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 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 may also spend time reviewing and selecting sources to add to the library’s collections.
Librarians should 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.
- There are 114 colleges and universities with library science or school librarian programs.1
- 6 schools offer a certificate in library science or school librarian.1
- 9 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
- 97 schools offer a master’s or advanced degree in library science or school librarian.1
For not-for-profit colleges and universities.
Table of Contents
- Library Science Degrees and Certification
- Best Value Schools with On-Campus Library Science Programs
- Best Value Schools with Online Library Science Programs
- Select Library Science Degree Programs
- Library Science Degree Requirements and Coursework
- Additional Resources
- Frequently Asked Questions
Library Science Degrees & Certification
While there are a handful of certificates and associate degrees in library science, the majority of these degrees 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) degrees. People who obtain a library science degree can find jobs in both the public and private sectors. Many 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 available.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 to 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.
- 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
- American Association of School Librarians (AASL): A division of the American Library Association (ALA), the nation’s only professional membership organization focusing solely on school librarians and their communities.
- Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL): A division of the ALA, the professional association for academic libraries and librarians in higher education.
- Association for Information Science & Technology (AIS&T): A professional membership organization comprised of professors, developers, researchers, practitioners, and students in the field.
- School Library Blogs: See our list featuring blogs that provide great insights and informative articles about working as a school librarian.
- Interview: Dr. Mary Ann Harlan: Read our interview with Dr. Harlan, Lecturer at San José State University School of Information
- Interview: Dr. Sandra Hirsh: See our interview with Dr. Hirsh, Professor and Director, San José State University School of Information.
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 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.
|School||Grad Degree(s)||US News Library Studies Rank3||US News National Rank4||Grad Rate1||% Tenured Faculty5||Cost Per Grad Credit Hour||Net Price1|
|University of Washington-Seattle Campus||Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) (online)||#2||#62 tie||84%||51%||$825||$9,765|
|University of South Florida-Main Campus||MA Library and Information Science (online)||#28||#104 tie||73%||37%||$431||$10,460|
|Appalachian State University||Master of Library Science (MLS) (online)||NR||NR||72%||39%||$266||$10,491|
|University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill||Master of Science in Library Science (MSLS)||#3||#29 tie||89%||43%||$585||$11,649|
|Indiana University-Bloomington||Master of Library Science (MLS)||#9||#79 tie||78%||42%||$465||$11,931|
|University of Wisconsin-Madison||MA Library and Information Studies (LIS)||#14 tie||#46 tie||87%||49%||$807||$14,169|
|University of California-Los Angeles||Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS)||#14 tie||#20||91%||48%||$639||$15,002|
|University of Iowa||MA Library and Information Science (LIS) (online)||#32 tie||#84 tie||73%||48%||$661||$15,817|
|University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign||MS Library and Information Science (MS/LIS) (online)||#1||#48 tie||84%||51%||$595||$15,829|
|University at Buffalo||MS Information and Library Science (online)||#22 tie||#79 tie||76%||35%||$671||$15,895|
|Rutgers University-New Brunswick||Master of Information (MI) (online)||#7||#62 tie||80%||26%||$900||$16,295|
|University of Maryland-College Park||Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) (online)||#8||#64 tie||86%||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.
|School||Grad Degree(s)||US News Library Studies Rank3||US News National Rank4||Grad Rate1||% Tenured Faculty5||Cost Per Grad Credit Hour||Net Price1|
|University of Washington-Seattle Campus||Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS)||#2||#62 tie||84%||51%||$825||$9,765|
|University of South Florida-Main Campus||MA Library and Information Science||#28||#104 tie||73%||37%||$431*||$10,460|
|Appalachian State University||Master of Library Science (MLS)||NR||NR||72%||39%||$266*||$10,491|
|University of Wisconsin-Madison||MA Library and Information Studies||#14 tie||#46 tie||87%||49%||$850||$14,169|
|University of Iowa||MA Library and Information Science (LIS)||#32 tie||#84 tie||73%||48%||$641||$15,817|
|University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign||MS Library and Information Science (MS/LIS)||#1||#48 tie||84%||51%||$636*||$15,829|
|University at Buffalo||MS Information and Library Science||#22 tie||#79 tie||76%||35%||$471*||$15,895|
|Rutgers University-New Brunswick||Master of Information (MI)||#7||#62 tie||80%||26%||$900||$16,295|
|University of Maryland-College Park||Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS)||#8||#64 tie||86%||44%||$717*||$16,790|
Select Library Science Degree Programs
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 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.
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.
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’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 (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.
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).
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.
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.
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. 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.
Students who enroll in 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. Some examples of classes in a library science degree curriculum include:
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: 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. 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
4. US News & World Report National University Rankings: https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/rankings/national-universities
5. College Factual: https://www.collegefactual.com/