Curriculum & Specializations - Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS)

The Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) program requires 36 credit hours of academic work consisting of 4 core courses, 7 electives, and either the field study experience (including a 3-credit course) or the thesis option. The degree must be completed with a minimum 3.0 GPA within five calendar years from the first semester of registration. At least 24 of the 36 required credits must be designated LBSC, INST, or INFM courses taken in the iSchool. Online and in-person students receiving their MLIS must complete the MLIS Core (12 credits) and either a field study (3 credits) or a thesis (9 credits). Students are able to customize their MLIS degree by choosing electives that align with their career goals. Our average time to degree completion is 2.22 years with a 96.3% retention rate after two years.

The MLIS program can be completed fully online. The admission requirements and curriculum are the same for both online and in-person students. Online students are welcome to take classes on campus as well as long as immunization records are submitted to the University Health Center.

Enrolled Students: be sure to consult the MLIS handbooks, policies, and forms.

Program Requirements

The MLIS degree consists of four foundational (core) education courses. Students in all specializations are required to complete these courses. They were originally designed, and are periodically reviewed, to cover foundational competencies and knowledge with which anyone holding an MLIS degree should be familiar. The MLIS Program has based the core curriculum on the ALA’s Core Competencies of Librarianship;1 knowledge and competencies statements developed by relevant professional organizations;2 data from focus groups conducted with alumni, employers, and professionals in the LIS field; and research related to LIS curriculum.3

The four courses are:

  • LBSC602: Serving Information Needs. This course covers reference services and information behavior, both of which inform how we interact with our users. Whether you work in a public library, archive, academic library, or other type of institution, there is a very good chance that you will interact directly with users or patrons. Even if you work on the backend (e.g., metadata, cataloguing, digital curation), an understanding of how your users and patrons search for, find, use, and understand information will help you make the information easier to discover and to use.
  • LBSC631: Achieving Organizational Excellence. This course is generally considered to be our management and leadership course, providing students with baseline knowledge regarding organizational structure, budgetary matters, human resource management, and the like. We have consistently heard from alumni and employers that management and leadership skills are important for entry-level, as well as supervisory positions.
  • LBSC671: Creating Information Infrastructures. This course introduces students to the lifecycle of information and methods needed to create, acquire, organize, manage and preserve information. Students are often eager to gain specific skills working with particular systems but, as our graduates go into a wide range of positions and institutions, it is more important for MLIS graduate students to gain a foundational understanding of how systems work and why they function the way that they do. As systems and software become obsolete or change, students will be able to adapt using their foundational understanding of information infrastructures.
  • LBSC791 Designing Principled Inquiry. This course, which is taken after completing 18 credits, serves as a culmination of all of the concepts, topics, and ideas that students have learned or surveyed during their early coursework. The course provides an overview of major topics in the field (ethics, equity, inclusion, policies, law) as well as opportunities to practice skills relevant to various careers (e.g., creating an elevator pitch, developing a budget proposal)



3For example: 

MLIS students are able to choose 7 elective courses from one or more of the program’s defined specializations. The specializations were designed to organize our curriculum into areas of strength in which our faculty (both adjunct and full-time) can teach. Students should also use advising material such as the career guides, resources provided by relevant professional organizations, and their own research and experience to help guide their course selection. While some students have specific careers or areas of interest upon which to focus their coursework, others use electives as an opportunity to explore different topics and careers in the LIS field - both approaches have their strengths. Students participating in the School Library specialization have a prescribed set of electives that must be completed in order to be eligible for certification as a school librarian through the state of Maryland.

MLIS students may apply their electives towards a specialization or individualized program plan:

Archives and Digital Curation - This specialization focuses on the creation, management, use, long-term preservation, and access to records and information, both analog and digital, in a variety of disciplines and sectors of the economy. Information is at the very heart of a modern society’s ability to learn, conduct business, recreate, and manage complex scientific, technological, industrial, and information infrastructures. It is a societal imperative that there be qualified professionals with the technical, intellectual, and social awareness required to manage complex collections in a variety of organizational settings.

Diversity and Inclusion - The importance of equal access to information by all members of society means that the study of information must be framed in the most inclusive terms possible. This specialization focuses on instruction about and research into the design, development, provision, and integration of information services, resources, technologies, and outreach that serve diverse and often underserved populations.

School Library Certification - This specialization provides candidates with a firm educational foundation in information studies while pursuing the requirements for School Library certification in the state of Maryland. Ideal for students interested in providing services in a K-12 school environment, the specialization has adopted an AASL-endorsed mission to provide students with a theoretical and research-based foundation in the issues and practices impacting the field. Course listings and requirements can be found on the School Library checklist.

Individualized Program Plan (IPP) - The IPP allows students to design their own course of study based on interests, career goals, and the knowledge areas in which they want to build their skills. Students who select IPP may select from one or more of the knowledge areas explained below or work with an advisor to create a completely unique program of study.

Youth Experience (YX) - The YX specialization prepares leaders, educators, and change agents to deeply understand the dynamic contexts of youth. Today’s children and adolescents need cultural institutions that can rapidly evolve their services, spaces, leadership, and programs. The YX specialization in the MLIS program enables candidates to design and implement policies, programs, and technology to support a young person’s learning, development, and everyday lives.

Intelligence & Analytics - This specialization builds on the foundational skills gained during the MLIS Program, such as finding, organizing, synthesizing, and evaluating information, with additional emphasis on intelligence, research, data analysis, and information privacy and security. While the specialization has a focus on information security as it relates to the government and government contractors, graduates will be prepared for positions in a range of settings.

Legal Informatics - This specialization is intended for students who are interested in pursuing careers in public and academic law libraries but also for those who wish to work with legal information in a variety of settings, including government agencies, special libraries, public libraries, and archives. Students in the specialization will develop research and analytical skills, as well as an understanding of the broader social and political contexts that surround legal information and resources.

MLIS students have the option to complete either an experiential learning (field study) experience or a thesis as part of their degree. The field study requires 120-hours of work at an information institution (e.g., a library, archive, or museum) completed in conjunction with LBSC707, a course that helps students reflect on their field study experience and prepare to apply to professional positions. Field studies and practicums are common in MLIS degree programs; the practical experiences that they provide are valued highly by employers. The field study not only increases students’ competitiveness in the job market but also provides an opportunity for students to explore a job they have not done before. What it’s actually like to work in a public library or archive may be very different from what students expect based on what they learn in the classroom. Experiential learning is a valuable way to confirm whether working in a specific institution is what they want to do upon graduation. It is also possible to find employment through field studies, as about 1 in 5 MLIS students find a part or full-time work within the institution at which they complete their field study.

Students will explore their targeted professional field through an internship and share experiences in the classroom. Complete information about the MLIS field study can be found in the MLIS Student Handbook, Field Study FAQA Guide to a Successful Field Study, or on the iSchool Field Study Database.

Students interested in research and academic writing may elect to complete a thesis as part of their MLIS. The thesis option requires 9 credit hours comprised of INST 701 Introduction to Research Methods (3 credits) and LBSC 799 Master’s Thesis Research (6 credits). Students interested in the thesis option should consult the MLIS Student Handbook for additional information. 


Course Descriptions & Sample Syllabi

Dual Programs

The History and Library Science (HiLS) dual-degree program is the result of a cooperative agreement between the iSchool and the Department of History that allows students to graduate with both an MLIS and an MA in History. Students applying for the HiLS program must be formally admitted by both the iSchool and the Department of History. If someone is accepted into MLIS but not History, they are offered a place in the MLIS Program and can reapply to the History Department at a later date. Students admitted to HiLS typically complete the program in three years, though they have five years to complete the fifty-four credit hours. The Department of History and MLIS each require a minimum of twenty-four credit hours, though opting for an MLIS specialization other than IPP will require more than the 24-credit minimum for the MLIS.

The HiLS contact for the iSchool is Nicole Pietrucha and the contact for the Department of History is Jodi Hall.

Course listings and requirements can be found on the History and Library Science checklist.

The Certificate in Museum Scholarship and Material Culture is a collaborative effort between Library Science, American Studies, Anthropology, and History. This 12-credit program prepares students for a career within academia pursuing research and scholarship concerning material culture and the museum field. Students must apply to the program and be accepted in order to receive the certificate alongside their degree when they graduate.

The contact for the Certificate in Museum Scholarship and Material Culture is Dr. Mary Sies.

For more information about course listings and requirements, please visit the Museum Scholarship and Material Culture website.

Please note, the courses required of the Museum Scholarship and Material Culture certificate are offered in-person.

Tools for Planning Your Course Schedule

The MLIS program has created a Course Plan for the Academic Year 2020-2021, which can be viewed here. This course plan is the primary tool the program uses when working with the Director of Academic Programs to set the course schedule each semester. It is not a "static" document; the program will make adjustments in response to enrollment statistics, changes in the specializations, and current student feedback.

The MLIS Program cannot guarantee that the course plan will not change during your time in the MLIS program, but please know we are committed to providing you with current and accurate information about our course offerings.

Please refer to the Specialization Guide when choosing courses. This guide does not include the School Library specialization. School Library requirements can be found in the School Library checklist. Click on each specialization title below for more information. Previous checklists can be viewed here

Current students with course planning questions should contact Nicole Pietrucha, MLIS Program Advisor ( Prospective students should contact iSchool Admissions (

Visit our Forms page for information about taking courses at other UMD Colleges or Universities.


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