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Getting Started towards a Degree in Library Science

written by: Heather Marie Kosur•edited by: Noreen Gunnell•updated: 1/9/2011

Are you thinking about a career in librarianship but are not sure where to start. A few simple pointers can make it much clearer how to get started to earn a degree in library science. Read on to find out what to look for in a program and what to do once you get there!

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    Library Science

    While we are living in a digital age, libraries are still incredibly important in providing people with access to information and technology at little cost. The role of the librarian, however, is quickly changing to incorporate the ever-evolving technology sector. This is sending a whole new generation of young adults into the library field, looking to preserve and increase access to information. While many people can work at a library as a circulation clerk, to be a librarian takes specialized training. If you’re interested in this field, here is a guide to how to get started to earn a degree in library science.

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    The Degree

    First thing to be aware of is that a library degree is a Masters degree. This requires you to have a Bachelors degree from an accredited college or university before you can apply. There is currently no undergraduate degree that will prepare you for work as a librarian.

    It is also important to know that the Masters degree is a generalist degree. This means that it prepares you, in general, for a degree in the library field. What makes you more marketable after graduation is to have a specific focus. Whether you are interested in public, academic, law, or archival libraries, there is a place for you in this field. It does help, however, to have an idea of your interest before you enter a degree program. Volunteering at a local public or academic library prior to application may give you a feel for where your interest lies.

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    Things to Consider

    Do some research! There are a variety of library programs nationwide. While they may call the degree by another name (Masters of Library and Information Studies, for example), the important thing is that it is an American Library Association accredited program. Make appointments to meet with professors to discuss particular strengths of the program, ask questions about fieldwork or internship opportunities, and discuss scholarship options. Make a list of pros and cons of various schools as well as the application requirements. Some schools will require the Graduate Record Exam, or GRE. If your school requires is, register for the test and start studying as soon as possible.

    Analyze the cost of attendance and plan ahead. The length of the program can vary depending on your focus. Some programs are as short as two years, while others may stretch out if taken part-time or in conjunction with another degree program. Some programs offer online or distance education courses at a reduced cost for those working full-time. Pick the option that works best with your career and financial goals. Take the time to carefully complete the application process and include a well-thought-out personal statement, it can make a difference during the admission process.

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    Once In School

    Once you’re in, look to advance your career from the get go. Take advantage of opportunities to become affiliated with professional organizations like the American Library Association, Special Library Association, or your state association. They can provide excellent networking and professional development opportunities for students at a reduced cost. It is also a good idea to work in the library on campus, if possible, or pursue fieldwork at another local library. Look for opportunities for internships or fieldwork in public and governmental libraries to give valuable real-world experience before graduation.

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    Library science can be a rewarding field with a variety of ways to learn and grow. Whether you are interested in public library work or law librarianship, managing information takes an organized and capable individual. Get started right by doing the research necessary to pick the best program for you. It will give your career a head start and make you more employable later on.

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    Resources

    • “Guidelines for Choosing a Master's Program in Library and Information Studies." ALA | Home - American Library Association. Web. 12 Aug. 2010. <http://www.ala.org/ala/educationcareers/education/accreditedprograms/guidelinesforchoosing/index
    • "Library Science." College Admissions - SAT - University & College Search Tool. Web. 12 Aug. 2010. <http://www.collegeboard.com/csearch/majors_careers/profiles/majors/25.0101.html>