Library science is an academic field most people don’t consider very much. But, chances are, you spent considerable time in your public, high school, or college library. If your time in the library went smoothly, you can likely thank the library science degree program that your librarian completed before landing the job.
Librarians work in academic libraries, college libraries, and even K-12 school libraries. These librarians usually have degrees in library science because they are required in the field. A bachelor’s degree alone does not make you eligible to work as a librarian—you need a Master’s Degree in Library Science.
What Is Library Science?
Library science is a field of study that focuses on the management of information, collections, and archives. The most common libraries are collections of books. That said, libraries hold so much more than books nowadays.
If you go to your public library today, you’ll find that the catalog is likely digitized. That library catalog will allow you to search any book, periodical, magazine, or document that the library physically holds. Beyond that, chances are the catalog will also give you access to electronic library resources and collections. This is significant because libraries have changed significantly in the last few decades, making a major move from physical to digital.
The field of library science or library and information studies, as it’s also known, is a field made specifically for librarians-in-training. Aspiring librarians study collections management, library operations, and research methods, among other subjects. A master of library science is an important stepping stone to any job as a professional librarian.
Why Should I Study Library Science?
You should study library science if you know you want to become a working librarian. You can pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Library Science if you’re interested in learning about collections management. That said, you will be much more competitive for a job as a full-time librarian with a Master’s Degree in Library Science. The master’s level degree will help you more easily land a job at any library, whether government-owned, private, or at a public school.
Library science will give you all of the skills necessary, including information technology and collections management, to thrive in the field.
Types of Library Science Degrees
You can pursue a bachelor’s or master’s degree program in library science. Some schools offer certificates in library science as well, though those programs will not prepare you fully for a career as a librarian. Certificate programs are a good idea for professionals in other fields that want some specialization in library science.
Though many colleges and universities still offer these programs in traditional in-person classroom formats, a growing number of schools are offering library science degree programs online. An online program is a great opportunity for students who need the flexibility that comes with location independence and asynchronous learning.
Meanwhile, if you do an in-person program, you will have greater access to your campus’ physical library space and resources. This is an advantage if you’re interested in physical archival or collections management work.
Let’s explore both library science degrees more in-depth below.
Bachelor’s Degree in Library Science
A Bachelor of Science in Library Science makes sense as an undergraduate degree if you already know that you want to pursue your master’s degree in the same field. This should be your path because most competitive librarian jobs will require a master’s degree for entry-level to mid-level positions.
If you have the opportunity to enroll in an undergraduate program in library science, it’s definitely not a bad idea. But, if you already have an undergraduate degree in something else, even in a related field like English, history, or any other humanity or social science major, you can still step right into a master’s degree program in library science.
If you go for the bachelor’s degree option, the most important thing you can do before enrolling is to make sure your program is accredited by a certified accrediting body. The most common accrediting body for library science programs is the American Library Association (ALA).
To help you get started on your program and school search, we compiled a list below of some top schools offering bachelor’s degrees in library science.
This program offers online degrees in library science. It is an excellent opportunity for students in Nebraska to get in-state tuition and get a degree from their flagship state university.
This fully online program allows students to focus on library science subjects like information literacy, cataloging, and technological processes. The program also requires a 120-hour internship.
This Mississippi state school offers a completely virtual Bachelor of Science in Library and Information Science. It requires 120 total credit-hours, 45 of which are in the library science department.
Remember, a Master’s Degree in Library Science is essential to any long-term career in a library. Some programs will include specializations in certain library fields. For example, you can find a program that offers a concentration in school libraries. Similarly, you can pursue a degree that allows you to focus on archival management.
Below are just a few top master’s degree programs for library science.
Wisconsin’s flagship state campus in Madison offers a Master of Arts in Library and Information Studies. You can earn this ALA-accredited degree either on-campus or online.
Illinois’ flagship campus offers a Master of Science in Library and Information Science. The program is uniquely flexible and customizable to meet a student’s needs and interests. Not only does the university offer the program both on-campus and online, but it also only requires two core classes. Then, students can choose the rest of their courses from a catalog of related library and information science courses.
Located in the heart of Philadelphia, Drexel University, a mid-sized private university, offers a Master of Science in Library and Information Science. The program offers three specializations: Digital Technology Services, Information and Data Services, and User and Community Services.
Washington’s flagship campus in Seattle offers a Master of Science in Library and Information Science. You can pursue the program either on-campus or online. The university offers the program through its Information School, or I School, a department that focuses on preparing students for a diverse array of professional experiences.
Librarian Career Outlook
The job outlook in the library field is trending positively. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), professional opportunities for librarians will increase by five percent by 2029, which is faster than average.
The BLS also lists the mean annual salary of a librarian as $59,500. Your salary will vary significantly, though, depending on the kind of librarian you are. A school librarian at an elementary school, for example, will have limited earning potential compared with an academic librarian at a major university or research institute.
The major job titles you can expect to access with a Master’s Degree in Library Science or Information Science are:
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- Collection Manager
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Should You Study Library Science?
Only you can answer this question. After reading this article, are you excited about the prospect of delving into this little-known field? Do you have a better understanding of what the field is and of what studying it entails? If you answered yes to all of these questions, you know what to do next.
Remember, you can choose a library science program with a solid general foundation, but you can also seek out programs that will let you specialize. If you know you want to work in schools, seek out programs with concentrations in education and school libraries.
Use this guide as a launchpad for your continuing school and program search. Understanding the basic nuts and bolts of any academic discipline, field of study, or profession is the first step. Now that you have a better sense of what library science is, you can continue learning about the different kinds of library science degrees out there.
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