Education For Librarians

What does it take to become a Librarian?

Most public and academic libraries require a master’s degree in library science (MLS) for employment. Similarly, the U.S. Government requires an MLS or the equivalent in education and experience. In the long run, if one wishes to become a librarian, it is almost imperative that the individual earns an MLS before entering the job market.

Where are the best schools to earn an MLS?

At present, there are many programs offered across the country where a willing student can earn their master's degree in library science. However, not all of these programs are recognized and accredited by the American Library Association (ALA), the nation's foremost organization dedicated to the development and improvement of library and information services. In addition, many employers require, or are looking for, librarians who have graduated from ALA-accredited institutions.

As of 2006, the following institutions were accredited by the ALA:

  • Alabama, University of
  • Albany, State University of New York
  • Alberta, University of
  • Arizona, University of
  • British Columbia, University of
  • Buffalo, State University of New York
  • California - Los Angeles, University of
  • Catholic University of America
  • Clarion University of Pennsylvania
  • Dalhousie University
  • Denver, University of
  • Dominican University
  • Drexel University
  • Emporia State University
  • Florida State University
  • Hawaii, University of
  • Illinois, University of
  • Indiana University
  • Iowa, University of
  • Kent State University
  • Kentucky, University of
  • Long Island University
  • Louisiana State University
  • McGill University
  • Maryland, University of
  • Michigan, University of
  • Missouri-Columbia, University of
  • Montreal, University of
  • North Carolina - Chapel Hill, University of
  • North Carolina - Greensboro, University of
  • North Carolina Central University
  • North Texas, University of
  • Oklahoma, University of
  • Pittsburgh, University of
  • Pratt Institute
  • Puerto Rico, University of
  • Queens College, City University of New York
  • Rhode Island, University of
  • Rutgers University
  • St. John's University
  • San Jose State University
  • Simmons College
  • South Carolina, University of
  • South Florida, University of
  • Southern Connecticut State University
  • Southern Mississippi, University of
  • Syracuse University
  • Tennessee, University of
  • Texas - Austin, University of
  • Texas Woman's University
  • Toronto, University of
  • Washington, University of
  • Wayne State University
  • Western Ontario, University of
  • Wisconsin - Madison, University of
  • Wisconsin - Milwaukee, University of

Online Options

Some of the above schools offer online learning options. Distance learning oriented site allow you to view available online degree programs that may be more flexible and affordable than a traditional campus-based education.

Program Requirements

Most MLS programs require a bachelor’s degree, but no specific undergraduate program of study. An MLS can be completed in one year, although some take two. A typical MLS graduate program will include courses in the following:

  • Foundations of library and information science/the history of books and printing
  • Intellectual freedom and censorship, and the role of libraries and information in society
  • Selection and processing of materials
  • Organization of information
  • Reference tools and strategies, and user services

In addition, some schools will offer courses, or adapt existing courses, to encompass the following:

  • New technology
  • Internet resources
  • Resources for children/young adults
  • Classification, cataloging, indexing, and abstracting
  • Library administration
  • Library automation

Regardless of the program in which one is enrolled, it has become more and more common for computer-based coursework to be integrated into the general program of study for the MLS Candidate. With automated circulation systems and the increased demand for online accessibility of information, librarians must be able to adapt their resources and information to the changing world around them.


While an MLS degree prepares one for generalized library work, some individuals will decide to specialize in a particular area, such as reference librarianship, computer services, or young adult literature, to name a few. In other cases, librarians working in an already-specialized field may gain expertise in medicine, law, business, engineering, and the natural and social sciences. Either way, it is common for a librarian to earn a master’s, doctoral, or professional degree in a specialized subject when their duties may require it of them.

Many librarians also become fluent in more than one language in order to diversify their abilities and make more career options available. If one is interested in teaching at the college level, or is looking to move into a top administrative position at a college or university library, a Ph.D. in library science is considered almost necessary by many professionals in the field.

School Librarianship

Each state will have its own certification requirements for librarians in public schools, so it is best to call or investigate the state board of education for the specific state in which you would be interested in working, if this career path appeals to you. Many school librarians (or library media specialists) must be certified teachers as well as have training in library science. Like other librarian positions, an MLS may be required by some states, or a master’s in education with a specialty in school library media. In addition, about half of the states require librarians employed in local library systems to be certified.

Famous Librarians

Thinking that a degree in library science isn't as glamorous as you might like? Consider this list of famous individuals who were, at one point in their lives, librarians:

  • Casanova (1725-1798), famous playboy, also librarian for the Count von Waldstein in the chateau of Dux in Bohemia.
  • J. Edgar Hoover (1895-1972), Head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
  • David Hume (1711-1776), British philosopher, economist, and author of his History of England.
  • Philip Larkin (1922-1985), English poet and Jazz critic.
  • Archibald MacLeish (1892-1982), founder of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), winner of three Pulitzer prizes, and residentially-appointed librarian of Congress from 1939 to 1944.
  • Mao Tse-Tung (1893-1976), Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party.
  • Pope Pius XI (1857-1939), prefect of the Vatican Library, chief librarian of Milan's Ambrosian Library, and Pope from 1922 to 1939.
  • Gottfried Von Leibniz (1646-1716), German philosopher and mathematician.