"Mini-Guide" to Library Science and Resource Management Degrees

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Once upon a time, libraries were very different from the massive stacks and digital collections you see today. The very first libraries in Syria were ornate, designated as “palace libraries” and “temple libraries. “ In the Han Dynasty, text was written on scrolls of fine silk, which was stored in silk bags.

library career

Today, merely having a command of silkworms or the Dewey Decimal System doesn’t cut it. Information is multiplying exponentially – one New York Times newspaper contains more print than the average 17th Century colonist ever read in a lifetime. Which probably sounds odd, if you ever thought the book War and Peace was insufferably lengthy. But all of this information barrage points to a clear-cut need in the libraries today: Library science professionals need even more training, education, and technical skills than they ever have before.

FAQs About Library Science

1. Tomato, To-mah-to: The many names of library and resource management

The term Library Science (or Library and Information Science) refers to an interdisciplinary field that applies the practices, perspectives, and tools of management, information technology, education, and other areas to libraries. At its root, library science is about how to collect, organize, preserve, and share information resources. There is something truly democratic about this field, which builds up an ever-evolving “political economy“of information.

There are so many terms used interchangeably, such as library science, librarianship, and library and information science. “Information professional” is also a popular label.

2. What kind ouf challenges do 21st century library scientists face?

Here’s a brief “tip of the iceberg” list, as listed by LibraryJournal.com:

  • Maintain functionality for staff / Offer usable interfaces for patrons
  • Preserve local individuality / Profit from shared practices
  • Cope with shrinking resources / Crave more development input
  • Value external service and support / Appraise the advantages of internal creative freedom

To meet these needs, Enterprise Resource Management (ERM) was developed in the early 2000s. ERM was created because traditional library catalogs and integrated library systems were not designed to handle metadata the way online resources can.

3. What will I learn while taking a library science course?

A master’s degree in library science is needed for most positions at public and academic libraries. Public school librarians may only be required to have an undergraduate degree, but they may be required to meet state teaching license requirements.

4. What are some of the courses in an online library science and resouce management degree?

Classes cover developing, storing, finding, organizing, and using information -- whether it's written in a book, posted on a website, recorded on a video or CD, or captured on a slide. Typical course requirements:

  • School Media Center
  • Children’s and Young Adult Literature
  • Instructional Leadership
  • Information Users and Services
  • Information Access and Resources
  • Research and Information Organizations
  • Foundations of Information Systems
  • Managing Information Organizations
  • Internet Information Resource Design
  • Library Programming
  • Cataloging and Classification
  • Public Library Service
  • Academic Library Service

5. Libraries are massive today. So is the library science field. What should I specialize in?

Unlike most career fields, it is the norm to list a Master’s degree (versus a Bachelor’s degree) as a baseline requirement for becoming a library scientist. You can consider getting graduate degrees in Library and Information Science or Library and Media. In most classes, you will gain in-depth knowledge of databases, XML, Working Documents, with standards, and best practices tailored for all kinds of documentation (examples seen below):

  • Workflow Diagram
  • Entity Relationship Diagram
  • Electronic Resources Management System Data Structure
  • Data Element Dictionary
  • XML investigation

6. I don't want to limit myself to being a librarian. What other kind of jobs can I get with a library and resource management degree?

  • Librarian
  • Library Assistant
  • Researcher
  • Archivist
  • Media Specialist
  • Bibliographer
  • Information Specialist
  • Preservationist

7. What is the library and resource management work environment like?

If you love being surrounded by books, a library may seem like the idea work place.

The concept of libraries is transitioning from being known as a place to access paper records and books to include resources such as the Internet, digital records, and remote access to a number of publications, reports, and records.  Librarians help people find information and use it for personal and professional purposes.  They must have advanced knowledge of a number of different information and scholarly sources and follow trends related to publishing, computers, and the media to oversee the organization and selection of library materials.  

The work of librarians has expanded beyond the scope of working in academic or public libraries.  Librarians can also find work in building an archive of records for the purpose of historical preservation, compiling medical libraries for hospitals and medical schools, keeping records for corporations, media organizations, government agencies, and specialized private collections.  

Librarians may also apply their skills to areas such as database development, reference tool development, information systems, publishing, marketing, web content management, and private consulting practices and information brokerages.  

The work environment for a librarian is that of an office worker, spending a considerable amount of time at a desk in front a computer.  Many librarians work directly with members of the public and library users and assisting them can be stressful, particularly if there are deadline pressures associated with obtaining information for users.   

8. What are the educational requirements for a career in library and resource management?

A Master’s degree in library science is needed for most positions at public and academic libraries.  Public school librarians may only be required to have an undergraduate degree, but they may be required to meet state teaching license requirements. 

9. How much can a Library and Resource Management graduate make?

According to the BLS, in 2012 librarians made an annual median salary of $55,370. [1]

Whatever the pay, be ready for the pace of two things: Job growth and the changes that are rippling through the field. In just the last decade, library science became rife with acronyms like SUSHI (Standardized Usage Statistics Harvesting Initiative) and SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) to describe the features of ERMS.

Opportunities: Also, the exodus of Baby Boomers means that many empty seats and open doors will be available when Boomers retire.  Employment of librarians is expected to grow by 7 percent in the decade between 2012 and 2022. [1]

Challenges: The public sector will grow, but at the same time, it will be limited by government budget constraints and the increasing use of electronic resources.  Jobs for librarians outside traditional settings will grow the fastest.  Many companies are turning to librarians because of their research and organizational skills, and their knowledge of computer databases.

[1] http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/librarians.htm