Library Schools: We Make Movers!

Recognizing the immense achievements of librarians in a variety of disciplines is worthy of a big annual shout-out — and that is exactly what Library Journal’s Movers & Shakers program is all about.



Recognizing the immense achievements of librarians in a variety of disciplines is worthy of a big annual shout-out — and that is exactly what Library Journal’s Movers & Shakers program is all about.

As LJ celebrates its 18th class of Movers & Shakers, it’s more apparent than ever that those achieving this honor possess not just the requisite skills, dedication, and drive, but also the ability to adapt to constant change.

“The challenge for those entering the field is adapting the degree to the marketplace, as traditional jobs have been replaced with niche positions,” says Young Choi, Ph.D., chair of the Library and Information Science department at The Catholic University of America.

But how do the freshly-minted Movers compare to the classes that came before? In one regard, they are remarkably similar: the vast majority of them trained for their chosen field with an MLIS degree.

“MLIS programs remain a relevant and important part of the job’s preparation as they equip students with the fundamental skills and expertise that will guide their work.”
Maria Bonn, MS/LIS program director University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The six MLIS programs featured here have graduated an astonishing 85 Movers & Shakers between them. At the forefront of modern librarianship, these programs feature a variety of approaches, pathways, and locations. But all of them know – and offer – what it takes to make a Mover.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

What makes a successful MLIS program? At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the answer is a mix of old and new. “Our program in library and information science is 127 years old—but it has a start-up mentality,” says Maria Bonn, associate professor and MS/LIS program director.

The program honors longstanding values of librarianship – community engagement, public service, and the broadest possible access to information. But it is also constantly evolving, to apply those values to the ever-changing technology and information environment.

The MS/LIS student body at U. of Illinois numbers 500, with some learning remotely, on-campus, or a combination of the two. Students who learn virtually can take advantage of courses that are offered synchronously, allowing real-time interaction with faculty and each other. “Many residential students also take online classes, which allows them to work and take care of their families,” explains Bonn. But no matter how they study, students here have access to an array of experiential learning opportunities, like practicum, internships, and assistantships in campus libraries.

Flexibility is another key component of the program, as students can design courses of study that follow a more traditional library science vein or focus on information science instead. Faculty accessibility creates a welcome culture that fosters conversation between professors and students, while creating community among the MS/LIS students is also vital. “Our program requires that online students come to campus for a three-day ‘welcome weekend’ that provides them with opportunities to connect with faculty and with each other in person,” says Bonn.

The Urbana-Champaign program has consistently been ranked number one by U.S. News & World Report and features a faculty who are extraordinarily successful researchers, with a wide range of interests and expertise that they share with students through teaching and research opportunities. The program also provides a career services department for MLIS students, plus an extensive network of alumni eager to mentor current students and support their professional success.

As she reflects upon her program’s success, Bonn notes: “Our program is imbued with creative energy and practical intelligence—and our students are a large part of that. [They] are the best and the brightest—they literally arrive prepared to “move and shake” and they depart with the expertise to do just that.”

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The Catholic University of America

“Our MLIS programs are at the forefront of trends and adapt courses accordingly as libraries and information centers constantly change and the need for information organization evolves,” notes Dr. Choi, chair of the Library and Information Science department.

To this end, Catholic University offers about 100 students a program that encompasses both traditional library science – with courses of study in cultural heritage information management, school libraries, and law – as well as information architecture, analysis and data science. Students can take a mix of online and face-to-face classes, and distance learners can come to campus for one week during the summer.

Assigned faculty advisors meet with students individually to craft academic plans that align with each student’s interest and career goals. The many active chapters of AGLISS, SAA, ASIS&T and SLA at Catholic University LIS A foster a sense of community.

One the best parts of an MLIS education at CU? Location, location, location! CU calls the nation’s capital home, and it plays a significant role in shaping students’ experience. “Our students take advantage of the myriad institutions in Washington, DC, whether during internships, practicum placements, or field visits and our adjunct staff include librarians from the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian and the National Archives—and of course, class visits to these institutions is part of the deal,” says Choi.

Employment naturally flows from this environment, including offers from nonprofits, think tanks, law firms, federal government libraries, museums, and trade associations. “Information professionals are key to the smooth, efficient functioning of many organizations, and our alumni and professional network run the gamut,” she adds.

Diversity is a hallmark at Catholic University, with students matriculating from across the country and around the globe. When asked about her program’s success in producing Movers & Shakers, Choi says, “Students are encouraged to be innovative, to explore their interests and aspirations, and to make a difference in their community.”

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University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee

“Current and future librarians must be able to effectively organize, retrieve and use data, and become change agents and communicators—[they] must be willing and able to navigate a changing landscape,” points out Tomas A. Lipinski, Ph.D., dean and professor.


"Librarians of the future must be willing and able to navigate a changing landscape.”
Tomas A.Lipinski, Ph.D., dean and professor School of Information Studies
University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee

The MLIS curriculum at the University of Wisconsin works toward this goal by focusing on the fundamentals of librarianship and information science, while also providing access to emerging trends like artificial intelligence, disruptive technologies and data science. Nearly 400 students, 80% of whom study online, engage in a program grounded in library principles that include organization and retrieval, as well as courses in areas like content management and web design.

The MLIS degree at UWM can be tailored to meet the needs of individual students. A variety of concentrations and areas of specialization gives students the opportunity to customize their degrees. Students are also given the opportunity to work directly with faculty – many of whom are highly ranked researchers – on research projects that impact the library profession. SOIS also offers walk-in advising and one-on-one personal attention, which is unusual for a large university.

Students can choose to take courses entirely online, entirely onsite, or in any combination of the two. Both online and on campus courses are taught by the same faculty and instructors, and all faculty and online students are supported by the latest virtual instructional technologies.

“It was our own faculty, rather than an outside program management firm, that built our online program and continues to teach and maintain it,” Lipinski adds. The School of Information Studies (SOIS) has been online for more than 20 years, so the structures are in place to facilitate student success, which includes dedicated IT support and experienced instructors.

Career support includes workshops and networking opportunities throughout the year, with a “Professional Immersion Day” held each fall and an “Enhance Your Chance Week,” which features resume reviews, mock interview sessions with hiring professionals, and career workshops. SOIS also publishes a weekly newsletter that includes job announcements and internship opportunities.

Dr. Lipinski’s pride at the news of his school’s recent Movers & Shakers winners and the great example they’ve set for future graduates is evident: “Our central mission is to advance knowledge and prepare students from diverse backgrounds to be successful information professionals within their communities. We'd like to think that all our graduates are movers and shakers at various points throughout their careers.”

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University of South Carolina

For Dr. David Lankes, director of the School of Library and Information Science, the role of librarians as vital centers for their communities is paramount. In times of crisis, like the current coronavirus outbreak, “people are looking for comfort and guidance but also meaning and community,” he says. The University of South Carolina’s provides an MLIS program that “imparts the skills and values to help our communities rise.”

South Carolina’s exclusively online program allows for real-time support from faculty to help students study asynchronously— which offers flexibility to those who work full time. The program utilizes Blackboard as the primary delivery platform, tools for guest speakers, and virtual labs for students, to get hands-on experience even in an online class. While the program is technologically-based, Dr. Lankes notes that, “Technology is an essential skill, but only in the service of empowering folks and helping them to find meaning in their lives.”

A pioneer in online education since the 1990s, South Carolina fosters a sense of community through coursework, as well as research and development projects. “Two years ago, we worked with the Charleston County Public Library system on a new branch’s design and created recruitment opportunities for some of our graduates,” he says.

About of half the graduates of this 350-student program go on to work in school libraries, while others find employment in public and academic settings, archives, hospitals and government. The common thread, however, is making an impact. Alumni include the city librarian of San Francisco and the incoming president of the American Association of School Librarians.

Speaking about the Movers & Shakers who graduated from South Carolina, Lankes say, “Nothing makes us happier than when one of our graduates is recognized for leadership and improving a community.”

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San Jose State University

Nestled in the heart of Silicon Valley, San Jose State University cites several important technology trends in its exclusively online MLIS program that successfully prepare students for the information environment. “All students take a course on new and emerging technologies, including social networking platforms, content and learning management tools, cybersecurity issues and web conferencing,” says Dr. Linda Main, interim director of the School of Information.

SJSU also offers an extensive number of electives and continually speaks with employers and leaders in the field to ensure that their curriculum is up-to-date and relevant. Some of the newest curriculum choices include: Open Data: From Reference to Advocacy, Crisis Management: The Expanding Role of Information Professionals, and AI in the Library.

Nearly a decade after switching to an online-only curriculum for its 1,800 enrollees, SJSU’s MLIS program has been recognized by the Online Learning Consortium as the most outstanding program in any discipline. “We’re very proud as this honor speaks to the effort we put into creating a vibrant, supportive online learning environment,” Dr. Main adds.

SJSU prepares its graduates for the workplace with career podcasts, webcasts, classes that hew to the evolving job market, and electives that follow the trends. The school also provides a complimentary professional association membership so students can network, and it hosts receptions at various conferences where they make new contacts and reconnect with peers.

Dr. Main feels her school stands apart from others in several ways. “Our expertise and recognition in providing affordable quality online education, breadth of courses, and outstanding faculty who come from many disciplines make us different from other schools,” she says.

SJSU’s pride in their Movers & Shakers success is palpable. When Dr. Main learned that her program had prepped more winners (30!) than any other institution, she said, “I see the talents of our students every day and it’s so wonderful to know how successful [they] have become in their careers.”

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Kent State University

The Buckeye State is home to an MLIS program that understands the challenges facing today’s librarians. “Change has been a consistent force in librarianship and information professions over the past 20 years, which means the best librarians will need to be nimble, confident and passionate,” explains Kendra Albright, Ph.D., director of the School of Information.

Kent State’s MLIS programs are completely online. Online classes are mostly asynchronous, allowing the program’s 400 students the flexibility to get class work done as it fits into their schedules. Courses are paced week-to-week to keep students moving together and feature recorded lectures, discussions, and a variety of activities that enable interaction and learning. The program strives for a balance between traditional library education and emerging fields like information science, with state-of-the-art technology courses included in all programs.

“Our MLIS program is fortunate to have students who are highly motivated and engaged in community building through a Graduate Student Advisory Council and the ALA student chapter. In the last few years, the students in both groups have worked together on a newsletter that highlights alumni, current students, faculty and staff,” notes Dr. Albright.

Kent State’s iSchool offers great value for the MLIS degree: It’s a top-twenty ranked program with one of the lowest tuition rates in the country. The program’s strength in children’s and youth services, archives and preservation, and information organization is another draw for prospective students, as is a renowned faculty who are regularly published and present at national and international conferences.

Graduates have gone on to a wide variety of positions -- in libraries, information agencies, museums, and cultural organizations – and also in areas outside of libraries, including research, publishing, information management, and competitive business intelligence.

With at 70-year history, it’s Kent State’s long-standing reputation that has attracted the excellent students who’ve gone on to become Movers & Shakers. “A core value at Kent State is “Put Students First”—and we do everything we can to support students as they find their dream jobs,” says Albright.

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