Earning your library science degree online is the first step to beginning a career in the field. According to the American Library Association, requirements for working in library sciences as a librarian vary, but most positions require at least a bachelor’s degree, others may require a master's. Earning a bachelor's degree in library science also qualifies you for further education and advanced degrees, which are often required for librarians working in schools and colleges. This guide offers more information about earning your library science bachelor’s degree online.
Overview of Library Science Degrees
Library science encompasses the study of library management, which includes skills in providing resources and information to patrons; working with technology; and understanding various types of recordkeeping, file management, and cataloging. A library science degree may incorporate some leadership and management principles that one might encounter within a program like hospitality management, but expands upon those principles by incorporating critical skills in other areas, including information technology, resource collection and management, and topics in education and literacy.
An online library science bachelor’s degree will prepare you to work as a librarian in a variety of settings and work environments, including schools and colleges, public libraries, and even museums and hospitals. Typically, you can earn a bachelor’s degree in this field without any in-person requirements such as internships or supervised studies. The degree serves as a starting point for those wishing to pursue graduate studies in library science, as many careers in the field require a master’s degree. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects steady job growth for librarians, with numerous jobs available for these professionals across many industries.
Applying to an online library science bachelor’s degree program may require letters of recommendation and a resume or curriculum vitae. Some programs and schools may require an essay or personal statement, generally provided as a response to a designated essay prompt or question. These essays allow admissions boards to learn more about applicants, outside of identifying information and grade point averages.
To apply to an accredited online library science bachelor’s degree, schools require high school transcripts or official transcripts from all previously attended institutions. If you plan to transfer any previously earned credits, the school you apply to will use your academic transcripts to ensure each course meets their requirements.
What Will I Learn?
An online library science bachelor’s degree mirrors other bachelor’s programs. Students in these programs must earn a certain amount of general education credits, which cover topics including mathematics, life sciences, writing and communications, and the humanities. Generally, students complete these requirements, which often total 50-60 credits, before entering their major courses.
Major courses in library science vary based on your program and goals. For example, many library science programs emphasize courses in education and literacy, preparing graduates to work in academic settings, like school and public libraries. Major coursework in library science adds another 30-35 credits to your degree. In total, most library science bachelor’s degrees require around 120 credits, including elective courses. The list below provides a sampling of common courses often included in a library science curriculum.
Foundations of Library and Information Science
This course introduces various topics in library and information science that students learn more about later in the program. Topics in this course include assessment and evaluation of library programs, and issues in community resources and programming.
Library Programs and Services
School and public libraries offer many services and programs to their communities. This course provides an overview of common programs and services offered at libraries, as well as any ethical, social, or legal issues that arise when creating and implementing these programs and services.
Library Collection Management
Librarians serve as curators of resources and materials, both physical and digital. This course offers insight into building and maintaining a collection that suits the changing needs of communities; it also covers policies and guidelines that govern the creation and use of these collections.
Foundations in Education
Librarians largely work in school environments, particularly those in elementary and secondary schools. This course provides students with a foundation in education, including curriculum building, current educational policies and legislation, and issues affecting educators at all levels. This course may count towards a teaching certificate, sometimes required for school librarians.
Librarians provide integral services and support for students and community members conducting all types of research. This course looks at different research methodologies, and how to best connect patrons with the resources and materials they need.
Literature for Children
Many library science programs include courses on literature for children, adolescents, and adults. This course provides students with background knowledge in children’s literature, including important authors, books, genres, and trends.
What Can I Do with an Online Bachelor’s Degree in Library Science?
With this degree, you can pursue jobs in many industries and fields. A library science degree provides students with skills that prepare them to work in numerous careers, both inside and outside of education.
Those who work in library science often possess a strong desire to help others, as they spend much of their professional lives assisting students and/or patrons, helping them find the resources they need. Thanks to the changing landscape of library science, these professionals also excel in digital research, and have a strong working knowledge of digital platforms. Some librarians use technology to create and maintain websites, digitize existing catalogs of materials, and even manage social media accounts.
Librarians who work in academic settings help students conduct research, guiding students towards strong research inquiries, and helping them navigate archives and database systems to locate physical and digital materials. Librarians also plan and implement community programs, exercising skills in organization and planning to create programming that serves the needs and interests of their communities. Library managers and directors also have strong leadership skills, allowing them to effectively manage staff members and maintain growing and changing collections of library materials, as well as the day-to-day business that goes into running a library or resource collection.
Potential Careers and Salaries
Although most librarians work in elementary and secondary schools, other career options exist for these professionals. According to the American Library Association, those with degrees in library science may find themselves working in hospitals, museums, and public and private businesses, in addition to public and private schools, colleges, and universities. Those with backgrounds in library science work not only as managers of library collections, but also as teachers, literacy coaches and instructors, and even as employees of local and state governments. Some librarians work to provide services to underfunded and at-risk areas by emphasizing and pushing for all members of their communities to have equitable access to information.
The table below provides examples of popular careers pursued by those with a library science degree.
Annual Mean Salary: $58,520
Librarians connect people with information, providing them with necessary resources to conduct research. The specific duties they have depend on their job settings, such as universities or public libraries. This position commonly requires a master's degree.
Annual Mean Salary: $48,706
Reference librarians often work in educational settings such as elementary, secondary, or postsecondary institutions. Some may offer research assistance in specific areas and topics they have experience with.
Annual Mean Salary: $47,360
Archivists work with all kinds of objects, resources, and materials that often have historical value. They catalog, document, and preserve these items, and may curate and collect artwork and other artifacts for public institutions and organizations.
Will I Need a Graduate Degree for a Career in Library Science?
Although earning a library science bachelor’s degree online can provide you access to some entry-level positions in the field, most professionals in library science go on to earn a graduate degree to work in advanced positions. According to the American Library Association, the master of library science serves as the gold standard for librarians working in all kinds of settings. Most jobs in library sciences require this degree, particularly those in colleges and universities.
However, you can still advance in the field without an advanced degree. If you earn a teaching certificate alongside your bachelor’s in library science, you can work in elementary and secondary school libraries. You might also apply the skills you learn in your library science degree to careers in other fields, including management and hospitality.
Accreditation for Library Science Bachelor’s Programs
When researching library science programs, look for an accredited program. Accreditation means an accrediting agency has determined a program and the school that offers it meet certain academic standards. Accreditation for online library science bachelor’s degrees may include both overall accreditation for the institution that houses the program, as well as programmatic accreditation specifically for library science. The American Library Association offers programmatic accreditation for library science programs. Programs with this accreditation tend to hold weight in the industry, providing potential employers with evidence your completed program met standards of academic rigor.
However, should a program lack programmatic accreditation, make sure the institution holds regional or national accreditation. Most schools hold regional accreditation from an accrediting agency that covers a specific area of the country. For example, the Higher Learning Commission provides regional accreditation for schools in 19 states.
Library Science Professional Organizations
While working through your program, you might find that joining professional organizations provides you with valuable opportunities to enhance your education. These organizations cater to students and working professionals in the library science field, offering networking opportunities, access to relevant information and resources, and ways to stay up-to-date with the field and profession. Some of these organizations also provide access to members-only job boards.
American Library Association
As the foremost professional organization in the field, the ALA provides services and resources for members and the general public. ALA offers information on education in library science; acts as an accrediting body for library science programs; and offers awards, grants, and scholarships.
Association for Library and Information Science Education
ALISE provides resources for students and educators within the field, including special research publications, awards and grants, job placement services, and continuing education courses and webinars. Members also receive reduced admission to the association’s annual conference.
Special Libraries Association
SLA serves those in the information and library sciences who work in specialized areas like business, government, and certain academic fields. SLA offers an annual conference for professionals in the field, as well as local chapters, a special online magazine, and access to online webinars and continuing education opportunities.