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How do I Learn about Careers in Library Science?: Graduate Programs

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What is Library Science?

If you like working with technology and people, then librarianship might be a career for you. Librarians today have a wide variety of jobs, and many do not even have the title "librarian" but instead are information managers.

Where to start? You could start searching online, possibly at librarycareers.org or start by talking with a librarian. You could find a job at the type of library you are interested in, or volunteer to see what the day-to-day is like.

Depending on the size of the library, librarians may wear more than one of these hats. In large libraries these roles may be huge teams of librarians, or a single person at a small library.

Access Services/Circulation Librarians: These librarians manage the check in and out of materials, the records of the library patrons, and reserve items.

Archivists: These librarians manage collections of historial materials from a corportation, school, or community.

Cataloging Librarians: These librarians catalog everything from the books to journals to movies to art, in physical and online formats.

Collection Development/Subject Librarians: These librarians are specialized in specific areas, and often purchase the items for that subject.

Government Document Librarians: These librarians manage the large amount of material coming from federal, state, and local governments.

Instruction Librarians: These Librarians teach classes of students or the general public, on any topic from computer basics to advanced searching of databases to baby lap-time.

Interlibrary Loan Librarians: These librarians manage the items lent from and borrowed to other libraries.

Manuscript/Rare Books Librarians: These librarians deal with rare and valueable items, some even handwritten before the invention of the printing press.

Reference Librarians: These librarians work the Research Assistance desk answering questions, and often are the face of the library. They may work with adults, students or children.

Serials Librarians: These librarians manage the periodical, magazine, and newspapers in the library in print and online.

Web/Systems/Electronic Resourcs Librarians: These librarians work behind the scenes, maintaining the library website, the databases, the ILS (integrated library system), programming, and hardware.

Individuals with library degrees are often hired by museums, publishers, software companies for having strong skills in the management of information, technologies, and user-oriented thinking.

This 2011 blog post from the iSchool (School of Information Studies) at Syracuse University discusses non-librarian careers for LIS grads.

Choosing A Graduate Program

There are a large number of library programs available (see the box below) if you decide to get a Master's degree in Library and Information Science, however make sure your degree is accredited by the American Library Association. Many libraries will not hire you if you have a library degree from an un-accredited school! This list will help you choose among the 63 currently accredited programs.

Do you need to get a master's degree? Not always. Some positions in the library do not require an advance degree, such as a library technician.

The Master's degree (often MLIS or MLS or MS in LIS) is considered the terminal degree for the profession. However, some positions require additional degrees, such as a Law degree (for law librarians) or a second masters degree (for some academic positions).

On-Campus vs. Online vs. Hybrid

Before choosing a library and information science program it is important to know if the program has online course work.

On-campus programs: These programs are decreasing in number, but they are the traditional classroom courses.

Online programs: These allow you to complete the degree without ever setting foot on campus. These types of programs can be asynchronous (you can work on the course at any time during the week) or synchronous (you have to log at a specific time, say Tuesday nights from 7-9 with your classmates and professor). Some courses may require you to have a headset so you can talk to your classmates, while others use a chat room for the students, with the professor being the only person with a microphone.

Hybrid programs: A rapidly growing area, not just in library science but in education in general. Online programs may require a residency day (or days) once a semester, as many face-to-face programs also allow the students to take online courses if they choose. Some professors might be at a distance as well, so on-campus students might choose to have a flexible schedule with a mix of face-to-face, online, or weekend classes. Some online programs require you to take an introductory course face-to-face before beginning the online program, such as a week in the summer where you learn basics and how to use the online software.

Check individual programs for residency/travel requirements.

Costs to consider:

Travel: If your online program requires you to travel to campus (say once per semester) add that cost to your calculations.

Evening/weekend classes: if you have the option to keep a full time job while being a student, it is a bonus but you might not be eligible for some need-based awards if you make too much money.

In-state vs. Out-of-state vs. Online tuition: Some programs have a separate tuition and fees schedule for online students, it's good to figure this out when considering programs.

Assistantships/work-study: For face-to-face and hybrid programs you may be able to work in the campus library for free or reduced tuition, but these positions are very competitive.

Books/software: You'll probably be able to get many books through your local library for distance courses, but the universities often will have e-books available for rent or purchase. Some online classes may require specific software which you would have to purchase, but many times classes will try and use free software.


When considering costs for graduate school, remember to look for scholarships and grants that can help pay for your education. Here are a few places to get started:

Additional Places to Check Include:

  • Your university - Many universities offer inhouse scholarships, so make sure to see what is available to you from your own institution
  • Special library associations - Specific associations that represent different types of librarianship (such as the Special Libraries Association, Medical Libraries Association, etc.) compile lists of scholarships available for the different specialty areas

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Research Assistance
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Librarians use so much jargon that we need our own dictionary:

Librarian Stereotypes

Common Misconceptions:








1. We spend our workday reading and shelving books.

2. We are old, frumpy, anti-social, obsessive-compulsive, spinsters who just want to shush you.

3. Cats.

4. We wear glasses, cardigan sweaters, buns, and sensible shoes. (And are all women.)

5. We hate censorship! (Okay, this one is true.)