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Online and Campus Library Science Degree Programs

If you are interested in working as a school librarian, earning a library science degree may be the best place to start. Librarians are information professionals who help patrons of public and private libraries find information from electronic and print sources, including databases, books, and articles. They teach library users how to correctly search for and evaluate sources of information. In addition to working with patrons, librarians are responsible for classifying, organizing, and cataloging texts so that they are easy to find. They also have administrative duties, such as reviewing and selecting sources to add to the library’s collections. Librarians need to have exceptional social skills, including the ability to interact professionally with many different people. Librarians also need to have organizational skills, knowledge of a wide range of information sources, competent research skills, and the ability to navigate complex information. School librarians work at media centers or libraries in K-12 public or private schools and their patrons are students and teachers. To learn more about how to become a school librarian, see our career guide.

Library Science Degrees & Certification

While there are some undergraduate degrees in library science available, the majority of these degrees are found at the graduate level and may be called a Master of Library Science (MLS), Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS), Master of Library and Information Studies (MLIS), or Master of Science in Library Science (MSLS), depending on the school. People who obtain a library science degree can find jobs in both the public and private sectors. Many librarians work with children at media centers in elementary, middle, or high schools. Others obtain positions at colleges or universities or work at community libraries funded by the government. Librarians can also find jobs in specialized libraries at hospitals, churches, museums, research facilities, and other organizations. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), many librarians are expected to retire in the coming years, increasing the number of job openings available.1

Once a master’s in library science is obtained, graduates who wish to work in the public school system as a school librarian will typically get certified or endorsed as a school librarian in their state. Graduates who wish to work in another area outside of schools do not usually need to seek certification.

Top-Ranked Library Degree and Information Science Degree Programs

The following schools were ranked by US News & World Report as having the best library science graduate programs in 2017.

1. University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign
2. University of Washington
3. University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
4. Syracuse University
5. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor (tie)
5. University of Texas-Austin (tie)
7. Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey-New Brunswick
8. University of Maryland-College Park
9. Indiana University-Bloomington
10. University of Pittsburgh

Best Value Schools with On-Campus Library Science Programs

To help you find the library science schools with the best value, we have researched the not-for-profit US colleges and universities offering library science programs at the graduate level. Only schools with a high graduation rate (70% or higher at the undergraduate level) and a low net price (below $20,000 for out-of-state students) made our list. A high graduation rate is typically an indicator of a school’s success and a low net price impacts students’ investment. We have also included data like the percentage of tenured faculty, applicable degrees offered, and US News & World Report national rankings. To help you compare, we’ve also included price per graduate credit hour for in-state residents, since the net price is based on undergraduate statistics. Keep in mind that non-residents and online students may pay more per credit hour.

SchoolGrad Degree(s)US News Library Studies Rank2US News National Rank3Grad Rate4% Tenured Faculty5Cost Per Grad Credit HourNet Price4
University of Washington-Seattle CampusMaster of Library and Information Science (MLIS) (online)#2#62 tie84%51%$825$9,765
University of South Florida-Main CampusMA Library and Information Science (online)#28#104 tie73%37%$431$10,460
Appalachian State UniversityMaster of Library Science (MLS) (online)NRNR72%39%$266$10,491
University of North Carolina at Chapel HillMaster of Science in Library Science (MSLS)#3#29 tie89%43%$585$11,649
Indiana University-BloomingtonMaster of Library Science (MLS)#9#79 tie78%42%$465$11,931
University of Wisconsin-MadisonMA Library and Information Studies#14 tie#46 tie87%49%$807$14,169
University of California-Los AngelesMaster of Library and Information Science (MLIS)#14 tie#2091%48%$639$15,002
University of IowaMaster of Arts (MA) in Library and Information Science (LIS) (online)#32 tie#84 tie73%48%$661$15,817
University of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignMS Library and Information Science (MS/LIS) (online)#1#48 tie84%51%$595$15,829
University at BuffaloMS Information and Library Science (online)#22 tie#79 tie76%35%$671$15,895
Rutgers University-New BrunswickMaster of Information (MI) (online)#7#62 tie80%26%$900$16,295
University of Maryland-College ParkMaster of Library and Information Science (MLIS) (online)#8#64 tie86%44%$731$16,790

See Table Notes and References at bottom of page.

Best Value Schools with Online Library Science Programs

The schools in the below table offer graduate library science degrees online with the best value, which we based on graduation rate (higher than 70%) and net price (lower than $20,000 per year). We included the same information as above, including US News rankings, graduate degrees offered, and percentage of tenured faculty. Since the net price is based on undergraduate data, we’ve included the online cost per graduate credit hour for in-state students for comparison. Some schools charge more for out-of-state online students, and those are marked with an asterisk (*) in the Cost Per Grad Credit Hour column.

SchoolGrad Degree(s)US News Library Studies Rank2US News National Rank3Grad Rate4% Tenured Faculty5Cost Per Grad Credit HourNet Price4
University of Washington-Seattle CampusMaster of Library and Information Science (MLIS)#2#62 tie84%51%$825$9,765
University of South Florida-Main CampusMA Library and Information Science#28#104 tie73%37%$431*$10,460
Appalachian State UniversityMaster of Library Science (MLS)NRNR72%39%$266*$10,491
University of Wisconsin-MadisonMA Library and Information Studies#14 tie#46 tie87%49%$850$14,169
University of IowaMaster of Arts (MA) in Library and Information Science (LIS)#32 tie#84 tie73%48%$641$15,817
University of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignMS Library and Information Science (MS/LIS)#1#48 tie84%51%$636*$15,829
University at BuffaloMS Information and Library Science#22 tie#79 tie76%35%$471*$15,895
Rutgers University-New BrunswickMaster of Information (MI)#7#62 tie80%26%$900$16,295
University of Maryland-College ParkMaster of Library and Information Science (MLIS)#8#64 tie86%44%$717*$16,790

See Table Notes and References at bottom of page.

Profiles of Traditional Library Science Degree Programs

Kutztown University

Through its Department of Library and Learning Technologies, Kutztown University offers two bachelor’s degree programs in library science: the Bachelor of Science (BS) in Library Science, a non-teaching degree, and the Bachelor of Science (BS) in Education: Library Science, which can lead to library teaching certification in grades K-12. The program prepares students for careers as professional librarians with the skills needed to evaluate, collect, organize, preserve, retrieve, and share information in academic and other settings. Both degree programs include field experience components that allow students to observe school libraries in rural and urban settings across grade levels. During the junior year of study, students may undertake a supervised professional field experience, which leads to a senior clinical field experience and practicum. Select courses in the degree program are available through online distance learning, which can provide additional flexibility for students with busy schedules. The teacher education track holds current accreditation from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).

Northern Kentucky University

Northern Kentucky University awards the Bachelor of Science (BS) in Library Informatics to students who successfully complete its academically rigorous program in library information systems. Students learn the principles and theory of organizing, accessing, and assessing information as well as materials preservation and information behavior. The program emphasizes all forms of information, which differentiates the program from related informatics degrees. Graduates are prepared for careers in such fields as research and information management and for graduate study in library science and information systems. The curriculum includes up-to-date instruction in current trends in informatics and digital and meta information skills and practice. The program is housed within the university’s College of Informatics, which takes an interdisciplinary approach to the information sciences. Although it is a traditional degree program, select courses in the BS in Library Informatics are offered online and in hybrid online/traditional formats.

University of California-Los Angeles

The University of California-Los Angeles offers an American Library Association-accredited Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree that places equal emphasis on theoretical knowledge and practical experience. During their time at UCLA, students learn about archival and information science theory, information technology, and gain information retrieval skills. Students also have the opportunity to participate in an internship experience drawing from 300 California organizations, including the Getty and the Los Angeles Public Library. All students must either put together a portfolio of their work or write a thesis presenting their original research. Specialization areas are offered in archival studies, informatics, library studies, media archival studies, and rare books/print and visual culture.

University of Maine at Augusta

The University of Maine at Augusta offers a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Information and Library Services (ILS) degree program that prepares students to work independently and become part of the new librarianship in the information age. The foundation of the program is the research, theories, approaches, and practice in modern library and information science, allowing students to enter the workforce or pursue graduate study. The 120-credit-hour program can be taken fully online and offers several tracks to admission depending on students’ previous academic experience. A capstone project includes an on-site internship in a school setting. All courses in the major are taken online using streamed video instruction, computer conferencing, and Internet technologies. Students may also take non-library courses at the University of Maine or other accredited institutions for transfer, providing a highly flexible and personalized degree plan. Program graduates are qualified to receive the Certified Library Support Staff certification from the American Library Association-Allied Professional Association.

Profiles of Online Master’s in Library Science Degree Programs

Appalachian State University

Appalachian State University’s Library Science Department offers an American Association of School Librarians (AASL)-recognized and Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP)-accredited Master of Library Science (MLS) that leads to certification through the North Carolina Public Librarian Certification Commission and/or Media Coordinator licensure from the State of North Carolina. With coursework offered online in a variety of flexible formats, students in the MLS program will learn how to provide library and information services to the public and K-12 learners, build and maintain library collections, and advocate for library programs within their communities. Students will gain real-world field experience in either an Application of Librarianship Standards course for those already working in a school or library setting or an Internship/Practicum course for those without prior experience. Students who do not already have a teaching license can receive M Level Licensure with 12 additional online hours of coursework qualifying them to work in K-12 schools. An Instructional Technology/Computers (ITC) add-on licensure is also available with 18 additional online credit hours.

Louisiana State University

Louisiana State University (LSU) offers a fully-online Master’s in Library and Information Science (MLIS) program with multiple optional specializations, including School Librarianship and Academic Librarianship, that can prepare graduates to work in public and private school libraries. The core courses for all specializations include Management of Information Organizations, Understanding Research, and Information Needs and Information Seeking. In total, 36 credit hours are required to earn the degree. The program is competitive and requires students to maintain a 3.0 GPA across all MLIS courses. Students must also earn at least a B- in each course in the MLIS core curriculum. Financial aid, including a limited number of graduate assistantships, is available to qualifying students. The School of Library & Information Science at LSU has offered the online MLIS for over ten years, and also offers a graduate certificate in Records and Information Management as well as a graduate certificate in School Librarianship, which is designed for add-on certification for currently licensed teachers.

San José State University

The San José State University School of Information’s exclusively online Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) program affords graduate students the unique opportunity to tailor their master’s degrees to their individual career goals. They can prepare for a variety of future roles in school libraries and academic libraries, such as information literacy or digital literacy instruction, collection development, website development, and library technology management. MLIS students complete all aspects of their degree online, including courses and field experiences. Periodic live online class sessions via web conferencing give students opportunities to engage in live discussions with instructors and classmates. Students also interact frequently via online discussion boards, where they can log in and participate at their convenience. Full-time students can finish the 43-unit MLIS program in as little as a year, although students have seven years to fulfill degree requirements. Students must complete six required courses, including a thesis or e-portfolio, and nine electives. Graduate students in the exclusively online Teacher Librarian program at SJSU who hold a valid single or multiple subject credential issued by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing can apply for the Teacher Librarian Services Credential from California and other states upon completion of the required coursework. Students outside California are advised to check with their state’s Department of Education for credentialing eligibility. The Teacher Librarian program curriculum at SJSU includes coursework in areas such as information and society, information retrieval, school library media centers, collection management, cataloging and classification, and design and implementation of instructional strategies. Two electives and a school library field experience course round out the 37-unit program. During the field experience, students work in elementary and secondary school library settings. Teacher Librarian program students can also earn the MLIS degree by taking two additional courses (six units). The SJSU Teacher Librarian Program is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the SJSU MLIS program is accredited by the American Library Association (ALA).

University at Buffalo

The University at Buffalo offers a Master of Science (MS) degree in Information and Library Science that is accredited by the American Library Association and offered 100% online. Students can enroll in the program full-time or part-time, and both will enjoy the flexibility of online course delivery. They will gain real-world experience by participating in practicums, special projects, and directed study courses. The degree comprises 36 credits for completion, which can be accomplished within four full-time semesters. Courses are offered in the following specialty areas: information management, information organization, information services, information storage and retrieval, law librarianship, music librarianship, public or academic libraries, and special libraries. The Department of Information Science at the University of Buffalo also offers a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Information Science that trains graduates to be in faculty and leadership positions by focusing on developing quantitative and qualitative research skills.

University of Pittsburgh

The University of Pittsburgh’s School of Information Sciences maintains an online Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) program that closely mirrors the curriculum for its long-standing on-campus MLIS program. The program offers three specializations: Archives and Information Science; Data Stewardship; and Library and Information Services. Admission is competitive and requires students to hold a bachelor’s degree with a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0. Students have four years from the start of the program to complete all degree requirements. Typically, students take six credit hours per term, which allows degree completion within three years. Online students are supported by academic advisors and 24/7 technology assistance, as well as remote access to the university’s library system. The MLIS program at the University of Pittsburg is accredited by the American Library Association (ALA). The School of Information Sciences also offers a certificate of advanced study in Library and Information Science and a PhD program in Library Science.

Library Science Degree Requirements and Coursework

A library science degree is a good fit for those who wish to work in information collection and management in an academic setting. An undergraduate degree in library science can prepare students for entry-level careers in teaching and library management or for further study at the graduate level.

Students who enroll in a school with a library and information science degree program will take courses in the history of library science and the evolution of literature. In addition, prospective librarians take classes in research strategies, the collection and organization of materials, information technology systems, and library management. Students can also choose to take additional classes that address specific interests, such as how to find age-appropriate resources for children. A master’s degree library science degree program takes one to two years to complete.

Some examples of classes in a library science degree include:

  • Computer-Based Information Tools
  • Resources for Children
  • Library Services for Early Childhood
  • Curriculum Resources and Services in the School Library Media Center
  • Storytelling
  • History of Children’s Literature
  • Collection Development and Management
  • Academic Library Management
  • Evaluation of Resources and Services
  • Evaluation of Information Systems

Top School Library Blogs

See our list of the top 50 school library blogs which features blogs that provide great insights and informative articles about working as a school librarian.

Library Science Career Interviews

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Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Does a library science degree lead to teaching certification?

Answer: Many library science degree programs offer curriculum tracks that lead to teaching certification in the library sciences. You can check with schools in your area and your state board of education for certification requirements.

Question: Can I get a library science degree online?

Answer: Yes! Many library science degree programs are offered online or in hybrid formats. Master’s in library science online degrees usually take around two years to complete if attending full time.

Question: What prerequisites are required to apply to a library science degree program?

Answer: At the bachelor’s degree level, prerequisites typically include the ACT and/or SAT exams. Master’s level library science programs generally look for applicants who have an undergraduate degree in library or information sciences and related fields.

Question: What is the difference between an information science and library science degree?

Answer: Library science is a branch of the information sciences, which specifically focuses on information collection and retrieval in academic or scholarly settings. As a result, an information science degree can be broader without a specialization in library sciences, which many programs do offer.

Table Notes and References:
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Librarians: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/librarians.htm
2. US News & World Report Best Library and Information Studies Programs: https://www.usnews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-library-information-science-programs/library-information-science-rankings
3. US News & World Report National University Rankings: https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/rankings/national-universities
4. National Center for Education Statistics: https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
5. College Factual: https://www.collegefactual.com/