Explore a Bachelor's Degree in Library Science
Library science is a field of study concerned with the collection and distribution of information, which includes traditional library resources such as books, periodicals, and reference materials, as well as resources found online and in electronic databases. Online library science degrees equip students with the skills and knowledge necessary to help library patrons find the information they need, promote literacy through community programs and research, build collections for a culturally diverse community, and manage the daily operations of libraries and library systems. This degree path is a good fit for avid readers who are highly organized and enjoy both working with the public and making use of technology on the job.
Bachelor's degree programs in library science are less common than master's programs, as most students who are preparing to be librarians major in a different subject at the undergraduate level and pursue library science at the master's level. However, bachelor's-level programs in library science are available online for those who are interested in paraprofessional careers in library settings or who are interested in careers as school media specialists. These programs are designed to be completed in four years of full-time work if they follow a standard semester format, although some students may complete the programs more quickly if they apply prior credits earned in community college or AP courses toward their general education requirements.
Online library science degree curriculum is often separated into two parts at the undergraduate level. During the first two years, students complete general education requirements in the liberal arts and sciences for a well-rounded education. In the student's junior and senior years, students complete their major requirements and any specialized courses if their program includes an option to concentrate in a particular area of library science. These courses are focused on preparing students to become skilled information professionals. Students may take the following major courses:
- Computer Applications in Libraries. In this course, students learn how computers are used in libraries and information centers. Emphasis is on how information is stored on computers and the most effective methods of information retrieval. Depending on the program, this course may focus solely on computer applications put to use in school library media centers.
- Information Literacy. This course introduces students to various types of information and teaches students skills in locating, evaluating, and using library resources to find information. Research strategies pertaining to books, reference works, and electronic database resources are emphasized.
- Cataloging and Classification. In this course, students learn how to catalog and classify various library materials using information retrieval systems. Students also learn how to analyze information packages for subject content and then effectively describe resources such as books, maps, music, images, and electronic information for inclusion in catalogs.
Students in a library science program will complete a wide range of assignments and projects. Students in classes that involve library technology will perform exercises on relevant technology and will be asked to demonstrate their technical proficiency in working with computers, computer programs, and databases in quizzes, midterms, and final exams. Students may also be asked to complete a practicum, or supervised work in a library or information center designed to equip students with operational library experience. Along with performing designated duties during the practicum, students are often asked to write about the what they learn on the job for course credit.
Building a Career
A bachelor's degree in library science alone is not enough to qualify graduates for most librarian positions. Students must complete a master's degree in library science, information science, or a closely related area to become a librarian, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Graduating from a program accredited by the American Library Association may lead to better job prospects, the BLS notes.
Librarians work in public and academic libraries, school libraries, and special libraries, such as corporate, government, law, and medical libraries. School librarians, or school media specialists, work with children in K-12 schools and help them make use of school library resources; they may also help teachers find special instructional materials for class. Most states require school librarians to be licensed or certified. The median yearly salary for librarians was $54,500, the BLS noted.
With a minimum of a bachelor's degree, students may become archivists, although a master's degree may be preferred by many employers. These professionals organize and manage archives and preserve and maintain historical documents and records, among other tasks. The median yearly salary for archivists was $45,200, the BLS noted.
Students may also pursue full or part-time work as library technicians and assistants. These library workers serve in a paraprofessional role, assisting trained librarians in sorting and re-shelving books and other library materials, helping library patrons find what they are searching for, and even helping out with community literacy programs. The median hourly wage for library technicians was $14.36, according to the BLS. Salaries for all careers in library and information science vary greatly depending on your level of experience and education, where you live, the size of the library or information center you work for, and other considerations.