Education for librarianship

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Education for librarianship is the term for the educational preparation for professional librarians. This varies widely in different countries. In the United States and Canada, it generally consists of a master's degree program in library science. There are also bachelor's, associate, and certificate programs in library science, which provide formal training of paraprofessional library workers, library technicians, and clerks—as well as preparation for graduate study in library science.

Historical development

Until the 19th century, the librarian in charge of an academic collection was normally a scholar, often a university professor with a special interest in the library. There were no training programs, and the new librarian was expected to follow the practices of other similar libraries. (Popular libraries in the modern sense had not yet developed.) In the 19th century, although some librarians followed this older pattern, others prepared as apprentices under the direction of established librarians.

Library school

"Library school" is a term which has been used to describe an institution of higher learning specializing in the professional training of librarians. The first library school in the United States was established by Melvil Dewey (the originator of the Dewey decimal system) in 1887 at Columbia University.[1] Since then many library schools have been founded in the United States and Canada,[2] with Canada's first formal librarianship program established at McGill University in 1904.[3] The development of library schools in other countries began in 1915, when librarians' schools were founded at Leipzig and Barcelona (currently, as a faculty of the Universitat de Barcelona, the later is the oldest library school in Europe). Many others were founded during World War II. The University of Chicago Graduate Library School became the first library school to confer a master's degree in library science, which is now the standard professional degree, and later became the first to give a doctoral degree in the field. Other prominent American library schools are located at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Most library schools in North America offer graduate programs only. Accreditation of these programs is granted by the American Library Association. The bachelor's degree in Library Science (or Library Economics as it was called in early days) was, for the most part, phased out several decades ago.[4] Librarians in North America typically earn a master's degree, typically the Master of Library Science (MLS) or the Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS). This degree allows one to work as a practicing librarian in public libraries, academic libraries, school library media centers, and special libraries, while many individuals with the MLS credential work with major library vendors. The degree is also applicable to related sectors such as publishing.

Master of Library Science programs are typically structured to offer a combination of required and elective courses in library science and information science. The required courses focus on core library skills such as cataloging, reference, collection development as well as related areas such as the philosophy underlying the profession, information technology and management. Elective courses may include information management, children's literature, genealogy and archives as well as specialized courses related to different types of libraries.

In recent decades, many schools offering librarianship education have changed their names to reflect the shift from print media to electronic media, and to information contained outside of traditional libraries. Some call themselves schools of library and information science (abbreviated to "SLIS", hence the term "SLISters" for their students), while others may have dropped the word "library" altogether. This trend began as early as the 1960s with the recognition that information and access to it was shifting to electronic resources with the development of telecommunications and computer networks and away from the traditional definition of librarianship. This shift led a number of library schools to change or broaden their mission to be more inclusive of information sciences across many disciplines including library sciences, archives, computer sciences and more, and led to the development by a number of schools of an iSchool organization, [5] to advance the field of information as a whole.[6]

Degree programs

The normal preparation for a faculty member in a department of library science (or other name) is a Ph.D. in Library science or Information science. In some fields of librarianship, a Ph.D. in another related subject, such as archival studies, is the equivalent, and some faculty have doctorates in various subject fields, as well as an MLS (or similar) degree.

United States and Canada

In the United States and Canada, a professional librarian normally has a one or two-year master's degree in library and information science, library science or information science with abbreviations such as MLS, MSLS, MIS, MS-LIS, MISt, MI, MLIS, or MILS. Many professional librarians have degrees obtained from programs accredited by the American Library Association (ALA) and can have specializations within fields such as archives, records management, information architecture, information policy, knowledge management, public librarianship, medical librarianship, law librarianship, special librarianship, academic librarianship, or school (K-12) librarianship. School librarians often are required to have a teaching credential and school librarian license in addition to a library science degree. Master's degree programs for school library media specialist initial preparation are also accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), which ALA recognizes. Many, if not most, academic librarians also have a second, subject-based master's degree.

The early history of education for librarians in the U.S. has been explored by Churchwell.[7] The University of Chicago studies in library science assessed the state of education for librarians in 1948.[8] The pivotal role of the first doctoral degree at the University of Chicago Graduate Library School from 1921-1951 has been analyzed by John Richardson in his study, The Spirit of Inquiry.[9] Many faculty members at the University of Chicago, Graduate Library School (1928-1979) were at the forefront of the field's development in the twentieth century: Lester Asheim, Lee Pierce Butler, Leon Carnovsky, Herman H. Fussler, Frances E. Henne, Carleton B. Joeckel, Jesse Shera, Peggy Sullivan, Douglas Waples, Louis Round Wilson, Howard Winger, and Robert Wadsworth. The Library Quarterly was first published by the Graduate Library School in 1931.

At the turn of the millennium (1999–2000), problems related to the graduate education of professional librarians pervaded professional and academic discourse. These were initially identified by the Council of the American Library Association as the growing elimination of the word "library" from the names of schools, the seeming lack of attention to core competencies (cataloguing was often mentioned), and the national shortage of professionals to work with particular groups (specifically young people in public libraries and disadvantaged populations), and in particular environments (such as schools). The Final Report of the Steering Committee on the Congress for Professional Education provides an analysis of these issues. The Coalition on Reinventing Information Science, Technology, and Literary Education supported by the Kellogg Foundation provided additional analysis of future educational needs and direction.[10] Bernie Sloan compiled an extensive 2004 bibliography on changes in LIS education.[11]

Distinguished service to education for librarianship in the U.S. and Canada is recognized by the annual Beta Phi Mu Award sponsored by the International Honorary Society, Beta Phi Mu.[12] The first award was made in 1954 to Rudolph Hjalmar Gjelsness Dean of the University of Michigan's Library Science Department from 1940 to 1964.

The primary association for faculty teaching in library and information science programs is the Association for Library and Information Science Education.

In academic regalia in the United States, the color for library science is lemon.


In the UK and some other countries, a librarian can have a three- or four-year bachelor's degree in library and information studies or information science; separate master's degrees in librarianship, archive management, and records management are also available. In the United Kingdom, these degrees are accredited by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals and the Society of Archivists.

In Germany and some other countries, the first step for an academic librarian is a Ph.D. in a subject field, followed by additional training in librarianship.

In Denmark the first step to become a librarian is a 3-year long bachelor's degree in Library and Information Science (B.Sc.) at The Royal School of Library and Information Science. The students then have the choice between taking a half-year-long education for librarianship called Librarian D.B or take a 2-year master's degree called Master of Library and Information Science (M.L.I.Sc.). All the already mentioned courses takes place in Danish but The Royal School of Library and Information Science also offers an English-speaking 2-year master's degree called Master of Library and Information Science (M.L.I.Sc.). Students who complete the bachelor's degree, the librarianship or one of the master's degrees offered get work as librarians, information employees or organization staff. The students can also obtain a Ph.D. in Library and Information Science at The Royal School of Library and Information Science (first awarded at The Royal School of Library and Information Science in 2004). The students can also obtain a doctorate in Library and Information Science at The Royal School of Library and Information Science (first awarded at The Royal School of Library and Information Science in 2006).


In 1914, the University of the Philippines offered the first courses in Library education in the country. The University would later establish the first separate library school in the country in 1961; the Institute of Library Science, a former department of the now defunct College of Liberal Arts. Librarians usually have a four-year bachelor's degree in library and information studies, or a master's degree in LIS or one a with concentration in Library Science. It is also not uncommon for librarians to possess a degree in Education, with a specialization or major in Library Science. With passage of the Republic Act No. 6966 (Repealed in 2003 with the passing of R.A. 9246 or "The Philippine Librarianship Act of 2003") in 1990, graduates of library and information science are required to take the licensure examinations for librarians in order to practice librarianship in the Philippines or countries which have reciprocity as regards the practice of the field.[13]

New Zealand

In New Zealand, Victoria University of Wellington is the only university providing postgraduate education in librarianship. Qualifications include Master of Information Studies (course based) and Master of Arts (thesis based) as well as postgraduate diploma and certificate in librarianship. Open Polytechnic provides undergraduate librarianship education.

See also


  1. White, Carl Milton. 1961. The origins of the American library school. New York: Scarecrow Press.
  2. Churchwell, Charles D. 1975. The shaping of American library education. Chicago: American Library Association.
  3. "Mission & history". McGill University School of Information Studies. Retrieved 23 November 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. White, Carl Milton. 1976. A historical introduction to library education: problems and progress to 1951. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press.
  5. Olson, G., & Grudin, J. (2009, March 1). The information school phenomenon. Interactions: New Visions of Human-Computer Interaction, 15-19.
  6. "About". iSchools. Retrieved 23 November 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Churchwell, Charles D. 1975. The shaping of American library education. Chicago: American Library Association.
  8. Berelson, Bernard. 1949. Education for librarianship; papers presented at the Library Conference, University of Chicago, August 16–21, 1948. Chicago: American Library Association.
  9. Richardson, John V. 1982. The spirit of inquiry: the Graduate Library School at Chicago, 1921-51. Chicago: American Library Association.
  10. Drabenstott, K. M., et al., The Kellogg CRISTAL-ED Project: creating a model program to support libraries in the digital age {Coalition on Reinventing Information Science, Technology, and Literary Education}. In: Advances in librarianship, v20. Academic Press, 1996
  11. Sloan, Bernie. 2004. Changes in LIS Education.
  12. George S. Bobinski (2007) Libraries and Librarianship: Sixty Years of Chaallenge and Change, 1945-2005, pp. 129-146. Scarecrow Press
  13. [1][dead link]


  • Reitz, Joan M. (2004). Library School in ODLIS — Online Dictionary for Library and Information Science.

External links