Academic Librarianship

The Information and Learning Commons 

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. See: MLIS Information.

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.

Find an Advisor by Content Specialty


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, which ranges from student instruction to academic or scientific research. Increasingly, the focus is on instruction, technologies, and distance delivery.

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 committee in 2007 listed the following assumptions for the future of academic libraries — which are proving true today.

  1. There will be an increased emphasis on digitizing collections, preserving digital archives, and improving methods of data storage and retrieval.
  2. The skill set for librarians will continue to evolve in response to the needs and expectations of the changing populations (students and faculty) that they serve.
  3. Students and faculty will increasingly demand faster and greater access to services.
  4. Debates about intellectual property will become increasingly common in higher education.
  5. The demand for technology-related services will grow and require additional funding.
  6. Higher education will increasingly view the institution as a business.
  7. Students will increasingly view themselves as customers and consumers, expecting high-quality facilities and services.
  8. Distance learning will be an increasingly more common option in higher education, and will coexist but not threaten the traditional bricks-and-mortar model.
  9. Free public access to information stemming from publicly funded research will continue to grow.
  10. Privacy will continue to be an important issue in librarianship.

The leading issues to be considered in the roles and functions of the academic library in the 21st century 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
  • library roles in e-research
  • new forms of scholarly publishing

Employment Opportunities

Today's academic librarians are involved in a variety of challenging activities devoted to meeting the information needs of students, faculty, researchers, and other library users.

Typically they:

  • collaborate with classroom faculty, computer 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
  • develop, evaluate, 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 increasingly virtual

Core Theory and Knowledge

  • Ability to work in a team environment
  • Experience in teaching
  • 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 both in person and online

Recommended Coursework

Required Courses:

Foundation Courses:

Recommended Courses:

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.

Learn More

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 an alum for an informational interview.