Academic Librarianship — MLIS Career Pathway
Academic libraries are found in institutions of higher education — in community colleges, private colleges, major universities, or specialized research institutes. Academic libraries support the mission of their institution, a mission that can range from undergraduate instruction to graduate and faculty academic research in the humanities, social sciences and hard sciences. Increasingly, the focus is on undergraduate instruction, emerging digital technologies that can enhance preservation, access, and discoverability of library resources, online education, marketing and assessment, open access, and cooperative collection development and resource sharing among institutions.
Please see the Academic Library Career Environment pages for additional detailed information about academic library jobs and worklife, salaries and promotion, tips to ace the interview, and more.
The ACRL Research Planning and Review Committee in 2020 listed the following “top trends” in higher education as they pertain to academic librarianship.
- Research data services
- Digital scholarship
- Collection assessment trends
- Content provider mergers
- Evidence of learning new directions with the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy
- Emerging staff positions
- Open educational resources
The leading issues to be considered in the roles and functions of the academic library in the immediate future are:
- Collaboration with and outreach to academic faculty, researchers, end users, and content providers
- Educating “by design,” or with an emphasis on undergraduate research methodologies
- Evolving and leveraging digital library service frameworks
- Implications of online access to content, especially data curation, digital preservation, conservation, open access, copyright, and intellectual property
- Librarian roles supporting federally funded scientific research
- New forms of scholarly publishing
- Libraries as publishers
See: New Roles for the Road Ahead
Today’s academic librarians are involved in a variety of challenging activities devoted to meeting the information needs of students, faculty, researchers, and other campus stakeholders.
- Collaborate with classroom faculty, information technology specialists, and instructional developers
- Consult with individuals in analyzing, identifying, and fulfilling their information needs
- Contribute to effective teamwork among colleagues
- Create campus-wide information literacy programs and develop and teach library instruction sessions or courses both in the classroom and online
- Design and manage Web sites
- Evaluate, purchase or license, and organize electronic databases
- Facilitate the use of social media tools
- Keep abreast of technological advancements and develop strategies to take advantage of them
- Participate in and lead public relations efforts to promote and raise funds for academic libraries
- Plan, implement, and administer computer-based systems
- Select, organize, and facilitate access to information in a variety of formats, chiefly digital
MLIS Skills at Work
The MLIS Skills at Work includes important trends and data that are needed to prepare for career advancement within the information professions. The following information within the report relates directly to the Academic Librarianship career path. However, slides #12 through #15 showcase/highlight the skills most valuable to employers.
- See the MLIS Skills at Work report, slides #5 through #8 for more detailed information about hiring trends and slide #21 for representative job titles
- See slide #35 to view sample job titles, job duties, job skills, and technology/standards for college, university and research libraries
- See also slides #25 (Collection, Acquisition and Circulation), #24 (Cataloging and Metadata), #32 (Reference and Research), and #31 (Outreach, Programming and Instruction) for additional roles within this career pathway
Core Theory and Knowledge
- Ability to work in a team environment
- Experience in teaching
- Experience conducting library or archival research at the college level or higher
- Familiarity with research methodology in the context of a research university
- Good online technical skills especially in Web site development and social media
- Knowledge of the issues facing libraries and higher education
- Knowledge of the uses of technology for access to and dissemination of information
- Leadership ability
- Strong communication skills: in person, in writing, and online
- Strong academic background (preferably a college major) in the humanities or social sciences
The MLIS program requires 43 units for graduation. Within those units, six courses (16 units) are required of all MLIS students and must be taken as part of all career pathways: INFO 203, INFO 200, INFO 202, INFO 204, INFO 285, and either INFO 289 or INFO 299. Beyond those six courses, a student is free to select electives reflecting individual interests and aspirations.
If you are interested in this career pathway, you may choose to select from the foundation or recommended course electives listed below. Foundation courses form the foundational knowledge and skills for this pathway. If you can only select a few electives, then choose from the foundation courses. The recommended courses are very relevant, but not as foundational to this career pathway.
The career pathway described here is provided solely for advising purposes. No special designation appears on your transcript or diploma. All students get an MLIS degree.
Faculty pathway advisors are available to help guide you and answer questions about planning a career in their area of expertise. Learn more about faculty pathway advisors.
- INFO 203 Online Learning: Tools and Strategies for Success
- INFO 200 Information Communities
- INFO 202 Information Retrieval System Design
- INFO 204 Information Professions
- INFO 285 Applied Research Methods in Library and Information Science
- INFO 289 or INFO 299 Culminating Experience
- INFO 210 Reference & Information Services
- INFO 220 Resources and Information Services in Professions and Disciplines
Select from: Digital Humanities, Data Services in Libraries, Maps and GIS, Visual Resources Curation and Arts Librarianship. [See current topics. Select class number then topics]
- INFO 230 Issues in Academic Libraries
- INFO 240 Information Technology Tools & Applications (Web Site Design)
- INFO 246 Information Technology Tools & Applications: Advanced
Select from: Web 2.0 and Social Media, XML, Big Data Analytics and Management [See current topics. Select class number then topics]
- INFO 254 Information Literacy and Learning and/or INFO 250 Design and Implementation of Instructional Strategies for Information Professionals
- INFO 266 Collection Management
- INFO 281 Seminar in Contemporary Issues
Select from: Open Education: OER and Open Pedagogy, Intercultural Communication,”Scholarly Communication and Publishing: Access, Intellectual Property, and Impact”, “New Technologies That Can Impact Information Awareness and Access (ex. Chatbots)” Digital Copyright, Cultural Competence for Information Professionals, Metadata [See current topics. Select class number then topics]
- INFO 282 Seminar in Library Management
Select from: Leadership, Grant Writing, Managing Change, Information Vendor Landscape [See current topics. Select class number then topics]
- INFO 287 Seminar in Information Science
Select from: Digital Libraries, Augmented and Virtual Reality, AI in the Library, Design Thinking, Problem Solving with Data, Collecting and Analyzing Data for Evidence Based Decisions [See current topics. Select class number then topics]
- Professional Experience: Internships
- INFO 244 Online Searching
- INFO 247 Vocabulary Design
- INFO 248 Beginning Cataloging and Classification
- INFO 284 Seminar in Archives and Records Management
- Sections on Digital Curation or Digitization and Digital Preservation; History of Books [See current topics. Select class number then topics]
- INFO 286 Interpersonal Communication Skills for Librarians
Effective leadership and management (of people and information) is critically important for all types of work environments and clients.
We recommend that students consider also selecting some courses from the Leadership and Management career path to complement or supplement core skills in other areas.
- Check out the Academic Library Career Environment pages for an overview of jobs and worklife, salary and promotion information, tips to ace the interview, and more.
- Read Community Profiles of students and alumni pursuing this career pathway.
- Browse presentations by professionals working in academic librarianship.
- Search the Alumni Career Spotlights for alumni working in this field. Consider contacting alumni for an informational interview.