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University of Pittsburgh    
2021-2022 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog 
  Jun 16, 2024
2021-2022 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog [Archived Catalog]

Library and Information Science, MLIS

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The MLIS Degree and the Information Profession

The roles of information professionals have changed dramatically as the volume of available data and information has increased, technology for information search and retrieval has advanced, and communities and individuals are in greater need of information.  In response, the MLIS faculty initiated a redesigned curriculum in 2019 with a foundational core that features three courses in the lifecycles of data and information, data and information in systems, and the roles of information professionals in communities; a two-course Design Methods Sequence that highlights immersive experiential learning, and a choice of seven electives that allow students to tailor their coursework to their career interests.

The MLIS degree program includes education across the range of the information professions. The new foundational core, based on the culture and values of librarianship and the library, archival, and information sciences, prepares students to understand the roles information and data play in society. The MLIS program, accredited by the American Library Association, is responsive to the information marketplace and encourages the development of creativity, professionalism, and a proactive attitude to the needs of various clienteles in library and information service environments.

Goals for Graduates of the MLIS Program

Upon completion of the Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree, graduates will incorporate into their practice the theories, knowledge, competencies, ethical foundations, and social responsibilities of the information professions for the benefit of the individuals, organizations, and communities they serve. 

Specifically, MLIS graduates will be able to:

  1. Adopt and apply the ethical and historical foundations and core values of the information professions and of related disciplines.

  2. Lead in meeting the information needs of people, organizations, and communities, especially those that are marginalized or underrepresented.

  3. Apply principles of the management of data, information, resources, and organizations to various functions in data and information environments.

  4. Select, plan, implement, and apply information technology using creative, people-centered, and ethical approaches.

  5. Design, plan, implement, evaluate, and advocate for information services that embody a commitment to diversity, inclusion, and dedication to all, especially to underrepresented and marginalized users and communities.

  6. Understand and apply research in the library, archival, and information sciences, as well as other disciplines.

  7. Advance the contributions of the information professions to society through advocacy and continuing professional development for information professionals and the people, organizations, and communities they serve

Revised and affirmed by the faculty of the Department of Information Culture and Data Stewardship in November 2020.

MLIS Program Policies

This section, updated annually, describes the policies and procedures that govern the MLIS program.


Graduate Admissions

The Department of Information Culture and Data Stewardship (ICDS) seeks students with diverse educational and career backgrounds. By nature, MLIS degrees are multi-disciplinary, and the faculty welcomes applicants with bachelor’s degrees and/or advanced degrees from diverse disciplinary backgrounds.

The MLIS degree does not require specific coursework for admission.

The MLIS Admissions Committee makes all decisions on MLIS applicants.

Admission Status

There are three categories of admission status:

Full Graduate Status

Students admitted with full graduate status meet all admission requirements for the MLIS degree program.

Provisional Graduate Status

Applicants may be admitted to the MLIS degree program with provisional status in exceptional circumstances if their academic record does not meet full admission standards if they submit evidence of academic success (e.g., outstanding scores on the Graduate Record Exam) or professional potential (e.g., outstanding letters of recommendation and/or outstanding work experience). If granted provisional status, students must complete their first 12 credits of coursework by earning a minimum grade of B or better in each course.  When students complete this requirement, the MLIS Admissions Committee recommends admitting the student to full graduate status. If students fail to achieve a grade of B or better in each course at the conclusion of the first twelve credits, they are dismissed from the MLIS program.

Special Non-degree Sudent Status

Students may be admitted as special non-degree students to take specific courses with the approval of the MLIS Admissions Committee.  Special non-degree students are not admitted to any degree program. 

Applicants who have already  completed a graduate degree in library and information science and who wish to pursue the School Library Certification Program, may apply and be admitted with Special Non-degree Student Status.

Registration Requirements and Statue of Limitations

 University and the School regulations impose certain conditions on a student’s registration, including the following: 

  • Continuous registration: MLIS students who do not register for at least one credit during a 12-month period are automatically placed on inactive status by the University. To resume study, students must reapply for admission and pay the application fee. If readmitted, students must complete any review work stipulated by the MLIS Admissions Committee.
  • Level of registration: Students must be registered at all times for a number of credits fairly reflecting their utilization of departmental resources. Moreover, a student must be registered for at least one credit during the 12-month period preceding graduation and must be registered during the term of graduation. Note: international students should consult appropriate INS legislation to determine level of registration for legal purpose (see OIS).

  • Statute of Limitations: Students must complete requirements for the MLIS degree within a period of four calendar years (twelve terms) from the student’s initial registration for graduate study.

Students are not permitted to continue in the MLIS program once the statute of limitations has been reached. Under exceptional circumstances, students may apply for an extension of the statute of limitations by stating the reason for the delay, provide evidence of continuing progress toward the completion of the degree, and include a plan and proposed date for the completion of the degree.  Students must submit a request in writing and receive the approval of their advisors and the ICDS Department Chair. Students who request an extension of the statute of limitations must be prepared to demonstrate proper preparation for the completion of all current degree requirements.

Under special circumstances, MLIS students may be granted one leave of absence for up to one year. An application for a leave of absence must state the reason for the request, and the leave must be approved by the student’s advisor and the ICDS Department Chair. If approved, the time of the leave shall not count against the total time allowed for the degree being sought by the student.

Degree Requirements

The MLIS degree is a 36-credit graduate degree program that can be completed in three consecutive terms of full-time study or up to four years (twelve terms) of part- time study.

Students register for a series of five required core courses and seven elective courses that may be tailored to career goals or chosen area of interest.  It is important for students to plan carefully, in consultation with their faculty advisors, to make the best use of the educational opportunities available.  A thesis is not a requirement of the MLIS degree.

Core Courses

Students must earn a B or better in each of the five-core course and maintain a 3.0 grade point average.   All course work must be completed in residence in the MLIS degree Program (i.e., registered while matriculated as an SCI student) at the University of Pittsburgh.

Design Methods Sequence Core (courses must be taken sequentially)

Other Core Classes


Career Pathways

Students may select a career pathway, which is a specialized area of study that includes recommended aligned elective courses.  Students may take seven elective courses in addition to the five required core courses.

The career pathways have been developed in response to expressed needs of the information profession. In addition to the core knowledge base and competencies of the information professions, students gain specific skill sets to match their career goals.

We offer several elective carer pathways:

  • Academic Information Services
  • Archives and Information Science
  • Children and Youth Services
  • Civic Engagement
  • Public Library Resources and Services
  • School Library Certification Program

Students may also choose an Individualized pathway in consultation with their advisors.

The following section describes the career pathways; students should discuss which seven related elective courses they should take with their academic advisors. The Academic Advisement Report (AAR) can be used to monitor overall MLIS degree requirements. For more details regarding this dynamically generated advising tool, see the Advising section of the SCI Catalog.  

Applicants may indicate their career pathway on their application for admission to the MLIS program, and they may change this at any time.

Academic Information Resources and Services

The Academic Information Resources and Services pathway provides students with the theoretical knowledge base, contextual understanding, and practical competencies to work effectively an information professional in institutions of post-secondary education, ranging from community colleges to research-intensive institutions. Elective courses prepare students for the challenges and demands of planning, managing, delivering, and assessing resources and services in academic libraries, through exploration of their historical contexts, current trends, and future directions.

Archives Resources and Services

Recordkeeping, from governmental to organizational to personal, is one of the most ancient and essential human and institutional functions. Records are created and maintained for purposes of evidence; accountability; and personal, social, and corporate memory. Archives serve a crucial cultural function, providing society with a sense of identity and memory. Records management programs help organizations comply with regulatory agencies, be responsible to constituent groups, and use informational resources efficiently and effectively. Critical to the administration of records is their maintenance over long time periods.  Maintenance of records is traditionally called preservation, which is now being influenced by issues of digital curation and stewardship. In an engaging and intellectually stimulating environment, students build skills and knowledge to identify and analyze recordkeeping systems from legal, evidential, historical, and cultural perspectives.

Children and Youth Resources and Services

The University of Pittsburgh MLIS Program has its roots at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh where in 1901 it became the first program in the United States to educate librarians to serve youth.  The Department proudly continues to educate librarians to serve children and young people in the 120 years since that beginning. Youth librarians in public libraries build engaging and satisfying careers working with young people themselves building their multiple literacies and enjoyment of reading as well as partnering with caregivers and other adults.

Civic Engagement

Information professionals contribute to the advancement of social justice, intellectual freedom, and citizen participation in government by promoting equity-oriented services and innovative tools, providing inclusive access to information and technology, and designing ethics-embedded systems. Building on the foundation of the community-focused MLIS core courses, students enroll in seven elective courses that prepare them to be community-minded and participatory information professionals who facilitate greater civic engagement by information and technology users. Through these courses, students develop an enhanced understanding of the ethical and legal dimensions of their work as information professionals and the impact of public policy on information and technology access and use.


Students who seek a broader range of coursework can work with their advisors to identify elective courses that are useful across a wide variety of careers.

Public Library Resources and Services

Elective courses in the Public Libraries Resources and Services pathway prepare students for the challenges and demands of planning, managing, delivering, and assessing resources and services for patrons of all ages. Students develop understandings of how public libraries are embedded in their communities and help community members from diverse backgrounds, especially those who are marginalized and underserved.

School Library Certification Program

Students who choose to work with children and young people in educational settings can pursue the School Library Certification Program through two options.  For students who have already earned a teaching certificate, there is the Endorsement Option in which students earn the MLIS degree and add an additional teaching subject-Library Science PK-12-to an existing teaching certificate.  For students who have not already earned a teaching certificate, there is the Intern Option in which students earn the MLIS degree as well as a second credential-a teaching certificate as a school librarian. In both options, students collaborate with practitioners in a Practicum experience in a school setting. Students prepare to embark upon one of the most challenging and rewarding careers in the Library and Information Sciences field.

Independent and Experiential Learning Opportunities

The MLIS Program provides students with experiential learning and the theoretical knowledge to build competencies for managing and making decisions related to chosen pathways. As part of coursework, students can gain critical experiential learning in a knowledge organization through LIS 2921 - FIELD EXPERIENCE  Students must have completed a minimum of twelve credit hours in good academic standing to register for LIS 2921 - Field Experience. The LIS 2921 - Field Experience Requirement, Process and Application form must be completed and sent to the Associate Chair for final approval before the student is permitted to register for this course.

Students may also gain independent research experience under the supervision of a faculty member through LIS 2901 - INDIVIDUAL RESEARCH 1  / LIS 2902 - INDIVIDUAL RESEARCH 2 .  A student who wishes to register for LIS 2921 or LIS 2901/2902 must submit a request form for approval by the supervising faculty member.   The Individual Research Request Form must be submitted to the Associate Chair before the student is permitted to register for these courses.  Students may register for both LIS 2901 and LIS 2902 for a total of six credits. 

Academic Advising

The MLIS Admissions Committee assigns each new student an academic advisor at the time of admission to graduate study. After the first term of study, a student may change advisors. If a student elects to switch advisor because of a changing career interest, the change requires the notification of the original advisor and the consent of the new advisor. The change must be reported to the ICDS Associate Chair through the Change of Graduate Advisor Form.

At the time of initial registration, students are encouraged to discuss their plan of study with their advisor. A plan of study is a series of courses designed to meet the minimum exit competencies judged by the faculty to be necessary for employment as an information professional; this plan is tracked through the Academic Advisement Report (AAR).

Details regarding advising and resources for tracking degree progress (the AAR) are available on the School’s Catalog page , under the Advising section. Each student must ensure that the AAR meets all program requirements for graduation. At the completion of the program, the Records Office coordinates with the Department to certify students for graduation. See the School’s Catalog page  for more details and regulations pertaining to graduation.


Grade Policies for MLIS Students

Maintenance of a 3.0 GPA

Each MLIS student must maintain good academic standing with a minimum 3.0 Grade Point Average (GPA) for all credits of graduate-level coursework. Failure to maintain a cumulative 3.0 GPA results in the student being placed on academic probation. For full details regarding academic standing, see the Academic Standing and Dismissal of the SCI Catalog  .

Grade Requirements for MLIS Core Courses

There are five required core courses that form the foundational knowledge and competencies for information professionals:


A student must earn a grade of B or better in each of the five core courses. If a student does not earn a grade of B or better in each core course, the student must register for the course in the next term offered and earn a grade of B or better. A core course may be repeated only once; all other School policies regarding the repetition of courses apply (see Academic Standing and Dismissal section  ).

Grade Requirements for MLIS Elective Courses

All students must earn a satisfactory grade in each elective course taken. Grades of C-, D+, D, D-, F, and Unsatisfactory are unacceptable for credit toward graduation. A course for which such a grade is earned must be replaced with another course or retaken with a grade of C or better earned. In either case, a higher grade must be earned, and a 3.0 GPA must be maintained. A course for which a grade of C- or lower was earned may be repeated only once.

Grade Requirements for Field Experience and Practicum

All formal course requirements in the MLIS program must be completed with letter grades. Students enrolled in LIS 2921 Field Experience or LIS 2922 Practicum in School Libraries earn either a Satisfactory (S) grade or a Not Satisfactory (N) grade.

Transfer Credits

Normally, MLIS students fulfill course requirements by taking graduate-level courses within ICDS.  In some cases, however, it may be desirable for a student to count coursework completed outside ICDS prior to or during the time the student is enrolled in the MLIS program.

A student might have taken a course at another university that is relevant to MLIS studies. In that case, the student might petition for a transfer of credits.  The following restrictions apply:

  • Only a graduate-level course taken at an accredited institution in which the student received a grade of B or better will be considered for transfer of credit;
  • The course must be no more than five years old at the time of admission to the MLIS program.
  • The course cannot have be applied toward another degree earned.
  • The student must explain how the course fits into the student’s career objectives.
  • The course, if approved, may be used as an elective course.
  • No credit approved for transfer may be used as a substitute for any of the five required core courses.

Students may apply to transfer up to six credits (two courses) toward advanced standing within the first term of registering for classes and have the credits applied toward the 36 credits required for the MLIS degree. In such cases, the student completes a Transfer Credit form and seek the written approval of the advisor.  The ICDS Chair provides the final approval of the request.  The form must include the following information:

  • Transcript showing the course name and grade;
  • Explanation of course numbering and grading systems at the university where the course was taken;
  • Course description;
  • Course syllabus;

Explanation of how the course relates to the student’s career objectives.

Incomplete Grades and Class Enrollment for Master’s Students

MLIS students who have two grades of “Incomplete” or “In Progress” (either “G” or “I”) on their transcript will not be permitted to enroll in further courses until the incomplete coursework has been completed and the letter grades earned.

Calculating GPA and Repeating Courses

The Grade Point Average (GPA) of MLIS students is computed using grades in all graduate-level courses taken during the fulfillment of MLIS degree requirements, even if more than the minimally required number of 36 credits. This includes courses taken outside the ICDS Department, with advisor approval, after enrolling in the MLIS program.

MLIS students are required to earn a grade of B or better in the five required MLIS core courses.  Students who do not earn a grade of B or better may repeat the course once and the second (or subsequent) grade is counted toward the GPA.

Academic Probation

Students with full graduate status may be placed on academic probation if they fail to maintain a cumulative Grade Point Average (GPA) of 3.0.  Students who have received two grades of G (incomplete), I (in-progress), W (withdraw) or N (unsatisfactory) will not be permitted to register for additional courses until work has been completed for these courses.  These students are notified that their academic progress is unsatisfactory. (Students with provisional status are not placed on probation because they already have specific performance goals that must be met.) Students will be removed from academic probation when they raise their GPAs to a minimum of 3.0.  Students who fail to raise their GPA after completing nine additional credits will be dismissed from the MLIS program. 

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