library school

library school

library school, educational institution providing professional training for librarians (see also library). Librarians were trained by apprenticeship until the late 19th cent. The first school for training librarians was established by Melvil Dewey in 1887. The success of this institution, combined with a shortage of librarians in a period of growth and expansion, led to a proliferation of such schools, many of which were inadequate. With the formation of the Association of American Library Schools in 1915, standards of accreditation were established and maintained. A number of university schools of library service were established in the 1920s, many of them funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

In 1999, 56 U.S. and Canadian institutions offering training in librarianship were accredited by the American Library Association. These schools require a minimum of five years' study beyond the secondary level: The four years of undergraduate study constitute a general education in the humanities and natural and social sciences; the fifth year is in professional study at the graduate level and leads to a master's degree. The first school to confer the doctoral degree in library science was the Univ. of Chicago. Some of the schools are part of a university (as at the Univ. of Illinois); others are at independent undergraduate institutions (e.g., Pratt Institute). As libraries adopted the use of computer databases and on-line catalogs, the schools added a broader range of courses in information science and technology in order to acquaint future librarians with a variety of media.

The first library school outside the United States and Canada was founded at the Univ. of London in 1917. In many underdeveloped countries, university library schools have been established by grants from UNESCO and other sources, employing at the outset European- or American-trained staff. This staff is replaced as soon as possible with local personnel. Although the number of non-American library schools has steadily increased, many foreign librarians are still trained in the United States.

A library school is an institution of higher learning specializing in the professional training of librarians. The first library school was established by Melvil Dewey (the originator of the Dewey decimal system) in 1887 at Columbia University. Since then many library schools have been founded in the United States and Canada. The development of library schools in other countries began in 1915, when librarians' schools were founded at Leipzig and Barcelona (currently, as a faculty of the Universitat de Barcelona, the latter is the oldest library school in Europe). Many others were founded during World War II. The University of Chicago became the first library school to confer a master's degree in library science, which is now the standard professional degree, and later became the first to give a doctoral degree in the field.

Most library schools in North America are accredited by the American Library Association, and offer graduate programs only. The bachelor's degree in Library Science (or Library Economics as it was called in early days) was, for the most part, phased out several decades ago. Librarians in North America typically earn a master's degree, either the MLS (Master of Library Science) or the MLIS (Master of Library and Information Science). This degree allows one to work as a practicing librarian in public libraries, academic libraries, school library media centers, and special libraries, while many individuals with the MLS title work with major library vendors. The degree is also applicable to related sectors such as publishing.

Master of Library Science programs are typically structured to offer a mixture of required and elective courses in library science and information science. The required courses focus on core library skills such as cataloging, reference, collection development as well as related areas such as the philosophy underlying the profession, information technology and management. Elective courses may include Knowledge Management, children's literature, genealogy and archives as well as specialized courses related to different types of libraries.

In recent decades, many library schools have changed their names to reflect the shift from print media to electronic media, and to information contained outside of traditional libraries. Some call themselves schools of library and information science (abbreviated to "SLIS", hence the term "SLISters" for their students), while others, such as the University of Washington's Information School, have dropped the word "library" entirely: see List of I-Schools.


  • Reitz, Joan M. (2004). Library School in ODLIS — Online Dictionary for Library and Information Science.

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