What Can You Do With a Master’s Degree in Library Science?

“The challenges and the opportunities for libraries are myriad right now, and solid leadership and management skills are essential to succeed in this profession,” says online MMLIS Program Director Christopher Stewart.

In today’s data-rich world, organizing information and conducting research is interwoven into numerous careers, but most notably in the field of library science.

While those who pursue a degree in library management and information science can expect to land positions as librarians, there are plenty of versatile, more unexpected job opportunities, including database specialists, digital asset managers and more.

Plus, the industry continues to expand and diversify: Employment is expected to grow by 9 percent in the next decade, and for 2020, the median salary exceeded $60,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

To develop a deeper understanding of library and information science (LIS) and the career paths offered in the field, we spoke with Christopher Stewart, associate professor of clinical management and organization at the USC Marshall School of Business and program director of USC’s online Master of Management in Library and Information Science (MMLIS).

What is Library Science?

What exactly does it mean to study library science? According to Stewart, “Library science is the study of the practice of information work in library settings, but also in the information professions.”

Aside from classifying data, graduates of the MMLIS program will be equipped to manage books and other forms of information, emphasizing an overall preservation of knowledge.

Although many positions are available in libraries themselves, students can find opportunities at academic institutions, corporations, entertainment studios and a wide array of information centers.

“What they all have in common is they’re all information professionals. So, library science trains you to manage information curation, information organization and information management. But it also prepares you for working in various institutions and companies,” Stewart told USC Online. “Yes, sometimes and often those are libraries — public libraries, academic libraries, school libraries, corporate libraries. But again, there are other parts of the information field that the graduate degree prepares you for as well.”

And of course, most people are drawn to the specialization by the books: “We love libraries, and we are librarians. I am a librarian. I’m married to a librarian,” Stewart laughed.

What Can You Expect from the Master of Management in Library and Information Science Program at USC?

To get a job in most library and information science spheres, an MLIS degree is required. The online MMLIS, an American Library Association-accredited program from USC Marshall, is an exceptional option to consider.

“We have a special focus in our program — leadership and management — that differentiates us from other library programs … We’re the only MMLIS program that’s home is in a top-ranked business school,” Stewart explained.

Faced with rapid technological shifts, libraries have had to advance dramatically, and the MMLIS program is designed to meet the needs of this ever-changing profession, according to Stewart.

“Librarians have to be trained in core management and leadership skills as part of their professional preparation. We know that our graduate librarians, whatever environment they’re going to be working in, wherever they are in their career, are going to be successful,” he said.

The MMLIS curriculum is varied and blended and includes courses such as “Marketing Management,” “Accounting Concepts and Financial Reporting,” “Independent Research in Library and Information Management,” and more.

Alumna Trista Tabanico noted that by expanding her skill sets through courses in project management and data analysis, she was able to open more doors in the LIS field.

“I was promoted to librarian only five months after receiving my degree,” she said in a recent interview with the program. “I love being able to apply what I learned in this program in so many aspects of my career.”

MMLIS classes ensure students not only learn theory, but also receive practical, hands-on experience, as well as personalized career guidance from the programs’s dedicated student adviser. In addition, students can complete this library science degree online in as few as 20 months.

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What Careers Can You Get with a Master’s Degree in Library Science?

The MMLIS is the perfect pathway to become a librarian, and there is a plethora of traditional job opportunities one can obtain with the degree: working in public libraries, academic libraries, private libraries, museums, government agencies and other intuitions’ libraries.

But “librarian” is far from the only possible job title. Many graduates opt to become a digital archivist, someone who creates, collects, stores and organizes digital data.

Some seek to become a competitive intelligence analyst, which is a role centered on monitoring and reporting industry and technical developments so they can predict how businesses’ competitors will behave. Others pursue positions as knowledge management specialists, which is about leading others in the use of traditional and digital approaches.

Additional positions include digital asset manager, metadata librarian and, of course, a professor in library sciences.

What is the Future of Library Science?

Anyone who has ever downloaded a book to their smartphone is aware that the world of libraries and books is evolving. Does that mean it’s a shaky field to enter?

The answer, according to Stewart, is a resounding no. After all, the preservation and sharing of knowledge and information will always be crucial.

“Information formats have changed over the centuries. We’ve gone from clay tablets and papyrus to books and digital formats. But what hasn’t changed is the need for information professionals to be there and describe the information, organize and facilitate access to it, and — increasingly today — to address challenges of information literacy in our culture,” Stewart said.

Consider the ways public libraries themselves have adapted: Many now offer a digital app, so you can rent e-books just as easily as physical copies. Book club options and top picks still exist, but instead of being displayed prominently in the front of the library, they’re categories in the app. Archives have also been digitized so they are easily accessible from around the globe.

Today, librarians “are working in institutions that are at the forefront of solving community issues and addressing community challenges,” Stewart said. Public libraries put on a wide variety of community events, classes and after-school programs to promote literacy and other skills. Libraries are a public space for anyone and everyone, after all.

“The challenges and the opportunities for libraries are myriad right now, and solid leadership and management skills are essential to succeed in this profession and for the long-term health and viability of libraries and other types of information organizations … It’s just been incredible to see how the library mission continues to evolve to meet the needs that are changing in an increasingly diverse society,” Stewart concluded.

Learn more about the online Master of Management in Library and Information Science program today.