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Master of Library and Information Science

The Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) is the master's degree that is required for most professional librarian positions in the United States and Canada. The MLIS is a relatively recent degree; an older and still common degree designation for librarians to acquire is the Master of Library Science (MLS), or Master of Science in Library Science (MSLS) degree. According to the American Library Association (ALA), "The master’s degree in library and information studies is frequently referred to as the MLS; however, ALA-accredited degrees have various names such as Master of Information Studies, Master of Arts, Master of Librarianship, Master of Library and Information Studies, or Master of Science. The degree name is determined by the program. The [ALA] Committee for Accreditation evaluates programs based on their adherence to the Standards for Accreditation of Master's Programs in Library and Information Studies, not based on the name of the degree."[1]

Admission to MLIS programs normally requires holding a bachelor's degree in any academic discipline, and library schools encourage applications from people with diverse academic backgrounds.

In the United Kingdom it is more common for a vocational degree in library and information science to bear the standard designation MA or MSc. In most Commonwealth universities, bachelor's and master's programs have been merged to create the MLIS/MLISc degree. IFLA committees have discussed global standards for librarian credentials.[2]


The MLIS or MLS degree is usually acquired from an accredited library school. ALA accredits 65 programs at 60 institutions across the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico.[3] ALA also offers an overview of international degrees in library and information science.[4]

The ALA website provides "Guidelines for Choosing a Master's Program in Library and Information Studies" [5] and discusses how to decide whether a master's degree or an associate's degree will best help you meet your career goals. Prospective and current students will find more information on school selection and academic success on websites like[6] and Hack Library School.[7]

Many ALA-accredited programs provide distance-learning opportunities for students through a variety of delivery methods (e.g. online courses). In some cases, students can complete the entire program at a distance; in other cases, some on-campus courses or regional residency may be required [8].


The MLIS/MLS curriculum can vary widely.[5] Typically both practical and theoretical components are included, often along with a practicum or internship, and students frequently have an opportunity to specialize in one or more aspects of library and information science. Some schools have stringent course requirements, while others are more flexible and offer a wide variety of electives. Coursework may entail traditional library topics, such as reference work, cataloging, collection development, school libraries, or archiving. There may also be a focus on information science and computer science topics, such as database design, as well as information architecture. Other skills taught may include management or pedagogy. Students generally complete a research project or thesis during the last semester of their program.


People who earn MLIS degrees take on many different roles[9] in many different kinds of environments—in libraries and "beyond the stacks."[10] According to the ALA, "Librarians work in museums, hospitals, businesses, and public libraries. In their work, librarians research, instruct, and connect people to technology. Librarians build websites, digitize archives, and manage social media. Librarians work with people of all ages, connecting them to information, learning and the community."[11] The association's site[6] collects information about library and information science careers, work environments, and more.

Many with MLIS degrees use their professional skills in positions without "librarian" in the job title. The San Jose State University School of Information publishes an annual research report on emerging career trends for information professionals, providing a snapshot of job titles in the field.[12]

Professional organizationsEdit

Each of these organizations includes various divisions and/or interest groups that focus on particular specialties or interests.

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit


  1. ^ American Library Association (2006-08-03). "Accreditation Frequently Asked Questions". Retrieved 2016-08-30.
  2. ^ Woody Evans (2016-04-01). "Backtalk: Librarians Need Global Credentials". Library Journal.
  3. ^ American Library Association website: "Accreditation Frequently Asked Questions".
  4. ^ "International Degrees in Library and Information Science". Retrieved 2016-11-14 – via American Library Association.
  5. ^ a b American Library Association (2008-06-10). "Guidelines for Choosing a Master's Program in Library and Information Studies". Retrieved 2016-08-29.
  6. ^ a b "Library Careers". Retrieved 2016-11-14 – via American Library Association.
  7. ^ "Hack Library School". Retrieved 2016-11-14.
  8. ^ admin (10 June 2008). "Guidelines for Choosing a Master's Program in Library and Information Studies". Retrieved 17 April 2018.
  9. ^ Peters, Alison (2016-11-01). "So You Want to Be a Librarian". Medium. Retrieved 2016-11-14.
  10. ^ "Beyond the Stacks: Innovative Careers in Library and Information Science". Beyond the Stacks: Innovative Careers in Library and Information Science. Retrieved 2016-11-14.
  11. ^ American Library Association (2016-07-15). "Become a Librarian". Retrieved 2016-08-29.
  12. ^ San Jose State University School of Information. "Emerging Career Trends for Information Professionals: A Snapshot of Job Titles". Retrieved 2016-08-29.