Getting Your Library Science Degree Online? How to Choose a School
If you want to work as a librarian, you will probably need a Masters in Library Science degree. Most academic, public, and special libraries require it, and it may be required for some school librarian positions as well.
There are not many colleges and universities out there that offer a Masters in Library Science degree, however. As of 2008, there are only 56 Masters in Library Science degree programs in the country accredited by the American Library Association. If you aren’t lucky enough to live within commuting distance of one, you could be out of luck—unless you’re willing to consider online education. Many online programs offer the same rigorous academics you’ll find at a traditional school, and you won’t have to leave your house to get it. For working professionals, parents with families, and those who don’t live near a traditional program, online Masters in Library Science degrees can be the only option.
But not all online library science degree programs are created equally. Here are a few things to consider when choosing an online program.
Is it Accredited?
|Librarians are an integral part in organizing this large book collection at the Jose Vasconcelos library in Mexico City|
Most employers prefer candidates who have a Masters in Library Science from a school accredited by the American Library Association (ALA). While it’s still possible to find a high-quality degree program without this accreditation, students who have it will have an edge in the job market.
Many online schools are accredited by the same agencies that accredit traditional programs. The school you choose should ideally have a library program accredited by the ALA, and an overall accreditation from one of six regional agencies that accredit most liberal arts and traditional colleges.
Fraudulent accrediting agencies do exist, and they give both online and traditional schools a bad name. Check your school’s accreditation agency against our list of national, regional, and known fraudulent accreditors. If you find your school’s accrediting agency on the third list—or nowhere on the first and second—you should choose another degree program.
Is it Fully Online?
Not every “online” Masters in Library Science program is entirely online. Many schools advertise online programs, but on further investigation they do have an in-person component. There’s nothing wrong with this, if you live in the area and can work in-person classes into your schedule. But if you need a completely online program, you’ll have to be sure there’s no in-class requirement.
A handful of colleges offer ALA-accredited programs that are fully online. These include:
- Drexel University (Masters of Science in Library Science Online)
- University of Alabama
- North Carolina Central University
- Florida State University (MS program only)
- Southern Connecticut State University
Is it Rigorous?
It’s a common misconception that online schools are less demanding than traditional programs. Online schools require a lot of their students, and some online students report their online classes are actually more challenging than traditional courses.
However, every online degree program is different. Here are a few things you should look for when comparing online degree programs at different schools.
Information studies. An understanding of library science often starts with a thorough grounding in how information is organized and found in the library—both electronically and in the stacks. A good Masters in Library Science program should start with plenty of classes on information organization.
Research methods. A librarian’s job is often first and foremost to help patrons with research projects. A solid Masters in Library Science program should include classes on how to find even the most elusive information using all the resources at the library’s disposal.
Information technology. Today’s libraries rely on computer technology for cataloguing materials and finding information. In addition, information is stored in various different kinds of visual and audio media, computer files, and other media as well as in books. As librarian, you’ll need to know how to use all of the technologies in your library—and help patrons use them as well.
Issues in librarianship. From patron disclosure to censorship, librarians are seeing their jobs affected by the political climate and laws of our country. A strong Masters in Library Science program should cover ethical and legal issues you’ll encounter as a professional librarian.
Building a collection. As a librarian, you’ll be responsible for ordering books and maintaining collections. A lot goes into cultivating a successful library—including gauging patrons’ tastes and interests, keeping track of the latest publishing news, and ordering a well-rounded collection of books.
A career as a librarian can be fun and rewarding for those who love literature—and an online Masters in Library Science can help you get there. Keep these points in mind when looking for an online program, and you should find one that will lead to a successful career.
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