focus. A few general examples are listed below.
The Master of Library Science is often an academic program that delves into the principles and procedures common to school libraries and information centers. As a result, it is typically a career-focused degree path that may prepare graduates to pursue a career in school librarianship.i To that end, some MLS programs may help students fulfill course requirements that are needed to sit for the School Librarian Certification exam. Applicants to MLS programs may need to submit a copy of a valid teaching certificate and Teacher Service Record.
The Master of Information (MI) degree is not necessarily a ‘librarian degree’ but it may cover similar topics. Students might take courses in human information behavior, management and organization. Also, they are likely to take courses in information technology. Here they might study the software tools that are used to provide information services. Those who do desire to pursue a career in a library or school library might use a concentration in library and information science to cultivate specific skills and knowledge. Other areas of emphasis could include some of the examples that follow.
In a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) program, students usually take core courses, electives and a final capstone course. Some of the required courses might delve into information behavior and the interplay of society and information. Other courses might explore management of organization systems, library technology systems and instructional strategies for information professionals. In some schools, there are MLIS programs that offer a specific focus of study such as law librarianship. In this type of program, a student is likely to take the required MLIS courses and, take courses such as legal research and law library administration.
The PhD in Library and Information Science program is a terminal, research degree. It is often the choice for those who want to pursue careers in research, education, and professional practice.
In some universities, requirements for the PhD degree may be completed in about 6 years by full time students. Some of these requirements could include core courses which examine key concepts in information organization and information retrieval. These might include webometrics, intellectual property, cybersecurity and information policy. Also, students usually explore current and special topics. Social informatics, web-search, copyright, archival ethics, and children’s literacy are a few examples. Finally, PhD courses tend to cover statistics and research design to help students prepare for their dissertation.
A graduate certificate in library science is usually a short-term, non-degree program. In some schools, students take about 15 credits which can either be used as a stand-alone credential or, as a concentration area within a masters program. Certificate topics vary from school to school, but are typically thematic. For example, a graduate certificate in Management for Information Professionals programs might explore topics such as how to manage projects in information organizations, marketing and knowledge management. Many such certificates can be earned in about one year of full time study, and may have a broad appeal to mid-career professionals.
Library science degree programs often allow students the flexibility to tailor their courses to a specific area of interest. While ALA-accredited programs require courses that provide general preparation to practice in the profession, some programs also offer focused tracks that allow or encourage concentration in a specific area of library and information studies (e.g., school librarianship, health science librarianship, database design, or archival studies). It is possible that these concentrations will vary between schools. That said, an emphasis may contribute to the overall appeal of one program over the other.
Archives and Information Science may highlight digital preservation or curation and archival ethics, accountability, and appraisal issues.
Information Behavior might identify how people navigate digital environments.
Health Information Behavior might explore the information practices and behaviors of health professionals, patients, caregivers, and consumers. Health science librarians sometimes provide information about new clinical trials, medical treatments and procedures.
Social Information Systems might explore issues related to the design and use of social information systems, and the impact of social media on people's information behavior.
Web-based Information Systems likely explores the study, design and implementation of digital tools that are used to classify, search, extract and spread relevant information.
School Librarianship might prepare future school librarians and school library supervisors with courses such as how to help teachers plan lessons and find material.
Public Librarianship might stress the methods used to provide highly-focused assistance to library users. Coursework is likely to help students develop the skills and know-how required in library administration, reference, programming and collection development.
Special Librarianship might help students to use current technology to evaluate, analyze, organize, package and present information to maximize its usefulness. Coursework might explore metadata and database modeling.
Youth Services might prepare students to pursue a career as a young adult or children’s librarian. Coursework is likely to highlight popular culture and library materials, and services for these age groups.
Many regionally-accredited universities offer ALA accredited programs. The American Library Association (ALA) accredits programs that have undergone their review process and met their standards. These standards speak to a program’s mission, goals and objectives. Also, to the course of study, faculty, administration, financial support and student resources. Per the BLS, a library science degree from an ALA-accredited program “may lead to better job opportunities”.iii
Most employers require librarians to have a master’s degree in library science (MLS). Also, some employers require special librarians to have a masters degree, a professional degree, or a Ph.D. in that subject. For instance, a law librarian might have a law degree. You might use your degree as a potential platform to a career niche; there are many types of librarians. iii
Beyond their degree, public librarians in some states may need to have a teacher’s certification. Also, some states require librarians to pass a standardized test, and may require librarians in public libraries to be certified. iii
Based on projections by the BLS, employment of librarians, curators and archivists is projected to grow by 4 percent to 2024. In May 2016, the median wage for librarians was $57,680.iii
The ‘right’ degree for you needs to fit both your academic, professional, and practical needs. Do you prefer to earn your library science degree in your own city or state? Are you open to a new adventure and relocation? Or, do you need the flexibility to take courses on your computer? Each could have its own advantages. Review library science graduate programs in the format and location that works best for your needs.
Source: [i] ala.org/accreditedprograms/guidelines-choosing-masters-program-library-and-information-studies | [ii] en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Library_science | [iii] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/librarians.htm