Q: I recently became interested in the library profession, but can’t seem to find any schools that offer the library sciences degree. What schools would you suggest?
TA: This opens the door, not only to answer your initial question (how do I find a school?), but also to address the broader question: out of all of the programs, how do I decide which one is right for me? Answering your initial question is pretty simple: Go to the ALA web site for a lengthy list of accredited schools. But, with so many options, how do you evaluate which school is “best?” Let’s back up and look at the broader picture.
What To Look For
A quick Google search on “selecting a graduate program” yields many results. Glancing at some of these articles (many of which are listed below), you will see many common themes. Most advise students to look at the location of the school, the cost of the program, and the types of courses and degrees offered. In addition, when comparing institutions, most recommend looking at both academic qualities (differences in curriculum, academic requirements, faculty interests and research) as well as “quality of life” benefits (the campus, community, housing, distance from family and friends). Other factors to consider when researching and comparing graduate institutions include:
- The cost of the program
Tuition, housing, books, student fees, travel, cost of living
- Financial incentives Fellowships, research assistantships, teaching assistantships
- Selectivity of the program
Compare the number of applicants to the number accepted
- University and department reputation
Of the faculty, students, university, community
- Faculty interests, research and ranking
What is the student to faculty ratio?
Do full-time faculty teach classes? What percentage of the time?
Are faculty members conducting research?
Are they published?
Are they respected by others in the field?
- Does the program emphasize theory or practice?
Are there specific courses of interest to you?
Availability of internships and field experiences
- Flexibility of the program
- Quality of facilities and resources
Library materials in your subject area, classrooms, technology, endowments that support student research
- Are there opportunities to teach? To publish? To attend conferences?
- Where do graduates typically find work upon graduation from the program?
Do most graduates go into academia or into professional positions in the workplace?
How much assistance is offered to job-seeking students (and/or alumni)?
At the top of this list is accreditation. On its accreditation web site, ALA states that “ALA accreditation indicates that the program has undergone a self-evaluation process, been reviewed by peers, and meets the Standards for Accreditation of Master’s Programs in Library and Information Studies that were established by the Committee on Accreditation and adopted by the ALA Council in 1992.” During the accreditation process, a program is evaluated in the areas of mission, goals, objectives, curriculum, faculty, students, administration, financial support, physical resources, and facilities. While accreditation is by no means a guarantee of quality or an indicator of “best fit,” graduating from an ALA-accredited program will allow greater career mobility and flexibility in your professional pursuits. Most major institutions call for an ALA-accredited degree when seeking candidates for professional positions. For a complete list of ALA- accredited schools, please visit: http://www.ala.org/Template.cfm?Section=lisdirb&Template=/cfapps/lisdir/index.cfm
Never underestimate the power of research when deciding on the graduate program that best meets your needs. The definition of “best” is completely subjective. For some, it may mean attending the top- ranked program according to US News & World Report; for others, it means attending the ALA-accredited program in their area because of limited geographic mobility. Regardless, when making your assessments, do your research. Talk to current students and alumni. Speak with administrators and faculty. Look at department web sites and class offerings. Visit schools and look at the fit of the campus and the surrounding community. Last, but not least, use the following resources to help formulate and answer some of your questions. Good luck!
ALA’s 2004-2005 Directory of Institutions Offering ALA-Accredited Master’s Programs in Library and Information Studies
ALA’s Office for Human Resources Development and Recruitment (general information about scholarships, placement, salaries and general career information)
The Directory of Graduate Programs (published by the Graduate Record Examinations Board) contains information on U.S. graduate programs in over 80 major fields
Financial Assistance for Library and Information Studies (an annual compilation available from the ALA Committee on Education)
The Guide to American Graduate Schools (describes post-BA study opportunities at more than 685 accredited institutions)
Hansen, Randall S., Ph.D. Criteria for Choosing a Graduate Program
Hiatt Career Center Things to Consider When Selecting a Graduate School
Kuther, Tara, Ph.D. Choosing Among Graduate Programs
Peterson’s Annual Guides to Graduate Studies (profiles over 1400 accredited institutions offering masters and/or doctoral programs)