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|Online M.S. in Library and Information Science
ALA Accredited, 24 months to complete. 4 specializations and 2 certificate options.
Community library science degrees combine foundational librarianship skills with competencies specifically aimed at meeting the needs of communities. These competencies often include reference and access services, engagement and outreach, and information literacy instruction.
Are there online programs in Community Library Science?
Yes. Most online MLIS programs offer concentrations, specializations, or pathways that emphasize the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to serve diverse communities. Even programs that do not offer specific community library science tracks generally offer relevant coursework.
Many of these online library science degree programs include field experiences, internships, and/or practicums to allow students hands-on training in real libraries and information centers. A benefit of these programs is peer-to-peer collaboration, which allows students to learn about the needs and goals of communities different from their own.
Are there Bachelor's programs in Community Library Science?
Yes. Most undergraduate library and information science programs include coursework relevant to community librarianship. These degree programs prepare graduates for entry-level or paraprofessional work in public and academic libraries. Courses teach foundational skills in access and technical services, collection development and management, instruction, and user engagement. Bachelor-level library and information programs may be available online Online Bachelor's in Library Science or on-campus Bachelors of Library Science Degrees.
These programs are recognized but not accredited by ALA. ALA publishes a list of undergraduate and certificate programs organized by state ALA Library Certificate & Degree Programs.
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Review of Top 5 ALA-accredited Community Library Science Programs
The American Library Association (ALA) recognizes and accredits master-level library and information sciences programs that have met or exceeded rigorous standards. To date, ALA has accredited more than 60 programs in the United States and Canada. Of these, more than 30 offer degrees relevant to community library science. Details on these and other ALA-accredited programs can be found on our review of the top online ALA accredited Master of Library Science programs page.
The following programs have been accredited by the American Library Association and offer preparation for a career in community library science.
University of Washington - Master of Library and Information Science
The University of Washington iSchool is nationally ranked and offers an online MLIS with a Public Librarianship pathway. With this pathway students gain competencies to work in a nonprofit library and serve the general public. Suggested coursework includes Principles of Information Services, Genres for Adult Readers, Cross Cultural Approaches to Leadership, and Systems Librarianship. Other relevant pathways for those interested in working with communities include Academic Librarianship and Special/Corporate Librarianship.
Washington's MLIS requires 63 quarter credits consisting of core courses, electives, and a culminating project. The online program is designed to be completed in three years with part-time enrollment of six to eight credits per quarter. Students attend a mandatory three-day campus orientation. Online tuition is $872 per credit, with an average total program cost of $54,936. The iSchool offers funding and scholarships for qualified students. Students are admitted to the program once per year for autumn start.
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee - Master of Library & Information Science
The School of Information Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee offers a Public Libraries (Children/Adult Services) specialization. This specialization is designed for students interested in adult or children's services, or public or technical services. Recommended courses in the specialization include Legal Issues for Library & Information Managers, Digital Information Services, Managing Library Collections, and Multicultural Children's Literature. Other specializations relevant to community library science are Academic Libraries and Information Literacy.
Most coursework in the 36 credit hour program is completed asynchronously, with some courses offering real-time chats or video meetings. The program consists of four required courses, including a research methods, thesis, or fieldwork culminating experience. Students must complete the program within seven years of enrollment. The fee for an online course is $800 per credit or $2,400 for a three credit course. The school practices rolling admissions throughout the year. Admission requirements include an online application, a copy of transcripts, a one to two page statement, and application fees.
Syracuse University - Master of Library and Information Science
The User Services and Community Engagement Pathway prepares students to work in a college or university library, public library, museum, or other cultural institution. The program emphasizes competencies in literacy training and instruction, reference services, collection management, and community outreach. Students choosing this pathway may elect to take Accessible Library and Information Services, Collection Development and Access, or Reference and Information Literacy Services - among other relevant courses.
The online MLIS is nationally ranked and can be completed in as little as 18 months upon earning the required 36 credit hours. No GRE is required to apply and students choose one of four cohort start dates upon enrollment. Admission requirements include a resume, transcripts, two letters of recommendation, and a personal statement. Tuition is $1,802 per credit hour for online students, with an additional per semester technology fee. The estimated total cost for the degree is $64,872.
University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa - Master of Library and Information Science
The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa offers a highly customizable program with the Public Librarianship and Academic/Special Librarianship pathways. Coursework relevant to both pathways includes Community Engagement, Multicultural Resources for Diverse User Groups, Introduction to Hawaiʻi and Pacific Librarianship, and Asian Research Materials and Methods. Additionally, students can choose to add the Community & Cultural Informatics (CCI) specialization to either pathways. This two to four course specialization emphasizes community and cultural information practices and social aspects of information technology.
The MLISc degree consists of 39 credit hours, of which 18 are dedicated to core courses, 18 are approved electives, and 3 are an entering/exiting seminar sequence. Students must complete one course corresponding to each of the six learning outcomes in the areas of services, professions, resources, technologies, cultures, and management. There is either a thesis or non-thesis (portfolio) culminating experience. The program offers face-to-face, online, and hybrid course options. Tuition and fees are based on enrollment and residency status.
Pratt Institute - Master of Science in Library and Information Science
The Pratt School of Information offers the face-to-face Learning, Literacies, & Communities MSLIS concentration at its campus in New York. This concentration aims to address the learning and literacy needs of diverse communities and prepares graduates to work with youth to adults. Related coursework in the concentration includes Information & Human Rights, Literacy & Instruction, Museum & Library Outreach, and Growing Up Digital. Another concentration relevant to community library science is Information Services, Organization, Management and Use. Relevant courses in this concentration include Strategic Leadership & Management and Genealogy & Local History.
Located in Manhattan, the ALA-accredited program prepares librarians, archivists, and other information professionals to meet the needs of information users. The 36 credit hour program highlights an experiential learning environment and graduate employment in museums, historical societies, colleges, universities, public libraries, non-profits, and foundations. Admission applications are accepted throughout the year. To apply, students complete an online application, submit transcripts, include two letters of recommendation, complete a statement of purpose, and include a current resume. School of Information graduate tuition is $1553 per credit. Scholarships and fellowships are available to eligible graduate students. See more New York library science degrees online.
In Depth Review of Online Bachelor of Library Science with Community focus
University of Tennessee Online Bachelor of Information Science
The University of Tennessee, Knoxville offers a Bachelor’s in Information Sciences. The BSIS prepares students to manage data and information in a variety of professional settings. The General concentration allows students to select from relevant coursework to meet their professional goals. Required courses such as Foundations of Information Sciences, User Centered Design, and Information Management for Information Professionals can prepare graduates for careers in community librarianship.
Clarion University Online Bachelors
Clarion’s online Bachelor of Science in integrative studies, Library and Information Studies concentration emphasizes the foundational competencies necessary for paraprofessional and provisional librarian work in information centers. Students complete 48 of the required 120 credit hours in library and information studies. Some of the program requirements are The Information Society, Informed Citizenry, Information for Healthier Living, and On the Money: Information for Financial Literacy.
Are there Doctoral programs in Community Library Science?
Post-graduate programs in library and information sciences stress original research that contributes to the betterment of communities, informed public policy, and advances in professional librarianship. Doctoral candidates may conduct research in any number of areas relevant to community librarianship, including technology, literacy, cultural heritage, or social justice. PhD programs are not accredited by the American Library Association. However, most of these doctoral programs Doctorate of Library Science Degrees are offered by schools with ALA-accredited master’s degrees.
Typical Online Community Library Science Curriculum
Coursework in community library science degree programs prepares students to participate in a variety of professional activities in information centers. Classes teach the skills necessary to assess and understand information user needs, in addition to locating and accessing print and non-print resources. Courses may provide hands-on learning experiences designed to help students better identify and implement library services. Another important aspect is community engagement through outreach, marketing, and advertising. Though most coursework will focus on applications in libraries, some take into consideration the unique information resources and services in archives, galleries, museums, cultural institutions, and other information centers.
While courses will vary by program, the following represent those typically found in a community library science curriculum.
Library, Museum, & Information Center Outreach
This course studies the development and operation of educational outreach programs in libraries, museums, and other cultural information centers. Topics include pedagogical theory, funding, online materials and resources, and assessment of the educational needs of communities. Special consideration is given to museum education theory as it applies to librarianship and learning standards. Students will design, present, and evaluate educational programs for a target community user group.
Community Building & Engagement
In this foundational course, students will explore the principles and methods of contemporary community building and engagement. A variety of diverse and multicultural communities, and their needs and goals, will be considered. Through readings, discussions, and case studies, students will understand best practices for collaborating with community members and organizations. Topics include the role of social media, digital strategies, user studies, social advocacy, public policy, services and resources, and contemporary issues, challenges, and trends.
Literacy & Instruction
This course prepares students to develop, implement, and assess literacy instruction for diverse user communities. Examines the theory, methods, and practices of teaching and learning in libraries and other information centers. Various literacies will be considered, including information, critical, digital, media, and trans literacy. A special focus is placed on needs assessments and adoption of culturally-relevant pedagogies. Students will design an instructional program aimed to meet the needs of a real-world information center population.
Introduction to Reference Services & Resources
The reference interview is a central function in public, academic, and special libraries. This course aims to investigate the primary concepts, theory, strategies, and tools necessary for delivering effective and efficient reference services face-to-face and online. Students will explore and analyze standard print and non-print reference resources. Topics include database and online search, bibliographic control, resource evaluation, issues with access, and ethics.
Multicultural Resources for Diverse User Groups
Increasingly librarians and other information professionals must meet the needs of culturally diverse user groups and organizations. In this course, students will explore the various aspects of providing equitable services for these groups through information resources and programs. Takes an in-depth look at specific materials to meet the needs of local and global communities. Considers issues and trends related to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. Special focus is placed on practices in libraries, archives, museums, cultural institutions, and the publishing industry.
Library Planning, Marketing, & Assessment
With a user-focused lens, this course investigates the methods, practices, and tools for developing and implementing effective library planning, marketing, and assessment activities. Considers how these activities relate to core library functions – from collection development to public services. Students will consider the needs and goals of internal and external stakeholders, while working with a community library partner to develop an impactful program.
In order the meet the needs and goals of a community or organization, a thorough analysis must be conducted. Through an exploration of key concepts, methodologies, and tools, this course aims to help students understand the necessary approaches for analyzing information needs and available resources. Students will consider how to design services and programs to meet specified needs, and then evaluate these programs and services. Special consideration is given to information seeking behavior, issues with access, and data-informed decision making.
Future of Libraries
As the needs of information users continues to evolve, libraries must be prepared to anticipate and respond to relevant social/cultural, environmental, technological, and policy changes. Students will consider what is needed to design, adapt, and sustain libraries of the future. Consideration is given to strategic planning and organizational leadership. Applies methods from futurism and design thinking to develop innovative and creative solutions that will meet the needs of future information users.
Increasingly, grant writing is a skill required of all information professionals. This course studies the various aspects of grant and funding work in libraries, archives, museums, cultural institutions, and other information centers. Topics include community needs analysis, grant project development, researching funding sources, and writing effective grant proposals. Students will work in teams to locate a relevant grant opportunity and write a grant proposal.
Legal Issues for Information Professionals
This course provides an introduction to laws and policies relevant to information professionals and information centers. Includes a study of local, state, and federal laws that are most applicable to libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural institutions. Topics include ethics, intellectual property, copyright, fair use, and issues relevant to electronic resources and materials.
What would you do as a community librarian?
Students pursuing this degree learn to understand the community’s culture and lifestyle, evaluate needs and and goals, and develop collaborative relationships.
Many librarians and information professionals train to work with targeted patron populations in specific environments. Earning a community library science degree prepares graduates to deliver quality library services and resources to diverse information users. Professional work in community library science may emphasize service to children and teens, older adults, non-native English speakers, job seekers, incarcerated populations, or urban or rural communities.
While all library and information science (LIS) and information studies programs generally focus on connecting information and information users, these degree programs tend to emphasize specialized practice in a specific professional setting.
Where can you work with a degree in Community Library Science?
There are many opportunities to apply the knowledge, skills, and abilities gained in a community library science program. Information professionals with this degree can be employed in public, academic, or special libraries. There are also opportunities to work with specific communities or user groups in archives and museums, corporations and private organizations, and local, state, or federal agencies.
It is important to note that most professional librarianship positions require an ALA-accredited master’s degree. These positions are typically full-time, but part-time positions may exist. While most work is conducted face-to-face, it is becoming more common for community librarians to deliver services and programming virtually. Since many of these roles work directly with the public, it is not uncommon for professionals to work evenings and/or weekends.
Common job titles in Community Library Science include:
- Community Engagement Librarian
- Library Director
- Adult Services Librarian
- Library Program Coordinator
- Research Services Librarian
- Youth Literacy Coordinator
- Archive Information Specialist
- Assessment, Teaching, & Learning Librarian
- Public Services Manager
- Community Engagement Coordinator
- Oral History Program Manager
- Reference & Liaison Librarian
- Department Head, Student Learning & Engagement
- Local History & Genealogy Librarian
- Teen Services Program Coordinator
Are there specific licensure requirements?
Licensure and certification requirements will depend on the employment setting. Professional librarians practicing in public libraries may be required to receive state certification or to pass a standardized test. Those working in archives or museums may choose to complete specialized certification relevant to archival or cultural heritage work. Some special libraries may encourage information professionals to obtain additional expertise to serve specialized clientele. Generally, no special licensure is needed to work in an academic library. Though some academic librarians earn a second master’s degree to better meet the needs of students, faculty, and researchers in a specific discipline.
Top Community Library Science Organizations
A number of non-profit professional organizations exist to support information professionals serving specific communities of information users. Many of these organizations provide support to librarians, archivists, curators, and educators working with diverse and multicultural communities.
RUSA, the Reference and User Services Association RUSA is a division of the American Library Association. RUSA serves as a network for information professionals in the areas of reference, user services, adult readers advisory, and collection development. The association also includes six specialty sections for members. To be eligible to join RUSA, one must first be an ALA member. There are several levels of membership, including regular, student, support staff, retired, and non-salaried. Members have access to RUSA publications and resources and can participate in a wide variety of professional development and continuing education courses.
American Indian Library Association
Founded in 1979, the American Indian Library Association (AILA) AILA is a membership action group affiliated with ALA. The organization works to improve library and information services for American Indians. An important part of AILA’s work is promoting Native American education, literacy, and community. Membership is open to individuals, institutions, and students. Membership includes access to the association’s newsletter and discussion group. AILA hosts several programs and awards, including the Emerging Leaders program and Talk Story grant (a collaboration with the Asian/Pacific American Libraries Association).
Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association
APALA, the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association, APALA is a nonprofit working to enhance leadership opportunities to address the needs of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander library and information professionals. APALA hosts a blog, posts book reviews, publishes personal essays, and releases a newsletter. Members can volunteer for committees, serve as mentors, and participate in local APALA chapters. Awards supported by the association include travel grants, scholarships, and literature awards.
Black Caucus of the American Library Association
Another division of ALA is the Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA) BCALA. BCALA was founded in 1970 to serve as an an advocate for the development, promotion, and improvement of library services and resources to the African American community. Additionally the association leads recruitment and professional development efforts for African American librarians. BCALA hosts several awards, including book and trailblazer awards. Multiple membership categories exist, including institutional, library science student, library support staff, and retiree. Members (who must also be members of ALA) can access mentoring and coaching, conferences, webinars, and discounts.