Online Masters in Library and Information Science

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

The Master of Library and Information Science or Master of Library and Information Studies, MLIS, is designed to prepare professionals to meet these demands in libraries and other information centers. Graduates with a MLIS often serve in public roles within institutions, organizations, and the community. The MLIS is considered the terminal degree for most careers in professional librarianship.

What is the difference between a MLS and MLIS?

In short, there are few differences between the MLS and MLIS. Master's degrees in library- and information-related studies may have different names. The Master of Library Science, MLS, is closely related to the MLIS. The MLS is considered the "older" of the two, as the "i" in MLIS was added later to reflect modern changing needs in libraries.

An online MLS program may have many of the same courses and similar admission and graduation requirements as online MLIS programs. MLS programs are also eligible for American Library Association (ALA) accreditation, the premier accrediting body for library science degrees. It is important to note that individual school programs are responsible for determining the name of the degree. This if often reflective of course offerings, specializations or concentrations, and program research initiatives. Reviewing each of these elements can help to determine if the MLS or MLIS program will meet individual academic and professional goals.

Click to find online library science programs currently accepting applications.

Overview of MLIS concepts and availability

The role of information professionals in society continues to evolve thanks to changes to digital technologies, evolving workplace demands, and the exponential increase in information available.

Some of the concepts central to many MLIS programs include:

Graduates with a MLIS have the necessary skills to organize, access, evaluate, and preserve information in a variety of formats and settings. Additionally, graduates are often prepared to meet the changing needs of a diverse society.

MLIS is a growing degree to be offered entirely online

In recent years, MLIS programs have shifted from being offered primarily in-person to online and is one of the top online library science degrees offered. An online MLIS degree can take anywhere from two to four years to complete, depending on the program and number of hours a student enrolls (full- versus part-time). Tuition rates and fees vary by school.

Most online MLIS programs offer financial aid options to assist students. Participating in collaborative activities, contributing to scholarly research, and involvement with local communities are central features of many online MLIS programs.

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.
University of Denver
Website
Master Master of Library and Information Science
ALA-Accredited, No GRE Required.
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 West Alabama
Website
Doctorate Education Specialist: Library Media

Top 5 online ALA Accredited MLIS programs

ALA accredits online MLIS programs based on specific standard requirements. Accredited programs are evaluated regularly. To search for other online ALA accredited MLIS programs, visit ALA.

Tuition rates and financial aid opportunities vary by program. Check each program's tuition and fees for up-to-date tuition rates.

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign - MS in Library and Information Science

This program is regularly ranked as one of the best in the country and has maintained ALA accreditation continuously since 1926. To receive the MS/LIS degree, students must earn 40 graduate credit hours in the program. There are two required foundational courses that must be completed within the first academic year of enrollment in the degree program: Information Organization and Access and Libraries, Information, and Society. Students can customize their education with professional pathways. These pathways include: Archival and Special Collections, Data and Asset Management, Information Organization and Management, Knowledge Management and Competitive Intelligence, Youth and School Librarianship, and Research and Information Services. Program faculty are recognized for their contributions in the classroom and to innovative research.

The program can be completed either online or on campus in 18-24 months. Financial aid is available, including scholarships, assistantships, and graduate hourly positions. Resident and nonresident tuition rates are available for online students. These are on a per credit hour basis. No campus fees are required for online students.

University of Washington - Master of Library and Information Science

The online MLIS is designed as a three-year, part-time program. Students in the program enroll in 6-8 credits per quarter. A total of 63 quarter credits are required for graduation. As of this writing, the cost per credit for online MLIS students in the program was $852 per credit. The estimated total cost of the degree was $53,676. All online students, residents and nonresidents, have the same tuition rates.

Students in the online MLIS program are required to participate in a three-day, on-campus orientation in Seattle, Washington. During this orientation students are introduced to their cohort and instructors, while learning about the program and online learning environment. Not all program electives are available to online students. Diversity, inclusion, and social justice are central to the program's curriculum. Ethics in information, theory of knowledge organization, and design thinking are courses used to set the foundation for future learning and professional work.

University of Maryland College Park - Master of Library and Information Science

In addition to having a nationally ranked online MLIS program, both the Archives & Preservation and School Library & Youth specializations are nationally recognized. Graduates of the program learn the needed skills to serve as advocates for IT inclusivity, accessibility, and literacy. The program boasts a diverse faculty, staff, and student population. This program offers hybrid courses, both online and in-person.

Admission to the program is through the University of Maryland Graduate School. Whether completing the program online, in-person, or as a hybrid, students must apply to the LBSC (Library Science Campus) Program. To graduate, students must achieve 36 credit hours with a minimum 3.8 GPA within five calendar years from the first semester of registration. Scholarships, fellowships, and assistantships are available to well-qualified applicants. Tuition rates are established for Maryland residents and non-residents. Students should expect to pay graduate student fees in addition to tuition. The program does not charge an additional, higher fee for online courses.

Syracuse University - Library and Information Science Master Degree

This is a 36 credit program, often completed within two years. At the time of this writing the tuition rate per credit was $1,734. Students are also charged an additional technology fee per course credit hour, per term. During the duration of the program, students are required to participate in one non-credit, 2-3 day Graduate Immersion Milestone Event. The event is designed as a residency workshop.

The program offers students the choice of several professional pathways. Pathways include coursework and residency workshops, providing a wide view of librarianship and information science. In addition to pathways, the program offers a Data Science certificate. To gain experience with research, students can work in research labs or collaborate on faulty research projects. Information justice, equality, and equity are key concepts of the program. This program has been accredited by the ALA since 1928 and is ranked as a top program for active duty military service members and military veterans.

University of Pittsburgh - Master of Library and Information Science Online

Students in this program learn the skills necessary to manage traditional and emerging forms of information. The course of study includes six required core courses. Beyond these mandatory courses, students may choose from one of several thematic areas based on interest. Thematic areas include: Academic Information Services, Archives and Information Science, Children and Youth Services, Civic Engagement, Information Technology, Public Library Services, and School Library Certification Program.

This 36 credit online MLIS program is fully asynchronous. Students are responsible for attending classes and completing assignments on their own time but within the established deadlines for individual courses. The program can be completed in as little as three consecutive terms (as a full-time student) or up to twelve terms (part-time). Students must complete the program within four years after the first term courses are taken. Tuition rates are adjusted each year and announced in July. First accredited in 1962, the program has maintained ALA accreditation continuously. As part of a top-tier research institution, students in this online MLIS program have numerous opportunities to contribute to scholarship. Financial aid options include endowed scholarships, awards, assistantships, and fellowships.

Typical Online MLIS Curriculum

The core curriculum for online MLIS programs will vary by school. Specializations or concentrations (also known as tracks or pathways) give students the opportunity to customize their learning experience. Some specializations or concentrations include Archives and Special Collections, Records or Knowledge Management, Youth and School Librarianship, and User Services and Community Engagement. Students may also have the option to take elective courses outside of the program. These courses will count towards graduation requirements.

Even though coursework is completed from home, most online MLIS programs create opportunities for ongoing collaboration with peers and faculty. Each program also gives students options for culminating experiences. A culminating experience is a way to demonstrate mastery of skills and application of theory and knowledge. Some programs require a thesis, while others give the option to substitute a project, internship, or independent study for the thesis. Typically a project-based activity, possibly a capstone or ePortfolio (electronic portfolio), is completed during the final term of coursework.

These are examples of typical courses in a MLIS curriculum:

Course Description

Introduction to Library and Information Science

This course serves as the foundation for the program through investigation of the role of libraries, information centers, and information in communities and society. The history of libraries and information throughout time and across cultures is covered. The different types of libraries are discussed along with other professional settings for information professionals. This course also includes an overview of the relationship between librarians and information professionals with various stakeholders. An important part of the course is exploration of contemporary issues and agendas related to the profession.

Information Ethics

Ethics are central to both the management of information and the profession itself. This course analyzes the ethical and legal concerns surrounding the access to and use of information. Topics include intellectual property, intellectual freedom, privacy, and policies. Additionally, this course surveys the ethical and legal frameworks that guide the information professional in their work. This course prepares students to navigate the ever-changing ethical and legal issues related to information and information management.

Organization and Access of Information

Gain an introduction to the systems used to organize and provide access to information in both physical and digital formats. Topics include: classification, indexing, cataloging, preservation, discovery, retrieval, display, and arrangement. This course explores the information life cycle, the information transfer process, and the technologies central to information retrieval systems. System design and database management are also key concepts covered in the course. Completion of this course provides the necessary skills for effective application of principles, methods, and standards related to information organization and access.

Information Users, Resources, and Services

Information professionals should posses specific skills and have an understanding of processes to facilitate access to information. Information users come from a variety of backgrounds, with age, gender, gender orientation, race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status all contributing to their information needs. As technology continues to advance, the types of information resources available becomes more broad. These changes, along with user and community needs, greatly influence the types of services offered in libraries and information centers. This course teaches the skills and processes necessary to facilitate the location and retrieval of resources and surveys the various services used to meet diverse information user needs.

Leading and Managing in Information Organizations

This course teaches the theories and approaches necessary to lead and manage innovative, inclusive, and results-oriented information organizations. Both internal and external issues surrounding leadership and management are discussed. Internal issues include those related to human resource management, fiscal planning, and project management. External issues are those concerned with marketing, policy and politics, strategic planning, and funding. Whether in a formal or informal leadership role, mastery of these skills leads to a more well-rounded information professional.

Research Methods and Assessment Tools

This course provides a foundation for practical application of both research methods and assessment tools in information organizations. Research is an important aspect to the advancement of the profession and specific methods are applied in information settings. Students will explore common research methods, identify research opportunities, design research frameworks, and conduct research. Assessment is the planned evaluation of programs, services, and resources. Students will develop assessment tools designed to measure the effectiveness of functions of libraries and information centers.

Capstone Project

The capstone project is a culminating experience completed during the last term(s) of the program. The capstone investigates real-world and contemporary issues related to information, information management, and/or information centers. In this course students will decide to work as a team or individually, select an appropriate capstone project, identify a project mentor, plan and implement project design, carry out the project design, complete and evaluate project deliverables, and present results. The goal of the capstone project is to demonstrate knowledge, theory, and skills on a professional level.

Practicum/Internship

The practicum or internship serves as an organized and practical field experience opportunity. Students will work in a professional setting with a self-selected information professional. A faculty member will provide guidance throughout the duration of the experience. During the practicum or internship, students are expected to engage in a professional manner with colleagues and participate in professional activities. Students will apply knowledge, theory, and skills in a real-world environment of their own choosing.

Independent Study or Research

ndependent study is an opportunity for students to take a deep-dive into a particular topic or issue not traditionally covered by a course within the program, but still closely aligned to library and information studies. Advance approval of the topic or issue by the student’s faculty advisor is required. Students will need to submit a proposal outlining the intent and scope of the study or research, along with a description of the intended final product. This culminating experience can be completed during the last term(s) of the program. The purpose of independent study or research is to allow students to independently pursue a research area of personal and professional interest.

Thesis

The thesis is a culminating experience completed over a series of terms and submitted for review and approval. The thesis topic requires advance approval from the student’s faculty advisor. A written thesis should use accepted research methods to investigate a topic or issue related to library and information studies. An oral defense of the thesis may or may not be required. Completion of a thesis demonstrates an ability to identify and define a problem, review appropriate literature, gather and assess data, and apply advanced research methods. The thesis is an appropriate option for students with an interest in research and scholarly writing.

ALA requirements for MLIS programs

The American Library Association (ALA) was established to serve as the professional organization for librarians. ALA offers professional development opportunities, networking events, policy guidance, and promotes library and information advocacy efforts. Over time, the ALA has grown to serve information professionals beyond just libraries.

A primary function of the ALA is to establish minimum requirements for all accredited online MLIS programs. This is accomplished through published standards. These standards ensure accredited programs are uniform in terms of minimum educational quality and accountability requirements. According to the “2015 Standards for Accreditation of Master’s Programs in Library and Information Studies” standards evaluated for program accreditation include:

  • Systematic Planning – Review, assessment, and revision of a program’s goals, objectives, and student learning outcomes.
  • Curriculum – Establishment of a student-centric curriculum reflective of a program’s goals, objectives, and student learning outcomes.
  • Faculty – Establishment of qualifications for full- and part-time program faculty.
  • Students – Creation and enforcement of academic and administrative policies for students that align with the program’s goals and objectives.
  • Administration, Finances, and Resources – Establishment of an infrastructure designed to function as an independent part of the school system as a whole, while supporting program faculty and students.

Through the process of externally managed reviews, a college or university’s online MLIS program achieves and maintains accreditation. Both self-evaluation and peer assessment are also important aspects of accreditation. MLIS programs that have achieved ALA accreditation are located in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico. These programs are often indicated with an ALA accreditation badge on the program web page. Courses through these accredited programs may be delivered online, in-person, or as hybrids (a combination of online and in-person).

What are the top admissions requirements for most MLIS programs?

Requirements for admission to an online MLIS program vary from school to school. Some programs require a fee at the time of application. General admission requirements include:

  • Bachelor Degree or Higher (a degree in any discipline is most often accepted)
  • Professional References or Letter(s) of Reference
  • Resumé or CV (Curriculum vitae)
  • Personal Statement/Statement of Purpose
  • Essay and/or Short Answer Response(s)
  • Transcripts (for previously obtained degrees, official or unofficial)

Some programs accept admission applications on a rolling (ongoing) basis. While others have fall and/or spring application deadlines. It is important to be familiar with any application deadlines. Requirements vary for GRE or GMAT scores. Some schools may accept an undergraduate GPA in place of standardized test scores if the GPA meets a minimum established threshold. The GRE or GMAT may not be required if the applicant has already obtained a graduate degree (JD, MD, or PhD). Additionally, international applicants whose native language is not English may be required to provide evidence of passing the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), IELTS test, or similar language proficiency examination.

What careers can you have with a MLIS degree?

Today, professionals with a MLIS degree are found in more than libraries. There is a need for library and information professionals across a number of diverse industries. Graduates from an online MLIS program can work in a variety of rewarding careers.

Employers include libraries, archives, museums, schools, privately-held companies, non-profit organizations, and government institutions. Many employers, including public and school libraries, require a MLIS from an ALA accredited program. Graduating with a degree from an ALA accredited program may increase professional opportunities. Possible careers with an online MLIS degree include:

  • Academic Research Librarian
  • Book Conservator
  • Chief Information Officer
  • Content Coordinator
  • Curator
  • Data Visualization Specialist
  • Information Architect
  • Information Technology Manager
  • Instructional Librarian
  • Knowledge Manager
  • Law Librarian
  • Metadata and Data Curation Librarian
  • Photo Archives Manager
  • Public Librarian
  • Rare Books Curator
  • School Librarian
  • Taxonomist
  • User Experience Designer
  • Web Designer
  • Web Services Librarian