Library Science

Library and Information Science Electives

Library and Information Science Electives
Elective courses can customize your MLIS degree to a career in research, archives, specialized libraries, art digitization, and many other essential specializations. Image from Pixapay
Beth Friedland profile
Beth Friedland July 6, 2022

A Master of Library and Information Science provides a gateway to an information management career. Electives enable you to tailor your education to your career goals.

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Pursuing a library and information science education does not necessarily mean a career path predestined for your local public library. On the contrary, a course of study in library and information science (LIS) can lead to engaging opportunities in education and varied areas of history and research in museums, hospitals, and other cultural organizations (including, of course, libraries).

You’ll forge your career path as you study for your Master of Library and Information Science, in part through the specializations and electives you choose to fill out your curriculum. This article discusses your elective options in this graduate program and also addresses:

  • Careers in library and information science
  • Master’s in library and information science programs

Careers in library and information science

Thinking about pursuing a career in library and information science (LIS)? There are many compelling professions that may be of interest to you.

If you like working with people, you might be well-suited to a job as a school librarian in your local school or a youth services or general librarian in your public library. Maybe research is more your speed; if so, museums and special collection libraries, hospitals and cultural institutions all offer opportunities as archivists and research librarians. If your interest leans towards high tech, you might be a good candidate for a job as a media specialist or metadata librarian.

Wherever you look, you’ll find career opportunities in information services. It all starts with a strong education in library and information science.

Library and information science electives are a good place to start

An excellent place to begin learning about library and information science career opportunities is with the American Library Association (ALA), whose website outlines the skills and coursework required for jobs in library and information services.

Like all industries, library services continually evolve. Information resource professionals must keep apace by applying their adaptable skills to current and future trends and information needs. As information access and technology expand, new specializations in this vast field also grow, creating ever-more demand for skilled professionals.

For example, advancements in information technology have ushered in resources like digital libraries and online research methods. These technological advancements have generated a renewed need for information professionals to remain up- to-date in online competencies.

Information architecture refers to the way information is curated, cataloged and managed. Informatics professionals in this field organize information and develop ways to apply and disseminate that information in the digital world. With the end user experience in mind, informatics professionals organize information in ways that make it relevant and user-friendly.

Master’s in library and information science programs

Many top education institutions offer masters programs in library and information science (MLIS). The coursework is varied enough to help students traverse a track that matches their professional goals and interests.

Excellent library and information science programs include those offered by Pratt Institute in New York City and the University of Washington Information School. Both programs offer a host of electives that support different career paths in this field.

Let’s look at some of the information careers out there and the specialized elective courses offered in a LIS master’s degree program.


Archivists collect and curate documents, rare books, films, photographs, and other materials for use in special library collections, museums, and other organizations. Core courses in this area include conservation and preservation of materials, art appraisal, genealogy, and local history.

Art digitization project manager

Art digitization project managers work in museums, special libraries, galleries, and archives. They are experts in the conservation and digital curation of rare materials, including books, films, documents and other elements. Elective coursework includes digital asset and media management and art documentation.

Digital initiatives librarian

Information professionals in this expansive field include careers in museum libraries, as well as research and special library digital collections. Electives in this area include art librarianship and museum and library community outreach.

Young adult reference librarian

Young adult librarians work with 12-to-18 year-olds in the library setting. In addition to fielding general questions, these librarians assist with homework, research and after-school/weekend programming in their libraries. Electives include research, assessment and design, youth development in a digital age, storytelling, and the cultural history of young adult literature.

User experience researcher, strategist and designer

Information professionals in user experience research, strategy and design work in general libraries, special libraries, and museums implementing accessible programs for users and visitors. With an emphasis on user-friendly resources, these professionals strive to make information technology tools engaging and accessible. Elective coursework in this area includes human information interaction, metadata design, content strategy and digital product design.

What is a Master of Library and Information Science degree?

A Master of Library and Information Science degree situates you amid a vast field of opportunities that include research methods, curriculum development and information access. MLIS information professionals are needed in public libraries, yes, but they are also vital colleagues in schools from early childhood through young adult levels and in higher education institutions. Information science professionals work in museums curating exhibits and managing collection development as well as in government agencies, hospitals and research organizations.

Library science vs. information science—how to choose

Choosing an institution with an American Library Association accreditation is possibly the most crucial factor when choosing a Master of Library and Information Science. According to the American Library Association (ALA), there are several other criteria to consider when exploring bachelor’s or master’s degree programs that meet your needs and interests.

You may want to consider the program emphasis at an individual college. Does it focus on library science or information science, or possibly an equal distribution of both? Let’s take a brief look at both paths.

The multidisciplinary field of library science is the study of applying practices, management tools, education, and information technology to libraries, as well as the collection, organization, preservation and dissemination of information within general and special libraries.

Colleges offering core courses in information science, sometimes called I-Schools, focus on analyzing and disseminating materials, information access, and how information systems are utilized within and outside the library systems. Among other things, this area of study is concerned with information policy and management.

Whichever track you choose, there are many exciting accredited colleges and universities all over North America that offer Master of Library and Information Science degree programs.

How long does it take to earn a Master of Library and Information Science degree?

A Master of Library and Information Science requires 36 credit hours, typically constituted in 12 three-credit classes. Students usually take two years (3 courses per semester) to three years (2 courses per semester) to complete the coursework for this degree program.

What is the curriculum for a master of library and information science degree?

To earn a n MLIS degree, prospective students can expect to take core courses in:

  • Information design
  • Information management
  • Information organizations
  • Information technology
  • Theoretical concepts
  • Searching techniques
  • Research methods

What are some of the specialization areas in MLIS?

In addition to the core courses, elective courses in areas of specialization may include:

  • Information literacy and instruction
  • Data librarianship and management
  • Information architecture
  • Introduction to spatial thinking & GIS
  • Academic libraries
  • Archives and records management
  • Child and youth services
  • Digital libraries

Let’s dive a little deeper into a few of these topics.

Information Literacy and Instruction

In this course, students explore the implementation of a ranging spectrum of literacy theories and how they interact in public and academic libraries, archives, museums and cultural organizations. Included in literary theories are critical literacy, digital literacy, media literacy and transliteracy.

Data Librarianship and Management

This course examines data literacy, formats and standards, ethics, and policy, among other topics, and how best to serve community and user needs while supporting existing workflows and infrastructure.

Information Architecture

In this course students will develop both practical knowledge and hands-on experience designing digital interfaces from a user-centered perspective.

Introduction to Spatial Thinking and Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) tools manage, analyze and present information about all kinds of data. In this course students will study the underlying concepts of GIS software and data, map design and the impact of map output. They will also be introduced to special metadata standards in preservation of materials.

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Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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