Pursuing a Master's in Library + Information Services ~ insight?

I am interested in pursuing a Master's in Library and Information Services. I would welcome advice on the pros/cons of the two local programs of which I am aware: UC Berkeley and San Jose State University. I am a part-time working mom in the publishing world who likes my work yet has always been curious about this. It seems that SJSU would possibly be the only viable option as, if I understand correctly, UCB is geared towards full-time students (i.e., classes only during the week during regular business hours). Additionally, I would welcome any advice regarding working for one of the UCB libraries in general (e.g., job opportunities, trends, is preference given to those already at UCB in other positions, etc.). I wish to stay within the UC system as I plan to retire from it down the line, and working at UCB is preferable to UCSF geographically since I live in the East Bay. I would also appreciate any advice on how to best prepare for such a career move (e.g., online links I should check out, professional organizations I should join, etc.). Thanks!

Anonymous, so my colleagues don't know I'm planning to leave my current job

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I'm a UC Berkeley Librarian and SJSU MLIS graduate, and would be happy to chat. Feel free to get in touch.

Hi there, I have an MLIS from SJSU and not sure I'd recommend it. There are far more people receiving MLIS degrees than there are jobs. By the time I was eligible for a public librarian 1 position (which was what I thought I wanted to do), I was making much more money at a library-adjacent job. Also, I qualified to be considered for Librarian1 but so did hundreds of other people who applied to the SF Public Library. Despite the fact that I'd been an intern there and had worked on various events with the library as part of my job, I wasn't event selected for an interview. If you wanted to work at UCB, you'd need not only the MLIS degree, but a masters-level subject degree (like art history or chemistry, etc). 

Finally, the UCB program is no longer a library program - it is master of information. management and systems and is more technical. It covers stuff like "Understand and apply architectural, computational, and algorithmic thinking and principles of concurrency to the design of information systems." 

I'm sorry to not recommend this path! I ended up working in academic communications and am quite happy!

UCB is not an option for an MLIS. You will not graduate with a Library Science degree, and as far as I know, you need an MLIS to be considered a librarian. They got rid of the program in the 1990s. I got my MLIS from SJSU in the early 2000s, but I had a grad student working for me who went there more recently, and it was all online. I currently work for UC (not Cal), and I will say the Cal library salaries are absolutely abysmal. The pay is low, the interview process is insane, they expect you to publish and to be very involved in professional organizations. In short, they are ridiculous. I've worked at every UC in the area, including Hastings and the two national labs as well as UCSF and Cal. I liked UCSF the best. People love the idea of becoming a librarian, but there is little upward mobility and the pay sucks. Not trying to discourage you. Just being realistic. I've been a librarian for 20 years. 

I was on the east coast when I got my MLIS and so I'm not familiar with local programs. But I would suggest looking on some online options too. I got my masters at Wayne State University in Detroit while living in DC. They offer in state tuition to all their online students and several other schools do as well. I wasn't sure what doing online education would be like (I hadn't done any as my undergrad) but the classes had both flexibility and rigor and the professors worked hard to get you out in the real world for class work. I'd highly recommend it. I was working full time while I did class work part time (two classes at a time, three is full time). I found that managable before kids.

As far as prepping for a career move, some of the best advice was from the dean of the program at Wayne State at new student orientation. He pointed out that everyone applying for jobs you want is going to have an MLIS. What are you going to do to stand out? That can be experience you already have or some you seek out while at school. I was moving from hospitality to libraries and so I used that experience in interviews to talk about costumer service, welcoming people, dealing with difficult people, etc. I was in public libraries and it sounds like you're interested in academic, but for me the organizations that were most important to join were ALA and my local library associaition. And then attend things! I got my job in part b/c I went to ALA's annual conference and talked to people who were hiring. And local stuff you make contacts and connections with people in the field already here in the Bay Area.

Good luck! 

Hello! I'm the head of local library and while I went to school in another state, I have hired many librarians who have degrees from California. First of all, you need to select a program that is accredited by the American Library Association. UC Berkeley is not, they stopped offering the MLIS 1994, their current degrees are in data science and management. San Jose State is accredited, along with UCLA and USC. In the ALA accredited database, you can narrow by your interest (public libraries, academic libraries, k-12, or others) and if you want a fully-online program. https://www.ala.org/CFApps/lisdir/index.cfm  If you want to be a librarian, you need the MLIS or MSLIS (Master of Library and Information Science or Master of Science in Library and Information Science). If you want to do data science and not be a librarian, then UC Berkeley is amazing. https://www.ischool.berkeley.edu/programs

San Jose State is fully online- meaning you can do your degree without ever traveling to campus. I just hired someone who graduated from SJSU. It's a solid program, not top-tier, but good. I think what really sets SJSU graduates apart is that many of them have non-librarian jobs in libraries already and continue working while getting their degrees, so when they graduate they have experience. Some of the top programs in the country are residential or hybrid, and it sounds like you want to stay in California. I'd look into the 3 California programs so you can keep working and do your course working online in the evenings and on weekends.

One distinction I will make: for some academic positions, librarians are faculty and others positions are university staff. There is a huge difference, and I have done both. If you are faculty, (for example at many of the UCs), you will be required to publish your own research, present at conferences, and be on the tenure-track (like other department faculty). If you have a staff position, that requirement isn't there. It's something to consider, if you like research and writing.

I'd be happy to chat privately if you want. I'm in the East Bay too. Librarianship is a wonderful field to be in, and I love what I do. There are lots of jobs, but if you are not willing to move, it's a bit more competitive, especially at UC Berkeley.


I attended SJSU for my MLIS and would be happy to share my experiences. While I did not end up entering the traditional LIS field (though my work intersects with it in many ways), I consistently find that the degree and overall experience enhances my life skills and contributions in numerous ways. Happy to chat offline if you want to reach out: rosekindness [at] gmail.com.