Since its founding in October of 1876, the American Library Association (ALA) has had a lot to say about how librarians are minted. At their Denver meeting in 2009, the ALA’s Presidential Taskforce on Library Education, building on the historic work of the group’s previous meetings, passed a resolution defining the eight core competencies of librarianship. It outlined the foundational knowledge that anyone graduating from an ALA-accredited master’s program in library and information studies (MLIS) should master.
The resolution specifies that all graduates of ALA-accredited master’s programs in library and information study should demonstrate proficiency in:
The resolution adds that library and information science professionals must commit to “promoting democratic principles and intellectual freedom, knowing and applying the legal framework guiding libraries and information agencies—including laws relating to copyright, privacy, freedom of expression, equal rights and intellectual property—and attaining competency in identifying and analyzing emerging technologies and innovations.”
These core competencies—outlined in greater detail in the ALA document—require a particular skill set, clear commitment, and proper training in library services and information management. Beyond defining the core competencies, the American Library Association also oversees all master’s programs in the US, Canada, and Puerto Rico. All ALA-accredited master’s programs meet the ALA Committee on Accreditation’s Standards for Accreditation of Master’s Programs in Library and Information Studies.
All this adds up to an organized framework for a career in the field of library and information science—a path for which a love of reading, research, and lifelong learning are all a part of the job.
It’s also offers set of roles that favors organization, curiosity, independent thinking, strong written and interpersonal communication skills, and technology and information literacy.
What Master of Library and Information Science careers await you? This article discusses them, while also addresssing:
There are many inroads to the world of information professions. Follow them to enjoy the fit of a job working with young adults in a school setting or curating research material in a government, medical, or law firm’s special library. Let’s look at some of the job titles you can land with your library science degree in different types of libraries and information centers.
Library directors work at public libraries or academic libraries overseeing budgets, supervising staff, managing information technologies, creating outreach and education programs, directing the social media and web presence, and fundraising (estimated salary: $78,758).
A library manager might oversee the cataloging of new items, work the reference desk and answer questions from the phone, email, and in-person visits, oversee the reshelving and repair of materials, and assist library visitors (estimated salary: $66,259).
Some of us may remember our own elementary or high school librarian who helped with research or put aside a popular title for check-out after class. School libraries can be located in public or private institutions. A school librarian’s duties may include reading to school children, teaching about research methods and how to use the electronic databases, organizing literacy initiatives, and maintaining the school’s collection (estimated salary: $79,038).
A youth services librarian might be employed within a larger library system, focusing on outreach initiatives for and with young adults. Work can include language and literacy support, after school programming, research support, and weekend workshops with visiting authors (estimated salary: $61,075).
An archivist can be employed in museums or research and special collections libraries curating and cataloging rare books, documents, photographs, films, manuscripts, and data. They are conservators and records managers for important material and help catalog, research, and analyze items for a collection (estimated salary: $72,051).
Specialists in metadata oversee the design and implementation of data storage in libraries to allow for the identification, organization, and discovery of material. Positions can be found in healthcare, government, and university libraries where large amounts of data are stored (estimated salary: $84,597).
Research librarians work in information services for academic libraries and facilities that contain a depth of material on a particular subject or house special collections. The job focuses on the curation of material as well as assisting or initiating research for special projects (estimated salary: $84,829).
Work at special libraries in government, corporate, or medical settings where positions are focused on maintaining libraries of specialized data can pay much higher salaries on average, sometimes reaching into six-figures.
The library and information science career path opens up significantly in pay and opportunity when you move beyond a bachelor’s and commit to earning an MLIS degree. This master’s prepares graduates for all aspects of the profession—from community engagement to information equity and access—and provides training in information and data literacy.
Completing your MLIS typically takes two, sometimes three years of full-time study, with the possibility of taking courses over the summer. Some online library and information science programs can be completed in 18 months if you’ve already earned a bachelor’s in library science. Scheduling an information session with the admissions team to learn about requirements can be very helpful and can give you specifics on prerequisites and answer other admissions questions.
Coursework for an MLIS degree covers topics ranging from information systems, data analytics, metadata, digital libraries, collection development, and informatics to more community-based curricula like Youth Development and Information Behavior in the Digital Age or Cross-Cultural Approaches to Leadership.
Fieldwork, internships, practicum experiences, and capstone projects are another big part of the LIS graduate student experience. Elective courses take up a certain number of credit hours (these selections will be program-specific).
Specialization can be in areas like literacy, digital libraries, academic librarianship, archival studies, public librarianship, youth services, and information law, policy, and ethics.
There are a number of top schools offering MLIS degrees and dual degree programs. Many are offered both in-person and online.
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