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The 10 Best Online Masters in Library Science Degree Programs

From volume-filled bookshelves to digital archives, librarians are the gatekeepers of essential information.

As technology improves and more information becomes accessible to more people online, there is a need for information to be better organized. Some of the best people to help do that are those who study Library and Information Science. This is likely why more people are returning to graduate school to earn their master’s degrees, as well as why online master’s programs in Library and Information Science have been on the rise.

For this ranking, we narrowed our focus to online degree programs, because many graduate students in Library and Information Science already work full time in their field. The results are the culmination of a multi-dimensional system of measurement, which uses data compiled from individual program sites and U.S. News and World Report. With this information, we focused on four major objective. First, we wanted to determine the academic prestige of the institutions we sampled. Second, we looked at whether the school offered flexible options to accommodate student needs, like fast-track options or multiple specialities. And third, we wanted to know whether the school’s tuition made it a viable choice for online students. Finally, we considered the percentage of graduate students enrolled in a school’s online programs. You can find a more thorough explanation of the methodology we used below.


  • Academic Prestige (1/4): Each institution’s rank according to national data.
  • Flexibility (1/4): The range of flexible options in the program, including the ability to accelerate degrees, work part time, choose different concentrations, get credit for prior experience, and other components.
  • Affordability (1/4): Out-of-state tuition per credit hour.
  • Percentage of Graduate Students Who Study Primarily Online (1/4): The percent of graduate students who take online courses for half their credit hours or more.

1. Kent State University

Kent State University is a public research university in Ohio, established in 1910. As the largest university in Ohio, with just over 40,000, Kent State has the resources its students need to successfully complete their degrees. That includes offering a wide range of 100% online degrees, include 19 completely online graduate degree programs.

One of Kent State’s online graduate programs includes their Masters in Library and Information Science. As Ohio’s only American Library Association accredited MLIS degree program, students can be sure that the degree they earn from Kent State will allow them to enter their chosen career field on good standing. Kent State also offers several dual degree options including a Master of Business Administration or K-12 Library Information Certification. Besides those dual degree options, Kent State allows MLIS students to choose between 15 different specializations. That means students can be sure to create a degree program that fits their interests.

2. Clarion University of Pennsylvania

Founded in 1867, Clarion University of Pennsylvania maintains a small student body of around 5,000. That means the school and professors can really give students the individual attention they need. Clarion’s ability to cater to student needs, carries over to their online programs. For instance, students can shorten their time to degree by taking advantage of Clarion’s seven week online class offerings.

Clarion’s fully online Master of Science in Information and Library Science was the first of its kind in the Pennsylvania State System. That kind of innovative thinking carries over into how Clarion structures its MSLS program. In addition to opting for semester length or seven week classes, students also have the option to enroll full-time or part-time. Students can also begin taking courses in fall, spring, or summer. With specialities in management of information agencies, information access, reference and user services, and local and archival studies, Clarion’s Masters in Information and Library Sciences takes the flexibility of an online degree seriously.

3. Drexel University Online

Drexel University is a private research university in Philadelphia. With more than 26,000 students and over a 100 graduate programs, Drexel has a wide variety of educational options. This variety and quality carries over to their online programs. Drexel University founded National Distance Learning Week to bring greater attention to exceptional leaders in distance education, and since founding its online arm—Drexel University Online—Drexel has gone on to win the Sloan-C award for institution-wide excellence in online education, as well as, the United States Distance Learning Association’s Best Practices Awards for Distance Learning Programming.

Drexel’s Master’s in Library and Information Science program is designed in four 10-week quarters to shorten time to degree. Drexel’s MSLIS degree also offers several specializations, including Digital Technology Services, Information and Data Services, and User and Community Services. Besides offering the flexibility to focus in a certain area and shorter classes to ensure the entire program is more affordable, Drexel’s Library Science graduate degree program is also fully accredited by the American Library Association. That means their innovative and interactive curriculum is fully recognized by the leading professional organization in the field of library science.

4. The University of Alabama

The University of Alabama is a public research university and the flagship institution in the University of Alabama System. As a flagship university, Alabama has the resources to offer a wide variety of educational opportunities to their students and to make the innovative moves necessary to create unique experiences. The University of Alabama is consistently ranked as one of the top 50 public universities in the nation, which means that even their online students can be confident in the quality of their education.

Even though Alabama’s Masters in Library and Information Science is offered 100% online, the program still makes use of the cohort model of graduate education. In other words, students get support from other students in their degree program through attending virtual class sessions to allow the cohort to collectively share content, discuss in groups, and have immediate discussions with their instructor. This model maintains the flexibility of an online class, while still ensuring students get the best aspects of face-to-face instruction. As an American Library Association accredited program with 8 areas of focus, Alabama students can construct a quality and flexible degree path that meets their needs.

5. University of North Carolina Greensboro

As part of the University of North Carolina system, University of North Carolina Greensboro is a public liberal arts and research university that awards degrees at every educational level. Nationally recognized for its high level of research output and for integrating community engagement into its curriculum, UNC Greensboro not only considers the quality of education its students get, but also how to best produce well-rounded students.

The online Master of Library and Information Studies at UNC Greensboro combines the flexibility of an online degree with the hands-on experience students need. With 5 different specializations, students can design a degree that best fits their needs. Greensboro program is also the oldest American Library Association accredited Library Science degree program in the state. That means students can be confident in the quality of their education.

6. University of Wisconsin-Madison

Founded in 1848, the University of Wisconsin-Madison is the flagship campus of the University of Wisconsin system. With over 20 schools and colleges and 43,000 students, UW is a premiere research institution that has a lot of available resources for its students. As a Public Ivy, founding member of the Association of American Universities, and with over a billion dollars in research spending, traditional and online students can be sure that they are receiving a quality education.

UW’s iSchool offers a Master of Arts in Library and Information Studies that is fully accredited by the American Library Association. Students can pursue 4 different concentrations in their online program including: Librarianship, Data/Information Management and Analytics, UX and Information Technology, and Information Organization. If students want even more flexibility in designing their degree, they can also choose from several double degree programs or named certificates. UW’s online MLIS degree also has students participate in practicum courses so they get the hands on experience they need, while still taking classes online.

7. Florida State University

Florida State University is a public space-grant and sea-grant research university and the oldest continuous site of higher education in Florida. With more than 360 programs and nearly $2 billion for a budget, FSU has a lot to offer its students. Ranked constantly in the top 50 schools in the US by national sources, FSU is also sure to offer a lot of individual attention to make sure students get what they need to succeed.

FSU’s Masters of Science or Masters of Arts in Information is accredited by the American Library Association and offers 10 areas of specialization ranging from General Librarianship, to Health Informatics, to Youth Services. Some of those focus areas are also nationally recognized with FSU’s School of Information is ranked 3rd nationally in School Library Media and Services for Children and Youth. FSU also offers 5 different certificate programs related to the Masters in Information program. All of that means that students have the flexibility they need paired with an award winning educational experience.

8. University of South Carolina

Founded in 1801, the University of South Carolina currently has a little over 49,000 students and is a Tier 1 Research university. With 14 degree granting colleges and more than 350 programs of study, students have a wide variety of options at USC. USC same level of quality and variety in academic programs to their online degree offerings as well.

USC’s online Master in Library and Information Science program offers tailored options to best fit their students’ needs. For instance, students can choose out of USC’s 6 areas of study, including Leadership and Management, or Professional Development and Lifelong Learning. Not only can students cater their courses to their own interests, but they can also earn a K-12 school librarian certification through USC’s American Library Association accredited program.

9. University of Northern Iowa

Located in Cedar Falls, Iowa, the University of Northern Iowa offers more than 90 majors over 7 different colleges. With a student body of just under 12,000, UNI is large enough to offer students a lot of choices, but small enough to provide individual attention. UNI’s focus on their students translates to their distance education programs, with its 4 core values of affordability, credibility, quality, and accessibility.

One of UNI’s online degree programs is their Master of Arts in School Library Studies. This degree is for students wanting to become teacher librarians or to become a certified K-12 teacher librarian in Iowa. Each course in the online program is designed with Quality Matters standards for online classes, as well as aligning with the American Library Association’s standards for Initial Preparation of School Librarians. UNI’s SLS masters also focuses on preparing it’s graduates to teach technology and literacy in schools, as well as providing print and digital resources to students and teachers.

10. East Carolina University

East Carolina University is a public research university and the third largest in the state. It’s also been designated by the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities as an Innovation and Economic Prosperity campus. ECU’s commitment to innovation can be seen in their distance education programs as well. Offering more than 90 fully online degrees, ECU gives students the option to explore their interests in a flexible and affordable setting.

ECU’s American Library Association accredited Master of Library Science program started in 1939 and has since moved into a high-tech, hands-on educational model that makes use of emerging technologies in library science. Their online program focuses on the needs of nontraditional students interested in working at all types of libraries. ECU’s MLS degree offers 3 professional concentrations including: academic library, public library, and school library. In this way students can choose a concentration based on their desired career. In addition to the flexibility of choosing their own concentration, ECU students can also earn apply for a school license to work in K-12 schools and as a School Library Media Coordinator.

  • Master of Library Science
  • Avg. Out-of-State Tuition per Credit Hour: $876
  • Percent of Graduate Students Who Study Primarily Online: 54%