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. This page covers library science degrees, specializations, state certification, top programs program requirements, and select profiles.

Table of Contents

Library Science Degree Overview

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 search for and evaluate sources of information. In addition to working with patrons, librarians are responsible for classifying, organizing, and cataloging texts so they are easy to find. They may also spend time reviewing and selecting sources to add to the library’s collections. To learn about librarian career information, see our career guide.

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 certification and entry-level careers in teaching and library management or for further study at the graduate level. A master’s degree in library science degree program qualifies graduates for most library and information management jobs and takes one to two years to complete.

Quick Facts

  • There are 151 not-for-profit colleges and universities with library science or school librarian programs.1
  • 33 schools offer a certificate in library science or school librarian.1
  • 38 schools offer an associate’s degree in library science or school librarian.1
  • 10 schools offer a bachelor’s degree in library science or school librarian.1
  • 103 schools offer a master’s or advanced degree in library science or school librarian.1

Library Science Degrees and Certification

While there are a handful of undergraduate degrees in library science, the majority are found at the graduate level and may be called a Master’s in Library Science or 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. They can also be at the doctoral level, as Doctor of Library Science (DLS) degrees or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in library science degrees. Graduates with library science degrees can find jobs in both the public and private sectors. K-12 school librarians work with children in libraries and 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 expected.2

Once a master’s in library science is obtained, graduates who wish to work in the public K-12 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 state certification.

Many library science degrees offer further areas of specialization (also called concentrations, specialties, or emphases) so that students can hone their interests in a more specific area of library and information science. Some common specializations include:

  • Archival and Special Collections/Archives Management: Graduates learn about the appraisal, preservation, and conservation of archives and special collections, and how technology intersects with this practice.
  • Children and Youth Services: Prepares graduates to work with children and young adults to develop their informational skills, encourage in them a love of reading, and work with diverse communities to drive positive change.
  • Data and Asset Management: Trains graduates to manage, organize, clean, and interpret data to lead to new discoveries and support research.
  • Digital Information Management/Digital Curation: Focuses on the digital methods of organizing and curating data in libraries, archives, and records management departments of organizations.
  • School Library: Prepares graduates to become school librarians who inspire enthusiasm in young people about learning, reading, and technology.
    • Top-Rated Library Science Degree Programs

      Niche Best Library Sciences Programs

      Niche provides a national best colleges ranking, with the following ranked colleges offering library science degree programs:

      • University of Washington (#60; on campus or online)
      • Wayne State University (#170; online)
      • University of Southern Mississippi (#232; online)
      • University of Nebraska at Omaha (#286; online)
      • Catholic University of America (#398; hybrid or online)3

      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 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 undergraduate 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 the 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 Rank4US News National Rank5Grad Rate1% Tenured Faculty6Cost Per Grad Credit HourNet Price1
      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 (LIS)#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 IowaMA 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

      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 for undergraduate students). 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 Rank4US News National Rank5Grad Rate1% Tenured Faculty6Cost Per Grad Credit HourNet Price1
      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 IowaMA 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

      Library Science Degree Requirements and Coursework

      Most library science degree programs require a bachelor’s degree since they are found at the graduate level. Students entering a library science graduate program might have a degree in English, communication, or education. To be admitted, they typically need a minimum undergraduate GPA. Some schools may require GRE scores. Students in library and information science degree programs 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. Some examples of classes in a library science degree curriculum include:

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

      Select Library Science Degree Programs

      Traditional 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 (UCLA) offers an American Library Association (ALA)-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 in one of 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. UCLA also offers a PhD in Information Studies with a focus on social justice and cultural/global awareness.

      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 (ALA)-Allied Professional Association.

      Online and Hybrid 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 North Carolina 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 10 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. Students 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 one year, although students have seven years to fulfill degree requirements. 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 (ALA) and offered 100% online. Students can enroll in the program full time or part time, and students on both tracks 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, 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 (with a concurrent JD degree), Music Librarianship (with a concurrent master’s in music), 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 Pittsburgh 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.

      Additional Resources

      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 state teaching certification in the library sciences. You can check with schools in your area and your state board of education for certification options and 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 one to two years to complete if attending full time.

      Question:How do I find an accredited library science program?

      Answer: The American Library Association (ALA) accredits library and information studies programs at the master’s level. There are currently 55 ALA accredited programs in the United States.

      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 or related fields.

      Question: What is the difference between an information science and a 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.

      1. National Center for Education Statistics College Navigator: https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
      2. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Librarians: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/librarians.htm
      3. Niche Best Colleges with Library Science Degrees in America: https://www.niche.com/colleges/search/best-colleges-with-library-science/
      4. 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
      5. US News & World Report National University Rankings: https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/rankings/national-universities
      6. College Factual: https://www.collegefactual.com/