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Degrees and Schools
Masters and PhD programs in library science are available from many universities and colleges, and take one to two years to complete. Employers often prefer graduates schools accredited by the American Library Association (ALA).
Graduate students of library science usually divide their time between class and computer lab. Course studies usually include:
- Foundations of library and information science
- The role of information and libraries in society
- History of books and printing
- Censorship and intellectual freedom
- Selection and processing of library materials
- Organizing and classifying information
- Research methods and strategies
- User services skills
- Using Internet search methods, automated circulation systems and online reference systems
Students who wish to specialize in a particular area such as reference, technical services, or children's services can take elective courses in:
- Resources for children or young adults
- Classification, cataloguing, indexing, and abstracting
- Library administration
Interdisciplinary degree programs combine traditional training in library science with technical courses in information science.
Online Classes and Programs
Online master's degree programs in library science are readily available as 100% Web-based or as part of an on-campus program. Programs that are offered by schools that are campus-based are more likely to provide practical experience opportunities and job placement assistance. Programs accredited by the ALA have met rigorous standards.
Online courses should be part of an institution with accreditation from agencies approved by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) or United States Department of Education (USDE).
Most librarians are expected to have a masters degree in library science (MLS), master's of information science, or a combination of the two depending on their area of interest or specialty. Librarians who work for the government can substitute equivalent education and experience, while school librarians do not usually need an MLS degree.
A bachelors degree is required for admission into a library science graduate program.
State requirements vary, but many require certification of librarians in local libraries and public schools. An MLS degree and passing score on a comprehensive exam are the most common requirements, although teacher certification for librarians working in school libraries is often a requirement as well. Special libraries may require their librarians to be knowledgeable in the relevant field, such as law, medicine, engineering or other languages.
A doctoral degree in library and information science can provide career advantage for librarians seeking college teaching positions or top administrative jobs in a large public library system, or university or college library.
How to Evaluate Library Science Schools
The following questions can be helpful to consider when evaluating masters degree programs in library science:
- Accreditation and location - Is the school accredited by the ALA? Is it located in a community with many different kinds of libraries?
- Classes and focus - Does the curriculum emphasize a particular area of library work, such as reference or user services? Does it provide sufficient support for specialization in areas of interest?
- Applied experience - What internship opportunities are provided? Are computer labs equipped with the kinds of computing systems and information technologies that are of interest to potential employers?
- Financial aid and expenses - Are resources for students who wish to take advantage of student loan, grant, scholarship and other financial aid opportunities well organized and thorough?
- Graduate success - What job placement assistance is offered? Over the past several years, how many graduates were successfully placed? What are they doing now?
Librarian Job Description
Librarians help people use technology and research methods to find information for their business or personal projects. They are classified based on the type of library where they work such as a public library, university library, or elementary or secondary school library / media center. Special libraries are maintained by organizations, government agencies, museums, law firms, research laboratories, advertising agencies, medical centers, professional associations, unions and religious organizations. Librarians who work in special libraries acquire and classify an organization's information resources. They may also prepare abstracts, organize bibliographies, analyze and report on areas of interest, and index current periodicals.
Most librarians spend their time focusing either on technical services, user services or administrative services.
- Technical services - Librarians who work in technical services obtain, prepare and catalogue materials so that they can be found easily. They may write summaries and abstracts.
- User services - Working directly with patrons of all ages, librarians working in user services are most commonly reference librarians or children's librarians. They help people use reference tools and technology to find the information they seek.
- Administrative services - Librarians who handle administrative services manage and plan libraries. They're responsible for negotiating contracts for equipment, materials and services. They supervise employees, prepare budgets and direct projects. They may also perform fundraising and public relations functions.
In larger libraries, the roles of librarians may be broken down even more, with each member of a team specializing in an area such as acquisitions, reference or special collections. In school libraries / media centers, media specialists assist teachers in developing curricula and acquiring materials for class. They also teach students on how to use library resources.
Librarians in any role within a library are typically expected to:
- Be familiar with many kinds of academic, government and other information sources
- Keep up with trends in library science
- Read book reviews, catalogues and publisher's announcements
- Shop for and purchase materials from distributors, publishers and wholesalers
- Compile lists of recommended materials
- Expand and maintain collections of materials related to a specific topic or field
- Coordinate programs such literacy skills, speakers and storytelling for children
- Maintain computerized databases and search databases of other libraries
If a librarian has skills in developing computer systems and databases, they can find work as automated-systems librarians. These librarians plan and operate computer systems for current and future demand, design information storage and retrieval, and establish procedures for collecting and organizing information.
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