Top Online Master’s Programs in Library Science

Updated April 26, 2023 | Staff Writers

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Online Master's Programs in Library Science

Online master's programs in library science provide graduates with the theoretical and practical skills needed to manage private and public library and archive collections. The curriculum focuses on research methods used in libraries in universities, law firms, and schools.

Online master's programs in library science require 40-60 credits and take students 1-2 years to complete. The best master's programs in library science are accredited by the American Library Association.

Library science students can often personalize their experience through concentrations or electives in subjects like library administration, archival and special collections, digital services, and data and asset management. Through internships and fieldwork, students receive practical training in managing databases and collections of books and materials. During these experiences, students learn how to create and manage records, oversee online reference systems, and address organizational and access issues. When the students receives their master's in library science, it will qualify them for multiple jobs.

The best master's programs in library science prepare students for hot jobs such as becoming librarians, archivists, information brokers, and media specialists. Graduates entering fields such as elementary schools and public libraries may need state licensure.

In this guide, find out which schools offer the best master's programs in library science and learn more about typical courses and degree requirements.

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Online Master's in Library Science Overview

The broad curriculum offered in an online master's program in library science prepares students for multiple careers. About 33% of the total 134,800 librarians employed in 2018 worked at elementary and secondary schools. Another 31% of librarians worked for local government. About 18% were employed at colleges and universities, while 7% worked in information services.

In 2019, librarians earned a median annual salary of $59,050, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS projects jobs for librarians to grow 6% between 2018 and 2028. The highest-earning 10% of librarians make about $93,050 each year.

Earning a master's in library science online prepares graduates to work in information science or libraries. These professionals help patrons access print and digital materials at government agencies, museums, elementary and secondary schools, and colleges. Specific job duties vary depending on the employer.

Librarians often catalog library resources and organize databases. They can work as corporate librarians, law librarians, medical librarians, and academic librarians. Librarians usually work full time, spending many hours assisting patrons at a front desk.

Librarians stay current on the latest book releases and organize programs for the public. Librarians also handle administrative tasks such as overseeing the training and hiring of staff and volunteers. They also create and manage budgets.

Employers usually prefer to hire librarians with master's degrees. Many graduates go on to earn state certifications or licenses, which enable them to work at school and public libraries. To work in schools, graduates might need to take the PRAXIS II Library Media Specialist examination. Prospective law librarians may need to earn a law degree.

>Library science students can focus on potential careers by pursuing specializations or concentrations.

Common Online Master's in Library Science Courses

Introduction to Archives and Records Management: This course gives students the fundamental knowledge and skills needed to work in libraries and historical societies. The curriculum prepares students to conduct effective records maintenance and management. Students leave this course knowing how to create and maintain various records, including archives and manuscripts, film and media, rare books and special collections, and digital records.

Foundations of Library and Information Sciences: This course provides a broad overview of librarianship practices, standards, theories, ethics, and values. Coursework covers future challenges and trends facing information institutions and how technology and policies shape libraries, museums, and archives. Students leave the course with an understanding of how political, cultural, and social factors shape information infrastructures.

Research Methods in Library and Information Science: Students enrolled in this course learn strategies and techniques to conduct research in library and information sciences. The course focuses on both quantitative and qualitative analysis, preparing students to conduct surveys, investigations, and experiments. By the end of this course, students have the knowledge needed to evaluate research and to apply methods and theories in the field.

Advanced Library Administration: An advanced library administration course equips students with the management skills needed for careers as administrators in libraries and archives. This course teaches students the basic operations principles, theories, and problem-solving approaches that administrators use in libraries every day. Students also gain the knowledge needed to manage, recruit, and train library personnel.

Indexing and Abstracting: This course covers the technical processes of information organization that allow institutions to store and retrieve information. Students learn to use indexing terms, create indexes, and translate book indexes. These skills help graduates launch careers as archivists and librarians.

Online Master's in Library Science Program Concentrations

To hone specific skills, library science students often pursue concentrations, specializations, and electives. Concentration options often include data and information management, school media and youth services, archival studies, and public librarianship. Concentrations in most online master's programs in library science require 20-24 credits.

Students pursuing a concentration in data and information management might complete coursework in managing digital information, linked data, records management, and digital curation. This concentration prepares graduates for careers as data managers, digital asset managers, and research analysts.

Learners pursuing a concentration in information technology and user experience might take courses in information ethics and policy, strategic information services, and information architecture and interaction design. This concentration provides graduates with the knowledge needed to begin careers as library technologists, systems analysts, and digital asset managers.

Students interested in working in the public sector may opt for a specialization in diversity and inclusion. This specialization prepares students to improve access to information institutions through courses such as information ethics, information policy, literacy and inclusion, information and human rights, and advocacy and support for information services. Graduates often find work in public and school libraries.

A youth services specialization prepares students to work with children to promote literacy. This specialization often consists of courses in literature and related resources for children and popular culture and young adults. Graduates who earn a youth services specialization begin careers as librarians and library coordinators.

Online Master's in Library Science Program Requirements

Students enroll in online master's programs in library science with different levels of career and educational experience. All prospective students need a bachelor's degree from an accredited college. Many applicants hold bachelor's degrees in library science. However, library science programs also accept learners with degrees in other undergraduate fields.

Online applications typically require a resume with each student's employment history. Some management or executive programs may require up to six years of work experience. Prospective students must also submit supplemental materials like transcripts and letters of recommendation.

Many library science programs require a 3.0 undergraduate GPA for admission. Depending on the program, prospective students may also need to submit GMAT or GRE scores.

Applicants must often submit personal statements, which ask students to explain their career ambitions and why they want to earn a master's in library science online. These statements are often 2-3 pages.

Many programs also require an application fee. In some cases, active-duty services members, veterans, and low-income students may apply for fee waivers. Programs often maintain fixed application deadlines for prospective graduate students. However, some online programs offer rolling admissions, accepting applications throughout the year.

Steps to Earn a Library Science Degree

1. Complete a Bachelor's Degree: Prospective librarians must earn a bachelor's degree from an accredited college, which usually takes four years. Accelerated online programs often allow students to graduate sooner through eight-week and 10-week terms. Most bachelor's programs require 120 credits. Incoming students can occasionally earn college credits for professional or military experience.

2. Enroll in a Master's Program: Undergraduate students should meet with their academic advisors during their junior or senior year to receive guidance on how to get into graduate school. After choosing a program, prospective students should review admission requirements and prepare to take the GMAT or GRE if necessary. Learners should also begin asking professors, advisors, or supervisors to write letters of recommendation.

3. Complete Required Coursework: Most online master's programs in library science take two years to complete and require 30-40 credits. Accelerated formats allow students to graduate in 16-18 months. Transfer students with previous college credits may also earn their degree in less time. Students can tailor their studies to their career interests by pursuing concentrations or specializations.

4. Complete Any Internship or Thesis Requirements: Graduate students earning a master's in library science online must often complete a final project, internship, thesis, or portfolio. Students also gain practical experience through fieldwork placements at libraries, archives, or museums. During their final semester, students should also prepare a resume, work samples, or a digital portfolio.

Best Online Master's in Library Science Programs

1. Texas Woman's University

Founded in 1901, Texas Woman's University is the largest university that primarily serves women, hosting more than 15,000 students each year. The school's online master's degree in library science combines asynchronous and synchronous delivery methods.

One of the best master's programs in library science, the 36-credit program covers topics like information retrieval, collection development, and library management. The major also includes a practicum. Students can use electives to specialize in academic, public, or special libraries. To graduate, students must maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA and complete a final exam portfolio. TWU also offers online school librarian certification.

Applicants need a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Applicants with lower grades may need to submit GRE or GMAT scores. Students can begin in the fall, spring, or summer. The library science program is accredited by the American Library Association.

2. University of North Texas

Founded in 1890, the University of North Texas enrolls more than 38,000 students through over 200 programs each year. The school offers an online MS in library science that provides training in archival studies, law librarianship, and music librarianship.

The 36-credit master's in library science online allows students to choose from a 120-hour practicum or six months of professional experience. UNT also offers school library certification. Online library science students must attend three, two-day sessions on campus. Online courses combine asynchronous and synchronous delivery.

Applicants need a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. The library science program is accredited by the American Library Association.

3. University of Colorado Denver Anschutz Medical Campus

The University of Colorado Denver Anschutz Medical Campus hosts 18,000 students through over 140 programs. The school offers more than 20 online master's programs, including an online MA in learning design and technology/a>.

The 30-credit program offers specializations in e-learning design and implementation, teacher librarian leadership, instructional design and adult learning, and digital media for K-12 teachers. Some pathways provide professional endorsements.

Online courses run primarily asynchronously and span 15 weeks. Applicants to the online master's program in library science must hold a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA and submit GRE or GMAT scores.

4. University of South Florida

Founded in 1956, the University of South Florida enrolls more than 50,000 students through over 180 programs each year. The online MA in library and information science offers specializations in youth services, school media specialist, and school librarianship. Graduates qualify to sit for professional certification exams with the Florida Department of Education. 

The 39-credit program features primarily asynchronous courses. In addition to coursework, learners must complete supervised fieldwork and an eportfolio final assessment. Applicants to the online master's program in library science need a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.25 GPA. Transfer applicants need a minimum 3.5 GPA. Applicants with lower GPAs may need to submit GRE scores.

5. Texas A&M University-Commerce

Founded in 1889, Texas A&M University-Commerce offers more than 100 undergraduate and graduate programs, including online M.Ed. and MS in educational technology and library science programs. Core courses in both programs cover topics like library administration, web tools, and cataloging and classification. Students in both programs can also pursue school librarian and technology applications certifications. 

In addition to coursework, the 36-credit programs include school library practicums, giving students hands-on experience in the field. The accelerated programs typically start in the summer and run through the following summer. Applicants need a bachelor's degree with a minimum 2.75 GPA. Transfer applicants typically need a minimum 3.0 GPA.

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