Curriculum & Focus Areas
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.
MLIS Program Requirements
The MLIS degree consists of four foundational (core) education courses. Students in all focus areas 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 Librarianship1; knowledge and competencies statements developed by relevant professional organizations2; data from focus groups conducted with alumni, employers, and professionals in the LIS field; and research related to LIS curriculum3. As of Spring 2023, we are phasing in a new core course, INST600: Foundations for Librarians and Information Professionals, completed within an enrolled student’s first semester, and we are phasing out LBSC791: Designing Principled Inquiry. We will continue to offer LBSC791 for one full calendar year, which is concurrent with the start of this transition: Spring Semester 2023, Summer Semester 2023, and Fall Semester 2023.
The four courses are:
- INST600: Foundations for Librarians and Information Professionals (Phasing in; first semester is Spring 2023). This course, taken within a newly enrolled student’s first semester, will serve as an introduction to the field of library and information science (LIS), its history and future direction that provides students with an understanding and appreciation of the nature and functions of the profession(s) they have entered. The focus is on core concepts underlying the LIS discipline, with particular emphasis on professional ethics/values, diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA), and the ways in which technology has shaped and continues to shape the field.
- 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, cataloging, 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 (Phasing out; last semester offered is Fall 2023). 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)
- Saunders, L. (2019). Core and more: examining foundational and specialized content in library and information science. Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, 60(1), 3–34.
- Singh, V., & Mehra, B. (2013). Strengths and weaknesses of the Information Technology curriculum in Library and Information Science graduate programs. Journal of Librarianship & Information Science, 45(3), 219–231. https://doi-org.proxy-um.researchport.umd.edu/10.1177/0961000612448206
- Walther, J. H. (2016). Teaching ethical dilemmas in LIS coursework. Bottom Line, 29(3), 180–190. https://doi-org.proxy-um.researchport.umd.edu/10.1108/BL-05-2016-0020
MLIS students are able to choose 7 elective courses from one or more of the program’s defined focus areas. The focus areas 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 focus area or individualized program plan:
Archives and Digital Curation – This focus area 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 focus area 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 focus area 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 focus area 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 focus area 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 focus area 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 focus area 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 focus area will develop research and analytical skills, as well as an understanding of the broader social and political contexts that surround legal information and resources.
As MLIS students near the end of their program of study, the field study provides an opportunity for experiential learning at a library, archive, school, or other type of information institution. The course provides an opportunity for experiential learning and also focuses on the development of professional skills.For more information, students should consult the MLIS Student Handbook or email their academic advisor, Neil Dhingra (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Institutions interested in hosting an MLIS student for a potential field study can submit their information below or post a specific position on Careers4Terps.
Information for Current MLIS Students
To complete your field study requirement, you will need to register for LBSC707 or LBSC749 (if you are in the School Library specialization) and find a position that meets the field study requirements. Students are responsible for securing a 120-hour position at the information institution of their choice. The position can be in-person or remote and should be under the supervision of an information professional (librarian, archivist, records manager, etc.). For a list of potential institutions and contact information, please visit the MLIS Students ELMS site. Please also refer to the following resources as you plan your field study:
If you have any questions about LBSC707, please contact the MLIS Field Study Lead, Abbie Basile.
Students in the School Library Specialization should complete LBSC749 which consists of two placements in different school districts. One placement must be in an elementary school (for a minimum of 15 days) and the second placemen can be in a middle OR high school (for a minimum of 15 days). Please reach out to the Experiential Learning Coordinator for the School Libraries Specialization, Bridgette Comanda, to help schedule your school library internship.
Information for Field Study Supervisors
If you are interested in hiring an MLIS student to complete a 120-hour internship at your institution please fill out this form which will share your contact information securely with our MLIS students who will contact you directly if they are interested in working with you. If you are from a school, school district, or school library and would like to work specifically with a school library student, please contact Bridgette Comanda.
Please Note: Students are able to complete their 120-hour field study (internship) during the Spring, Summer, or Fall semesters. The Spring and Fall semesters are 14 weeks and the summer semester is 12. Students and supervisors are required to complete a Field Study Contract and Plan. Positions can be paid or unpaid, remote or in-person.
For prospective and current site supervisors hosting Field Study students, the Field Study Lead has compiled a brief advice and tips sheet for you. At the end of a student’s field study, we ask you to provide an evaluation of the student’s work with your institution. Please find that linked below.
Advice Sheet for Site Supervisors
MLIS students have the option to complete either an experiential learning (field study) experience or a thesis as part of their degree.
Completing a thesis gives MLIS students valuable experience in research and writing. Despite being a professional field, librarians and archivists regularly publish academic papers and articles based on their work and much of the research done in our field comes from practitioners; academic librarians are often classified as faculty and have publishing or research requirements associated with their jobs. 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 and think about what research area they would like to focus on for their thesis. Referring to the School’s Research Expertise Areas page can is a good way to explore research areas and help you identify a faculty member (or members) who can serve on your thesis committee.
Dual Program Requirements
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 focus area other than IPP will require more than the 24-credit minimum for the MLIS.
The HiLS contact for the iSchool is Neil Dhingra 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. Paul Jaeger and 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 focus areas, 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 Focus Areas Guide when choosing courses. This guide does not include the School Library focus area. School Library requirements can be found in the School Library checklist. Previous checklists can be viewed here.
Current students with course planning questions should contact Neil Dhingra, MLIS Program Advisor (email@example.com). Prospective students should contact iSchool Admissions (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Visit our Forms page for information about taking courses at other UMD Colleges or Universities.