Library Leadership Degrees

School Program ALA Accredited?
Syracuse University Online MS in Library and Information Science
St. John's University Online M.S. in Library and Information Science
University of Denver Master of Library and Information Science
University of Washington Online Master of Science in Information Management

Library and information science (LIS) and information studies programs (IS) offering leadership specializations, concentrations, and pathways prepare graduates for a variety of leadership roles in libraries, archives, and other information centers. These programs often highlight administrative and management skills, such as finances and budgeting, strategic planning, and operations and human resource management. Library leadership programs also emphasize collaborative approaches to work, creative problem solving, adoption of emerging technologies, evaluation and assessment, and data-informed decision making.

Are there online programs in Library Science Leadership?

Yes, most online MLIS and IS programs emphasize at least some aspects of library leadership. Many offer specific tracks or certificates to prepare graduates for leadership positions. Since core skills like professional writing, teamwork, ethics, and multicultural fluency are central to many of these programs, students often have the opportunity to gain valuable professional experience through practicums and internships at local libraries.

Online library science programs allow students to connect with peers and other professionals remotely to gain the essential knowledge and abilities necessary for effective library leadership. Compared to degrees, online professional certificates offer the opportunity to complete a specialized program quickly - sometimes in a matter of months.

Click to find online library science programs currently accepting applications.

What is the library leadership program area?

A library leader is more than one with a director, manager, or head title. Library leaders are those who spearhead new initiatives, develop innovative programming, and collaborate with library colleagues and those outside of the profession. A leader at a public library may be responsible for evaluating and suggesting changes to existing children's programming. A leader in a university archives may be responsible for training colleagues on the use of a new digitization system. A leader in a health sciences library may provide critical support for a major grant-funded research project.

Closely related areas of study include Library Administration Library Administration Degrees and Library Management Library Management Degrees.

Featured Online Library Programs

School Level Program
Syracuse University
Website
Master Online MS in Library and Information Science
ALA-accredited. No GRE required to apply.
St. John's University
Website
Master Online M.S. in Library and Information Science
ALA Accredited. Complete in as little as 2 years.
University of Denver
Website
Master Master of Library and Information Science
ALA-Accredited, No GRE Required.
University of Washington
Website
Master Online Master of Science in Information Management
Information School. Now offered full-time or part-time.
Lindenwood University
Website
Master Online Master of Arts Education - Library Media and Technology Specialization
Emphasis in Library Media & Technology.

Top Online Library Science Leadership Programs

Most online library and information sciences and information studies programs offer, at a minimum, general coursework in library leadership. Others have developed robust specializations, concentrations, and pathways to allow students to fully immerse themselves in the subject matter. The American Library Association (ALA) places a priority on leadership when reviewing and accrediting MLS programs. This includes leadership as demonstrated by faculty and through opportunities created for students.

University of Rhode Island - Master of Library and Information Studies Libraries, Leadership, and Transforming Communities Track

The University of Rhode Island's ALA-accredited online MLIS offers a specific track for students interested in gaining necessary management and leadership knowledge and skills for 21st century libraries and information centers. The program stresses development of the values and foundational principles important to library professions and associations. Advocacy, community outreach, ethics, and strategic alliances are some of the important themes covered in the program.

Core courses in the 36 credit hour program include Lead, Manage & Connect Library and Information Services, Searching for Answers: Meeting Users' Information Needs, Organization of Information, Introduction to Information Science and Technology, and Apply and Reflect (Field Experience). For admission, students will complete an online application and provide a 500 to 800 word statement of purpose, two letters of recommendation, unofficial transcripts, and a current resume. Tuition is $823 per credit, with applicable per credit technology and per semester registration fees.

University of South Carolina - Master of Library and Information Science Leadership and Management Competency

The nationally ranked, online, and ALA-accredited MLIS program at USC includes leadership and management as one of its six competency areas. Important outcomes for this competency include goal identification, community analysis, funding proposals, and community and institutional advocacy. Students gain competency in this area by selecting from a number of targeted courses. Some coursework options include Knowledge Management for Library and Information Professionals, Planning Library Facilities, Collection Development and Acquisition, and special topics seminars.

The program consists of 36 credit hours, with core coursework and electives evenly split. Graduation requirements include an electronic portfolio in which students showcase a resume, vision statement, and work samples. Students pursuing a school library certification also complete capstone courses and an internship. Tuition rates are based on residency, with South Carolina resident paying $572.25 per credit and online out-of-state students paying $692.25 per credit. Reduced certified teacher rates are also available.

Dominican University - Certificate in Executive Library Leadership

For information professionals, and library administrators specifically, who possess an advanced degree in an area outside of librarianship, Dominican University's Executive Library Leadership certificate may be a good option. This 18-month online program is offered as part of the ALA-accredited iSchool. The cohort-based program consists of five courses and an introductory three-day workshop in Chicago. Courses are offered asynchronously.

Courses in the certificate include Evidence-Based Planning, Management, and Decision-Making, Information Policy, Independent Study (in which students address an organizational problem at their library), and two electives. Students work with an advisor to select electives based on interests and professional goals. The certificate is designed as a stackable module toward the 36 credit hour MLIS degree. Tuition is $850 per credit hour with applicable full- or part-time student fees.

University of Colorado, Denver - Leadership in P12 Library Programs Certificate

While not ALA-accredited, UC, Denver offers a leadership program for school librarians. This program is designed for professionals who are not endorsed as a certified school librarian and those hired as classified school library professionals or paraprofessionals. Teaching and learning skills for children and young adults is a focus on this certificate program. Professionals gain knowledge and skills based on the Colorado State Library’s competencies for Highly Effective Schools Through Libraries (HESTL) program.

The online program consists of 12 credit hours (four courses) across four key areas: planning, instructional partnerships, leadership, and library management. The certificate is designed to be completed in one year. Tuition depends on program, enrollment status, and residency. Scholarships and financial aid are available for qualified students. For admission, prospective students complete a graduate non-degree application and provide a written statement.

Michigan Online - Public Library Online Professional Certificate

The University of Michigan Online offers a professional certificate for those interested in gaining additional public library management skills. This may be a good option for those who already have a graduate-level degree or those entering librarianship from another profession. The 8-course program is self-paced and designed to be completed in 32 weeks. Some courses offered include Identifying Community Needs for Public Library Management, Personnel Management, Infrastructure Management, and Grant Writing and Crowdfunding.

While the certificate is not accredited by the American Library Association, course instructors are affiliated with U of M's ALA-accredited and nationally ranked MLIS program as professors and researchers. Tuition is less than $400 for the entire program. Students already enrolled at the University of Michigan have free access to the certificate.

Are there Bachelor’s programs in Library Science Leadership?

While there are foundational courses in library and information sciences and information studies offered at the undergraduate level designed to prepare future leaders, degrees especially focused on leadership, management, and administration are typically offered at the graduate level. Undergraduate LIS and IS students should take courses centered on information literacy, library and information center management, and engagement and advocacy to prepare for a future role in library leadership. Programs at the bachelor’s level are offered online Online Bachelor’s in Library Scienceand on-campus Bachelors of Library Science Degrees.

Are there Doctoral programs in Library Science Leadership?

By nature, doctoral programs in library and information sciences are designed to produce leaders. Doctoral candidates focus on advanced research and highly-targeted specializations. Research is intended to evaluate and improve aspects of the profession and the communities served by libraries. Some libraries, archives, and information centers, such as law libraries, require librarians to have a doctoral degree. The majority of doctoral programs require at least some on-campus learning experiences, but there are some online doctoral programs Doctorate of Library Science Degrees.

Dominican University offers a 36 credit hour accelerated MLIS/PhD option for practicing information professionals with an undergraduate degree, but no master’s degree. Following the first year of MLIS coursework (24 credit hours), students join the cohort-based doctoral program (12 credit hours and an electronic portfolio). The ALA-accredited program can be completed in four years.

The University of Buffalo’s ALA-accredited Information Science, PhD gives post-graduate students the opportunity to extensively study digital technologies as they relate to human interaction and cultural expression. The program is specifically designed for professionals interested in faculty positions and those who want to enhance their leadership experience in libraries. With the exception of an annual week-long residency, the 72 credit hour program can be completed online.

Typical Online Library Science Leadership Curriculum

A broad variety of courses encompass the knowledge, skills, and abilities required of library leaders. Coursework that covers programming, services, and materials for target or diverse user groups – early childhood, children, teens/young adults, and adults – is not uncommon. Additionally, students can expect to select coursework tailored for specific libraries, archives, and other information centers, such as school media centers, museums and galleries, government archives and special collections, academic, public, or special libraries.

Courses that stress specialized ares of information, such as financial literacy or consumer health resources, prepare students to navigate a wide range of websites, databases, and collections. In situations where a program does not offer an explicit leadership track, it is often possible to create a customized curriculum to satisfy personal interests and professional goals.

The following are sample courses for a leadership curriculum:

Foundations in Information Science & Technology – In this introductory course, students examine the history, theory, and methods of information science and information technology. Applications in a variety of information centers, including libraries, archives, galleries, and museums, are discussed. Consideration is given to changing user needs, emerging technology, and policy. Through discussions with information professionals and case studies, contemporary issues and trends are explored.

Organizing Information – This foundational course covers the theories, principles, and practices of organizing analog and digital information. Students will learn to organize information using national and international standards. Topics include bibliographic information, cataloging, classifying, tools, utilities, and networks. Special emphasis is placed on the organization of “born-digital” materials and records in electronic formats.

Information Profession Leadership – This course is for any student interested in applying traditional and non-traditional leadership skills as an information professional. Knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary for leaders in various information centers are considered. Topics include multiculturalism, change management, interpersonal relationships, and advocacy. Discussion includes contemporary issues, challenges, and trends. Students will be expected to join a professional association of their choosing. Completion of this course prepares students for future leadership, management, and administration courses.

Community Relations for Libraries & Information Centers – How do libraries and information centers understand and interact with the communities they serve? This course examines relationships, expectations, and goals. Topics include advocacy, engagement, public relations, evaluating community needs, identifying and building partnerships, and planning for the future. The culminating project is development and presentation of a community relations program for a real-world organization.

Diversity & Multiculturalism – In this course, students examine the principles and aspects of diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion in libraries and information centers through history, philosophy, and comparison. Consideration is given to determining user and community needs and planning responsive collections, services, and programs. Discussions will include real-world scenarios, current trends and issues, policies, and solutions for overcoming challenges.

Library & Information Center Advocacy – Advocacy is an important aspect of the information profession. This course explores advocacy efforts for communities and libraries and information centers. Students will work to determine community needs, develop an advocacy plan, and create an advocacy campaign. Special consideration is given to the advocacy programs and strategies of relevant professional associations.

Information Ethics & Policy – In this course, students examine the ethical, legal, and policy approaches central to library and information science issues. Topics include privacy, intellectual freedom, intellectual property, equitable access, truth and objectivity in information, and freedom of expression. Key theory, history, principles, and applications are considered in both intra- and inter-organizational settings.

Evidence-Based Planning, Management and Decision-Making – This course introduces the concepts, principles, and techniques central to evidence-based actions in library and information settings. Topics include research design and measurement, data collection (qualitative and quantitative), assessment strategies, and reporting results. Applies methods and approaches to collections, services, and programs. The goal of the course is to collect and communicate data that demonstrates value to users, constituents, and stakeholders.

Independent Study – This course provides students the opportunity to conduct independent study for a directed and supervised project. Project must explore an aspect or issue of library and information science or information studies that is otherwise not covered through existing program coursework. Topic must be pre-approved by instructor. No more than two independent study courses may be completed.

Field Experience – This course provides students the opportunity for directed and supervised work in a library, information center, or related organization. Students are expected to apply theory to practice and provide evidence of competency through completion of research, a project, or presentation. Field experience placement site must be pre-approved by the faculty advisor. Student is jointly supervised by a member of the faculty and a professional in the placement site.

Where can you work with a degree in Library Science Leadership?

While skills like communication, critical thinking, problem solving, and conflict management may be central to all library leadership roles, many positions offer candidates numerous opportunities to lead in diverse and unique ways. Library leadership positions are found at all levels and in all areas of librarianship, from school to university libraries and within professional organizations. It is commonplace for library leaders to hold elected positions within national or international associations. Library leaders may also assume responsibility for mentorship and early-career professional programs within their organizations.

Between 2020 and 2030 librarian and library media specialist employment is anticipated to grow at a rate of 9% – which is about as fast as average for all occupations in the United States BLS Job Outlook. In 2021 the median annual wage for librarians and library media specialists was $61,190 BLS Pay. While part-time work is available, most librarians and library media specialists in leadership roles work full-time. Also, it is not uncommon for professionals in academic and public libraries to work evenings, weekends, and some holidays.

Common job titles in Library Leadership include:

  • Library Director
  • Head, Library Access Services & Outreach
  • Head Librarian
  • Law Library Deputy Director
  • Executive Director, Library Services
  • Head of Research & Reference Services
  • Head of User Services Librarian
  • Senior Director of Library Services
  • Head of Digital Initiatives
  • Head of Technical Services
  • Associate Dean for Library Services
  • Youth Services Manager
  • Head of Special Collections
  • Library Consortium Services Manager
  • Head of Curators

Are there specific licensure requirements?

Licensure is essential for anyone interested in holding a leadership role in an elementary, middle, or high school library. Working in a PK-12 setting requires state-level teaching certification in addition to a graduate degree. Often the master’s degree must come from an ALA or CAEP (Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation) accredited program.

Special licenses and certifications are generally not needed for most library leadership positions in academic or public libraries. Special certification may be required for library leaders working in a medical or health sciences library and other specialized information centers. Archivists may need to complete a certification program offered by the Society of American Archivists (SAA) to show expertise in the areas of digital archives or arrangement and description.

Top Library Leadership Organizations

A wide number of library leadership professional organizations and associations are available. These connect professionals to a network of peers and practitioners nationally and around the globe. There are general leadership organizations and those which focus on specific areas of librarianship practice.

The American Library Association is the primary organization for library professionals ALA. As the world’s oldest and largest organization of its kind, with over 55,000 members, ALA is well-respected and considered a go-to resource. In addition to accrediting master-level LIS and IS programs, ALA holds an annual conference, publishes a journal and books, and hosts professional development opportunities. Membership is available for professionals at all levels, including support staff and students, and includes access to periodicals, career resource assistance, meetings, online learning, discounts, and added-value programs. ALA offers eLearning content on leadership and management, with on-demand and live webinars covering a variety of relevant and timely topics. Members can also join issue-specific round tables and divisions for the various areas of librarianship practice.

A division of ALA that focuses on college and research libraries is ACRL ACRL. The Association of College and Research Libraries is for professionals practicing in higher education and represents nearly 9,000 individuals and libraries. The association is committed to advancing learning, transforming scholarship, and creating inclusive and diverse communities.

LLAMA, the Library Leadership & Management Association, is a division of ALA and part of Core: Leadership, Infrastructure, Futures LLAMA. With a focus on professional development, this association provides conference programs, webinars, online courses, and opportunities to connect with peers.

The Public Library Association, PLA, is an ALA division catering to professionals in public libraries, large and small, in the United States and Canada PLA. The association promotes its unique continuing education opportunities, advocacy initiatives, and annual conference. A highlight is the PLA’s awards program honoring those providing extraordinary public library service.

Another popular division of ALA is the American Association of School Librarians, which serves school librarians and leaders in school media centers AASL. AASL serves professionals in the US, Canada, and around the world and works to empower leaders to transform teaching and learning. Specialized ember sections within the association include Educators of School Librarians, Independent Schools, and Supervisors.

The Society of American Archivists is the oldest and largest North American professional organization for archives and archivists. In addition to certification programs, professional development, and publishing the American Archivist journal, SAA provides members access to the Archives Management Section SAA Archives Management Section. By participating with this section, practicing archivists gain access to a range of management issues important to the profession and archival institutions. The section maintains resources on archival facilities, leadership and people management, and project management.