Choosing a Library School
Have you delved a bit into the field library science and decided it’s the career path for you? Great! The next step is deciding which graduate school to attend.
There are a plethora of resources available online to assist you in your decision.
One of the best and most well-respected sites ranking graduate schools for library and information science is U.S. News & World Report. According to their current list, the top spot is held by the University of Illinois—Urbana-Champaign, followed by the University of Washington in Seattle.
How are these rankings determined? First of all, they have to all be accredited by ALA. The rankings are calculated by peer assessment, according to U.S. News and World Report, and are “based solely on the results of a fall 2016 survey sent to each program’s dean, director and a senior faculty member.” Therefore, students at these schools haven’t definitively stated, ‘I feel I got the most out of this specific program.” This makes sense, as it’s impossible for students to determine ranking without a point of comparison – and most students don’t typically attend more than one graduate school.
The American Library Association has also compiled a useful list about how to select a library school. ALA also maintains a searchable database of accredited library schools, which is incredible useful. You can limit your search by state, area of program concentration (health sciences, law librarianship, music librarianship, records management), schools that only offer distance education such as online courses and webinars, and even schools that offer dual/joint programs.
Ultimately, the decision should most likely not be based on some arbitrary ranking system, but instead thorough research and contemplation, visits to the campus, conversations with alumni and faculty about job placement, internships, and educational satisfaction, and location.
Questions to consider:
Are there a number of job openings in your chosen field in the area close to the graduate school? Is there a high employment rate in students after graduation? Does the school’s course offerings fulfill your learning objectives? Does the school assist with post-graduation employment placement? If your learning style is mostly auditory and the school offers mostly online courses with minimal face-to-face meetings, will that present unique challenges for you? Does the school offer enough specializations that if you decide you want to switch career paths you have an array of options?
A final consideration may also be the cost of tuition and if there are tuition assistance programs available at the school.
One final word of advice: don’t stress about where you go to library school too much. I have personally never heard of someone being hired solely based on which library school the candidate attended.