Your first step towards becoming a professional librarian is to obtain an undergraduate degree. Although the American Library Association (ALA) recommends that all professional librarians hold a Master of Library Science (MLS) or Master of Library and Information Science (MSIS) degree, in order to enter most of these programs you will need to hold a bachelor’s degree. Not all schools offer bachelor’s degrees in Library Science, however. There are some alternatives to a BLS (Bachelor of Library Science) degree that can also help you to get accepted into a MLS program at a later date, which we will discuss here.
Many MLS programs will accept students with any bachelor’s degree into their programs. It does help, however, to have a related degree to demonstrate your prior knowledge and education in the field. Some of the other possibilities for undergraduate degrees for students who are interested in eventually working in libraries and/or getting a graduate degree in library science include, but are not limited to:
- Bachelor of Science in Library Science
- Bachelor of Arts in History
- Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts
- Bachelor of Science in Library and Information Science
- Bachelor of Arts in Media Studies
- Bachelor of Science in Information Systems
- Bachelor of Science in Library Informatics
Here, we will discuss what makes a good Bachelor of Library Science (or related) degree program, and what types of jobs or further education such a degree can help you achieve.
Finding an Accredited School for a Bachelor of Library Science
Bachelor of Library Science programs are not accredited by the ALA, like Master of Library Science programs are. However, the schools in which these programs are housed should be accredited by an agency that has received recognition by the U.S. Department of Education. By selecting an accredited institution, you can feel more confident that the credits you earn in a bachelor’s degree program will be accepted by the graduate library science program you later enroll in, if you choose to do so. A degree from an accredited institution holds more weight with future employers as well.
The most commonly seen accreditation agencies for schools offering Bachelor of Library Science degree programs are:
- Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, Western Association of Schools and Colleges (ACCJC)
- Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE)
- Association of Advanced Rabbinical and Talmudic Schools (AARTS)
- Association of Theological Schools, The Commission on Accrediting (ATS)
- Distance Education Accreditation Commission (DEAC)
- Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
- New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
- Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS)
- WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
As long as the school where you choose to obtain your bachelor of library science (or related) degree is accredited by one of these agencies, you should feel confident that you are receiving a quality education that will be accepted by both employers and graduate programs, should you choose to get your Master of Library Science later.
Bachelor of Library Science Program Courses
Just as with any degree program, courses that you may take in a Bachelor of Library Science degree program will vary from one school to the next. However, you can generally expect to find the following courses in a Bachelor of Library Science program:
Introduction to Library Science- An introductory course in Library Science will introduce students to the profession and field of library and information science. Information organizations that help with the gathering, organization and transfer of information to library patrons will also be discussed.
Children’s Literature and Education- Literacy through digital, visual, information and cultural media strategies in children’s literature will be discussed. Emphasis may be placed on literacy strategies supporting the education of children.
Adult Library Services and Outreach- Characteristics of adult patrons of libraries will be discussed, as well as services, resources and programming designed to meet the needs of diverse adult patrons of libraries.
Young Adult Literature and Education – Students will be introduced to literature targeted at young adults, stressing visual information and cultural literacies and the education of this age group.
Research in Libraries and Information Science –This course requires students to show their understanding of theories, concepts and activities relating to library and information science resources and services.
Management of Information Resources- Collection management, cataloging, and classification of information resources is discussed in this class. The legal and ethical aspects of information resource collections are also examined, as is applying the standards of information and library science to managing information resources.
Digital Libraries- The ethics, legalities, privacy and security of digital libraries and resources is examined in depth in this course. Using digital libraries and information in all types of learning communities and settings is also discussed.
Leadership and Management in Libraries– This course introduces concepts necessary to effectively manage and lead libraries in the contemporary age. Philosophies, strategies, ethics ad principles for libraries of all kinds are examined.
Practicum/Internship – Most Bachelor of Library Science programs include a practicum or internship, in which students gain direct experience by working within a library under the supervision of an experienced professional.
Concentrations That May Be in a Bachelor of Library Science Program
Some Bachelor of Library Science degree programs offer students concentrations or minors that reflect their interest in a particular area or facet of library and information science. These may include, but are not limited to:
Bachelor of Science in Education – Library Science Option
If your goal is to teach at the K-12 level, you may opt to enter a Bachelor of Science in Education- Library Science option program. Some states will allow teachers to receive teaching certification with a bachelor’s degree in Library Science, while others will require a Master of Library Science degree. In addition to class topics listed above, teacher certification programs include these Interstate Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (inTASC) standards required by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP):
- Learner development
- Learning differences
- Learning environments
- Content knowledge
- Application of content
- Planning for instruction
- Instructional strategies
- Professional learning and ethical practice
- Leadership and collaboration
What’s Next After Getting a Bachelor of Library Science Degree?
Jobs for Bachelor of Library Science Degree Holders
Congratulations! You’ve graduated with a Bachelor of Library Science degree! While some students may immediately go into a Master of Library Science program after graduation, others might take that bachelor’s degree and put it to good use working within the field. Jobs such as the following will usually accept candidates who have bachelor’s degrees in library science/library and information science:
- Library Associate – Generally found within a public library, the Library Associate provides information services to patrons, works with other professionals within the library to coordinate programs and outreach initiatives, shelves materials, and helps to maintain the library.
- Library Assistant – Commonly found within university libraries, this type of position is similar to that of Library Associate, and requires working with information services, providing customer service to library patrons, assisting in managing circulation activity, compiling statistics on library use, shelving materials, and helping to maintain the library.
- Guest Services Manager – This type of position may be found within a private library in a museum setting. It involves working with guests to the library and museum, planning and implementing events, and working as a liaison among professionals working throughout the museum and library.
- Library Media Specialist– Found within K-12 public and private schools, this position may require a bachelor’s or master’s degree and teacher certification, depending upon the state. It involves working within the school library and with students, organizing materials, managing circulation, and teaching students of various ages.
Applying to a Master of Library Science Degree Program
Another option that many who graduate with a Bachelor of Library Science degree choose is to enroll in a Master of Library Science degree program. There are a variety of programs available. It is best to choose one that has received ALA-accreditation. A list of such programs can be found here.