5 Key Courses in a Master’s in Library Science Program

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Updated August 4, 2020

Master's in Library Science Courses

  • User Interface Design
  • Youth Services and Diversity
  • Preservation of Archive Materials
  • Database Systems
  • Information Ethics

Library science is a dynamic and rapidly changing field. While the essential functions of the library have remained the same, libraries have dramatically expanded the roles they occupy in serving the community. Libraries are no longer simply receptacles of knowledge, but also serve as community centers, centers of continuing education and skill development, and even host maker spaces. Here, we will discuss five key courses essential to the modern-day candidate for a Master's in Library Science.

Resource: Top 30 Affordable Online Master's in Library Science Degree Programs

User Interface Design

At first, this course might not seem to be especially at home alongside other master's study courses in library science, such as records management or research methods, and yet it is highly essential. The vast majority of modern libraries house their records and catalog online, and the development of a comprehensive user interface by which library patrons and librarians alike search for materials is critical. Instruction in UX design can assist the MLS candidate in future jobs by not only enabling them to make suggestions for improvement to existing user interfaces for digital library catalogs and websites, but to assist in the development of them - or, depending on what other web skills they choose to develop, they may create an entirely new user interface from scratch.

Youth Services and Diversity

As mentioned, libraries are increasingly serving as community centers. Youth services not only include administration of children's and YA collections, but in assisting children and adolescents with study skills, curriculum comprehension, skills development, and project assistance. Increasing numbers of libraries, particularly those in inner city regions, are partnering with public schools to assist students in completing their school curricula and in "filling the gaps" to assist students in preparing for college or vocational-technical school.

For this reason, developing skills in serving diverse (and, dependent on area, potentially at-risk) youth is essential. MLS candidates who choose to specialize in this area may also find increased work opportunities, particularly in major metropolitan areas.

Preservation of Archive Materials

While libraries have become much more future-focused in terms of adapting and equipping libraries with up-to-date resources, the focus on preservation of the past has not diminished. Libraries still remain receptacles of knowledge both past and present, and most libraries, especially large ones or university libraries, have archival collections that require particular skills.

Archival preservation requires an array of skills, including knowledge of environs and their impact on organic materials such as books or scrolls, ascertaining the importance of the material in cultural and social context, and determining whether or not preservation of the material is not only critical but falls within the budget for archival preservation for that particular library. This course is of special interest to MLS candidates interested in working in university libraries or museum collections, but will be of use to anyone aiming to work in a public library system, as many public libraries have special and archival collections that require careful handling and cataloging.

Database Systems

The vast majority of modern-day libraries have moved their organization and records systems online. Because of this, knowledge of databases - how to update them, organize them, and manage them effectively - is essential to the MLS candidate.

A course in database systems will instruct the future librarian in these concepts. Skills in database management, data warehousing and modeling, and inputting appropriate information with which users can locate data and records quickly and easily are developed in this course, and also serves as an excellent start for candidates who plan to specialize in records and information management in their degree.

Information Ethics

An essential role of a librarian is to decide what records, books, and other information should be made available to the general public. While to some this may sound like censorship, the ethics of information is a complex field filled with many questions that the individual must answer in the course of their duties as a librarian.

A course in information ethics will present questions and case histories associated with information ethics. For example, one course description presents the question of whether or not it is wrong to provide information or technologies that deprive members of the populace of work, or whether certain information that can result in significant destruction ought to be kept out of the hands of the public. Candidates will be required to analyze case studies involving problems in information ethics, and requires candidates to consider carefully their role as stewards of information.

While these five courses are among a vast array of required and recommended courses and electives for MLS candidates, they all teach skills vital to the practice and future of library science. Each of them are well worth the MLS candidate's consideration.

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