What Is Library Science?
Library science is a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary field that applies the tools, perspectives, and practice of education, information technology, management, and other library areas such as the dissemination, preservation, and organization of information as well as the information political economy. A Bavarian librarian, Martin Schrettinger, coined the discipline in his works. Instead of classifying information by nature-oriented elements, he used alphabetical order to organize books.
The first American library science school was founded at Columbia University, by Melvil Dewey, in 1887. Library science has included archival science, which includes the organization of information resources that serve the needs of selected groups of users. Also included areas
- How people interact with technology and classification systems
- The acquisition, evaluation, and application by people in and out of libraries, including cross-culturally
- The training and education of library careers
- The ethics guiding library organization and service
- The legal status of information resources and libraries
- Computer technology applied science used in records management and documentation
There is no general agreement in the distinction between librarianship and library science. They are somewhat interchangeable. They differ most in connotation. Most librarians use the term library science as a terminological variation meant to emphasize the technical and scientific foundations and their relation to information science. Library and Information Science is not the same as information theory, which is a mathematical study of the information concept.
In contrast to library philosophy, library science studies the aims and justifications of librarianship rather than the technological developments and refinements. Advice on Establishing a Library is the earliest library operations text. A French librarian published the book in 1627. Gabriel Naude', a prolific scholar who wrote about many subjects including the supernatural, history, religion, and politics, put forth the ideas of the text when building and maintaining the library of Cardinal Jules Mazarin. The digital age has transformed how to access and retrieve information. The library is now a dynamic and complex informational, recreational, and educational infrastructure.
What Is a Library of Science Degree?
Studying for a Library of Science degree teaches the management of books and other information, particularly through the collection, preservation, and organization of books and other materials found in libraries. A Master of Library Science is generally a requirement of those who want a job as a professional librarian. The degree is sometimes referred to as a Master of Library and Information Science.
Librarians have a vital role in education within schools, colleges, and local communities. They manage materials that include books, magazines, DVDs, CDs, and computer resources. Students learn how to care for the resources. They must be adept at serving students and the public by helping them access and use the resources in practical and creative ways.
View Library Science Degrees in Your State
Library Science Degrees by Level
The steps to becoming a librarian traditionally, include:
- Graduating with a Bachelor’s degree
- Earning a Master’s in Library Science
- Getting certified if required by the state
A MLS (Masters of Library Science) degree is required for most positions having the title of a librarian. Those interested in the library field who are not ready for earning a graduate degree may choose Associate and Bachelor degree programs in library science or technology that prepare them for related careers. School librarians have requirements that are slightly different than other librarians. The requirements vary by state. The American Association of School Librarians recommends school librarians have an MLS degree as the minimum preparation for the job. Those steps include:
- Earning the Bachelor or Master degree required by the state
- Gaining teaching experience
- Taking any required tests like the National Evaluation Series or Praxis exams
ALA Accreditation and Programs
The ALA Office of Accreditation serves the general public, employers, students, and information and library studies Master’s degree programs by promoting the advancement of library and information educational studies. The office ensures equitable and fair accreditation reviews of information and library studies programs. It provides validation and external review of Master’s level information and library studies program.
The ALA Office promotes inclusiveness and diversity information and library studies education. The ALA accredits information and library studies Master’s programs across the U.S., Puerto Rico, and Canada. The review process is conducted by an external panel of academics and practitioners who review the programs and verify they meet the Standards for Accreditation of Master’s Programs in Library and Information Studies. The ALA-accredited Master’s programs are found in universities and colleges.
Online Library Science Degrees
Library science degrees are offered online. Programs at all levels are available. Most librarian positions require an MLS degree. Depending on the desired career path and area of specialty, students are encouraged to choose accredited programs that ensure high academic standards are met, and the programs are respected in the field. Students pursuing a library science degree should know that the ALA does not accredit all online degrees.
Graduating from a program, not ALA-accredited can limit employment options. Without a Master’s degree in library science, available library positions are usually support staff roles such as library assistants and technicians. Those seeking a Bachelor’s degree in library science online may want to consider programs in liberal or general studies with a library science concentration.
Masters in Library Science
A Masters in Library Science is a relatively new degree. According to the ALA, the degree is often referred to as the MLS. There are various other names for ALA-accredited degrees. They include:
- Master of Library and Information Studies
- Master of Librarianship
- Master of Information Studies
The program determines the name of the degree. The ALA accreditation committee evaluates programs based on how they adhere to the Master’s Programs in Library and Information Studies Standards for Accreditation rather than the name of the degree. Holding a Bachelor’s degree in an academic discipline is usually required to be admitted to a Master of Library and Science program. The ALA accredits 65 programs from 60 institutions in the U.S. Canada and Puerto Rico.
Types of Library Science Degrees
Students must complete about 120 credits in approximately four years to earn a Bachelor of Library Science degree. Completion of general education subjects, core courses, cooperative education credits, and electives may be required. Core courses that may be included are
- Electronic Information Resources
- Indexing and Abstracting
- Library Organization
- Records Management
- Research Methods
In a Bachelor’s in Library Science program, students develop research skills and the ability to support the acquisition of information. They study the technology application that supports learning and information access. Courses cover topics like information literacy, educational technology, research services, and information science. Elective courses may explore the ethical issues that face libraries today and traditions and the history of literacy and libraries.
A Master’s Degree in Library Science is appropriate for nearly all librarians, including technical service librarians, research librarians, and community librarians. The programs usually last one to two years and include professional library internships. Some programs offer the option of concentrating or specializing in a particular librarianship area, such as archiving or curating.
The degree name that is awarded depends on the Institution. Programs to consider include:
- Master of Library Science
- Masters of Arts in Library and Information Science
- Master of Information Science
- Master of Science in Library Science
A Master’s in Library Science focuses on the study of technology, information, and people. It prepares students to work in government agencies, educational institutions, corporations, libraries, and other information-intensive environments.
Those with interest in advanced college-level teaching, library administration, or information science research might consider a Doctor or Ph.D. in Library Science. The length of a program depends on how long it takes to write and defend one’s dissertation. Spending five to eight years completing a doctoral program is not out of the realm of possibilities.
Most programs expect students to take advanced-level courses that focus on their research. A doctorate program empowers students to analyze and learn the information needs of users by applying various technologies and tools to locate, evaluate, organize, manage, and preserve materials and information to make it an accessible knowledge source. Students work with faculty and other students through self-reflective essays, service activities and teaching, experience reports, and analytic papers.
Library and Information Science Degree
Library and information science is associated with information science and library schools. Schools of librarianship developed from professional training programs in the last part of the 20th century, during the 1960s. Universities began adding ‘information science’ to the names of the programs. The University of Pittsburgh was the first to do so in 1964.
During the 70s and 80s, other schools followed suit. By the 1990s, nearly all U.S. library schools added ‘information science’ to the name. In 1997, Denmark’s English ‘Royal School of Librarianship’ was changed to ‘The Royal School of Library and Information Science. Norway preferred the term ‘documentation science.’ France formed an interdisciplinary of communication studies and information science. Despite the trends to merge library and information fields, some consider them to be separate disciplines. The tendency is to use the terms synonymously.
Academic Librarianship Degree
Academic librarians are involved in various challenging activities meant to meet the information needs of researchers, faculty, students, and other campus stakeholders. Academic librarianship ranges from undergraduate instruction to faculty and graduate academic research in the hard sciences, social sciences, and humanities. The work entails
- Collaborating with instructional developers, information technology specialists, and classroom faculty
- Consulting with individuals in identifying, fulfilling, and analyzing their information needs
- Contributing to effective colleague teamwork
- Designing and managing websites
- Evaluating, purchasing or licensing, and organizing electronic databases
- Facilitating social media tools use
- Staying at the forefront of advances in technology and developing strategies for taking advantage of them
- Participating in and leading public relation efforts to promote academic libraries and raise funds for them
- Planning, implementing, and administering computer-based systems
- Selecting, organizing, and facilitating information access in various forms, particularly digital
Archives have a critical role in many social aspects. They are repositories of cultures’ unique records, documents, and other texts. Archives are tools for political and social forces, the development of rich cultural understanding, and the dissemination and preservation of historical memory, and social accountability in an increasingly networked and digital world.
Archival studies cover traditional manuscripts and archives practice and theory. This specialized area addresses the dramatic expansion of the field of archives. It charts how developments in accelerating technology change the form of methods and records for preservation and dissemination. Archival studies respond to shifting political and social conditions as well as increased archive practice codification through international and local standards development. They engage in debates about societal roles and archival history in diverse cultural and archival jurisdictions. Those interested in this area should consider an Archival Studies degree concentration.
In 1985, The University of Alabama established the first Book Arts Program. The emphasis of the program is creative practice and original creative scholarship by preparing and educating students to become proficient in book arts technology. Courses explore the historic craft and modern sensibilities reconciliation. It emphasizes the history, craft, and art of handmade books.
Craft skills-based in techniques, practice, and principles is emphasized in the development of individual artistic expression. Courses in the history of books, hand papermaking, hand bookbinding, and letterpress-printing and publishing provide the context and training for the role of books as an art and society medium for expression. A book arts education inculcates craft skills needed in book arts proficiency and the development of a sound foundation for the methodology and aesthetics of these arts.
Library children’s services include kids from birth to 11-years-old and their caregivers and parents. Libraries offer activities, story-times, books, and workshops to help nurture the love of learning and reading. There are areas in libraries where children and parents can learn, play, and read. Learning starts at birth. Early literacy encompasses activities children need before learning to read and write. They include:
- Reading to children
- Scribbling and helping children learn the connection between the written and spoken words
As children grow older, the library children’s services include:
- Book suggestions
- Educational support
- Parent support
The library offers recommended booklists, online resources, and programs that are an extension of the classroom. They provide space in the library for learning and studying. The resources offer what children need to be successful in school.
Cultural heritage information management requires a course meant to prepare students for the management of primary source materials in museums, archives, and special library collections. The course supports emerging and traditional practices in the management of unique born-digital and hidden collections for preservation and greater collection access in the digital information environment of today.
Students gain a set of tools to help them understand, inventory, and document regional, national, and world heritage properties. Cultural heritage information management involves the mining, sharing, and the exchange of information from multiple international standards-based sources. The contemporary research activities and various challenges in cultural heritage information include:
- Managing digital information
- A framework for comparing and classifying cultural heritage systems interactions
- Cultural heritage digital libraries semantic access and exploration
- Sustainability issues
A digital library is a database found online that includes video, audio, still images, text, and other formats of digital media. The content consists of digitized photographs or print as well as digital content that is originally produced, such as social media posts, and word processor files. Besides storing content, they provide a way to organize, search, and retrieve collection content.
Digital libraries vary in scope and size. Organizations and individuals maintain them. The digital content is either stored locally or can be accessed through computer networks. The information retrieval system can exchange with other systems through sustainability and interoperability. Online or digital archives contain the primary sources but are likely described individually instead of in collections or groups. The content is easily reproducible.
An ever-expanding health sciences knowledge base has driven the development of health science librarianship and health informatics. After WWII, there was an increase in medical research funding in the U.S. It lead to a growing volume of information. The burgeoning information was seen as a problem and an asset. There was a delay in the transfer of potentially actionable information and front-line clinical practitioners’ utilization.
Solutions included introducing communication and information technologies and evidence-based medicine. Health informatics did not exist before late in the 1970s, except as branches of medical electronics or medical physics Librarians initially dealt with the information explosion challenge. Many research areas of health informatics were mapped out by health science librarians.
Courses in information systems design and analysis present a practical approach to system development and information technology. Students learn to translate the requirements of businesses into systems of information that support the short- and long-term objectives of a company. Through assignments and case studies, they learn decision-making, problem-solving, and analytical techniques.
They learn to blend project management techniques, object-oriented methods, and traditional structural analysis skills. Information systems design and analysis courses prepare students who plan to attend a two- or four-year school for e-commerce, computer science, and information systems. Throughout the courses, students complete case studies dealing with different system design and analysis phases.
Business tours, related films, and guest speakers are a significant learning component. Credits in computer applications and programming are prerequisites for the course. Students develop an understanding of the theory of information systems, the ability to design and analyze information systems, and skills in managing and administering information systems.
Knowledge Management is the creating, managing, using, and sharing of the information and knowledge of an organization. It is a multidisciplinary approach to achieve the objectives of an organization by using knowledge in the best possible manner. The discipline was established in 1991. It included courses taught in information and library sciences, and management information systems and business administration fields.
Fields that contribute to Knowledge Management research include public policy, public health, computer science, media, and information. Many non-profit organizations, public institutions, and large companies have dedicated resources to internal knowledge management efforts. Often, it is part of their human resources management, IT, or business strategy departments. Organizational objectives such as sharing lessons learned, innovation, competitive advantage, and improved performance are the focus of Knowledge Management efforts.
Law Librarianship/Legal Information Services
Specializing in Law Librarianship is a pathway to a broad range of challenging, exciting, and interesting professional opportunities. Some law librarians that work in law firms ensure attorneys have all the business and legal information that is relevant to high-stakes litigation cases. Others work in local, state, or federal courts. They provide judges and their clerks with the background information needed to administer justice in our nation’s tradition. Others take on the responsibility of organizing and operating libraries that serve law students and professors as they study, research, and write about the law. There are public service options such as prison libraries and public law libraries in which law librarians help constituents locate legal information.
Management and Administration
There are subtle distinctions in administration, management, and organization, which are of importance to administrators, managers, and organizers of learned, industrial business, or academic enterprises and institutions. The study is useful and applicable to library and information science, as well as sociology, psychology, mathematics, statistics, economics, finance, and public administration management.
Organizing is the process of doing or making arrangements for work. Management furnishes the needed facilities, equipment, and tools to achieve the objectives and tasks assigned. Administration is the art of inspiring and directing people. Excellent organizational skills are a necessary antecedent to administering efficiently. Administration presupposes something tangible that only organization can supply. It creates the techniques that fulfill the purpose of an institution at minimum cost and effort.
Music librarianship is an area that pertains to developing, cataloging, preserving, and maintaining music collections. It envelops reference issues connected with music literature and musical works. Music librarians typically have degrees in both librarianship and music. They deal with the standard duties of a librarian, such as referencing and cataloging with the addition of recordings and music scores to collections that complicate the tasks.
Music librarians usually read music and have a basic understanding of music theory and history. In 1974, a set of music librarian qualifications was published by the Music Library Association. The minimum expectations of a beginning music librarian were general music knowledge, general librarianship skills, and knowledge of the resources and materials of the music library.
Organization of Information
Organization of Information is a course designed to guide students in the development of specialized skills and knowledge related to organizing information objects such as digital and physical information resources, database management, and metadata standards. The coursework provides a solid foundation in
- Principles and theory of information
- Best practices and standards in information management and organization
- Understanding information-seeking behavior and user needs
- Use and awareness of global and local standards for organizing information
- Application of research findings
Those who successfully complete the course are well-equipped to work in any information center or library. They qualify for positions such as technical services librarian, electronic resource librarian, digital library specialist, metadata specialist, indexer, or cataloger.
A librarian does more than shelve books and check materials. Among the hats, a librarian wears are buyer, material reviewer, children’s storyteller, reader’s advisor, community programming coordinator, trainer, literacy expert, information detective, and technology expert. The position of public librarian typically requires a Master of Library and Information Science or a Master of Library Science from an ALA-accredited school. There are many program style and size options. An undergraduate degree in nearly any area is appropriate. Despite a prediction by USA Today that a career as a librarian will not exist by 2030, empirical data paint a different prospect of librarianship. The publishing and educational company, Pearson, published the report, ‘The Future of Skills,’ that predicts archivists, curators, and librarians will be in high demand in the coming years.(http://publiclibrariesonline.org/2017/12/the-future-looks-bright-for-librarianship/)
Records management is an organizational function that manages the life cycle of information from creation to disposition. It includes the identification, classification, storage, security, retrieval, and destruction or permanent preservation of records. The field of records management involves the systematic and efficient control of the creation, reception, and maintenance of evidence and information of business transactions and activities in record format. Records of an organization preserve its aspects of institutional memory. The capacity for re-use is of importance in determining how long records should be retained. Part of the purpose of records management is the broader function of risk management, governance, and compliance.
Reference and User Services
All graduates of an accredited ALA Master’s program need to possess basic knowledge of reference and user services. They should be able to employ the techniques, principles, and concepts of reference and user services to all groups, cultures, and ages. Competencies include:
- Accessing accurate and relevant recorded information and knowledge
- Evaluating, collecting, retrieving, and synthesizing information from diverse sources
- Interacting with colleagues and others to provide guidance, mediation, and consultation in the use of information and knowledge
- Developing appropriate expertise in instruction abilities and skills and information literacy, including spatial, numerical, visual, digital, and textual literacy
These competencies are crucial to excellent reference and user services. They focus on the knowledge, skills, and abilities that make librarians of reference and user services unique from other professions.
School librarians work with teachers and students to facilitate access to a broad range of formats. They teach how to acquire, evaluate, and use technology and information needed in the process. School librarians introduce young adults and children to literature and resources that will broaden their horizons. They are leaders, change agents, and collaborators who develop, promote, and implement programs that help prepare students to become effective information and ideas users. The task is accomplished through carefully planned lessons, story times, and book talks. School librarians connect students with books for recreational purposes and classwork. They must keep abreast of the variety of books published for children to be able to find the ideal book for a particular student.
Science librarians are continually challenged to employ new resources and tools and learn new technologies. They assist researchers who seek comprehensive, accurate information wherever it exists. The formats used include: audio and video files, databases, digital maps, datasets, and print. Science librarians discover a broad range of positions that take advantage of scientific interests and knowledge.
They assist in scientific research and educate new scientists. Through cooperation and collaboration with researchers and students, they continue to develop scientific knowledge. Science librarians use, implement, and explore exciting new technologies. They enjoy a service-oriented profession that is highly valued. Characteristics of a science librarian are
- Passion for a subject
- Love of learning
- Flexible and adaptable
- Curious and initiative
The well-documented shortage of science librarians creates a job market filled with opportunities.
Special collections are library units that require special security and user services. The formats of special collections may be digital records ephemera, photographs, manuscripts, and rare books. They are characterized by their monetary or artifact value, rarity or uniqueness, physical format, and the commitment of an institution to the collections’ preservation and access.
The collections may include associations with prestigious institutions or figures in the arts, sciences, politics, culture, or history. Individual archival institutions or libraries determine what constitutes their special collections. A special collection division or area can be a fundamental part of a research library mission. Some institutions for special collections are privately funded, such as the American Antiquarian Society and the Newberry Library.
Others are part of an institution such as Yale University’s Beinecke Library. Many university special collections emerged from manuscript departments or rare book rooms in the university library system. Special collections are not easily replaced. They require a high level of handling and security. The main function of a special collections unit is fostering research by providing access to the material while ensuring its longevity.
Special libraries are information centers or libraries within corporations, information consulting firms, associations, hospitals, colleges, museums, government agencies, and private businesses. Special libraries collect comprehensive and updated information on the parent organization and disseminate it to the people associated with the organization. Special libraries develop their collections on special fields or subjects. The objectives are:
- Serve the information needs of the parent body
- Disseminate significant and updated information in the field
- Give pinpointed information promptly
- Provide desired information to users on demand and in anticipation
- Provide users with materials to generate new ideas and inspire them to initiate new projects
The duties of the librarian are:
- Select and procure documents and other relevant sources of information
- Process the documents or information by classifying, cataloging, and shelving arrangements to make them easily accessible to users
- Subscribe to journals in the area
- Provide users with indexing and abstracting services to save time
- Give current awareness services about the latest services and new arrivals
- Provide users with Selective Dissemination of Information services per their interests and requirements
- Bring out weekly/fortnightly/monthly library journals to keep users up-to-date with latest information
- Provide translation services to users in their respective languages
- Provide internet facilities so that users can access the library catalog and collection from their desktop
- Respond to reference queries and make retrospective literature searches per user demands
- Compile accession lists, newspaper clippings, documentation lists, union catalogs, bibliographies, etc. to save users time
- Provide users with inter-library loan facility
Young Adult Services
Young adult library services provide a transition from children’s to adult services based on the needs of young adults. They need and desire services addressing their leisure time, cultural, informational, and educational needs. The services promote literacy, reading for pleasure, information literacy, and life-long learning. A framework for developing young adult services includes:
- Establishing clear policy statements concerning access to information and library sources and respect for young adults rights to select materials matching their needs without censorship
- Equitable distribution of services and programs for young adults
- Staff that is knowledgeable about age-appropriate resources and adolescent development, including those with special needs
- Provide a broad spectrum of materials of interest to encourage reader development, reading motivation, literacy, and life-long learning
- Provide resources that support young adult educational needs
- Assist young adults in the acquisition of skills to access library resources and become computer and information literate
- Foster youth development with opportunities for participating in the planning and implementation of programs and services for young adults and volunteer opportunities to help others
- Create an area for young adults that reflects their lifestyle
- Work in partnership with community organizations and agencies to support healthy, successful youth development