There are several factors to consider when choosing a school that will best meet your needs:
ALA accreditation - To receive accreditation from the American Library Association, a school must meet a wide variety of criteria. If you desire a position that requires a master of library science degree, the fact that your degree is ALA accredited is perhaps the most important factor. There are over 50 programs in the United States and Canada that meet this requirement.
Program emphasis - In the 1990s several traditional library science schools began a transformation into more broadly-defined "information schools." The result is a wide variety of schools, some more traditional and others much more geared towards a variety of information professions. The library world benefits from both, and you can, too.
Course offerings and schedule are important to review to ensure that the school will meet your needs in terms of the types of courses offered. For example, if you wish to become a youth services librarian, you will want to be certain that the school offers courses on children's literature, storytelling, early literacy, etc. School librarians will want to be particularly careful that they can receive certification in school library media. Some schools are geared towards full-time students, while others offer courses in multiple locations and during weekend and evening hours. Other items to consider are the options to take cognate courses in other schools, dual degree programs, and PhD programs.
Distance learning is becoming more prevalent, and offers students a greater variety of choices in programs. There are pros and cons to online coursework, and it is a good idea to understand these up front.
Cost can vary greatly from one university to the next. The total cost for each person will be different. Factors to consider are: out-of-state tuition, total number of credits required, room and board, books and fees, travel, and parking. Scholarships and paid internships can help defray some of the costs. See the Financial Help section for more information.
A personal visit is highly recommended to get a better feeling for the program environment. Admissions officers can arrange for you to meet faculty and students, tour the school and attend a few classes.
Current students and recent graduates can be a good source of information about their experience in a school. The school's admission's officer can often put you in touch with both, although you may wish to join a discussion list that includes recent graduates.
Admissions requirements vary by university. Graduate programs typically require a four-year undergraduate degree (from any program); some will have additional requirements such as an entry essay or a minimum score on the Graduate Record Exam
Other sources that attempt to "rate" graduate programs such as U.S. News & World Report are fine as a starting point, but be very careful to understand what criteria are used by the evaluator --ultimately the best evaluator will be you!
- Financial Assistance for Library and Information Studies (PDF)
This annual directory describes awards from state library agencies, national and state library associations, local libraries, academic institutions, and foundations that give some form of financial assistance for undergraduate and/or graduate education programs in library and information studies.
- Directory of ALA-Accredited Programs
Looking for a master’s degree program in library/information science?
- Getting Your LIS Degree without Breaking the Bank
by Sarah E. Morris & Patrice Johnson (from LISCareer.com)
- Paying for Graduate School
by Chrissie Anderson Peters (from LISCareer.com)