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Library and Information Studies

Administrative Unit:Library and Information Studies
College/School: College of Letters & Science
Admitting Plans:M.A., Ph.D.
Degrees Offered:M.A., Ph.D.
Minors and Certificates:Doctoral Minor in Library and Information Studies; Doctoral Minor in Print Culture History; Specialist Certificate in Library and Information Studies
Named Options: Campus Delivered Program (M.A.); Distance Delivered Program (M.A.)

Faculty: Professors Eschenfelder (director), Downey; Associate Professors Kim, Smith, Whitmire; Assistant Professors Rubel, Senchyne, Willett


The School of Library and Information Studies (SLIS) or “the iSchool at UW-Madison” is a professional school offering M.A. and Ph.D. degrees and undergraduate coursework through the digital studies certificate. At the master’s level, SLIS prepares information professionals to work in library, archive, for-profit, nonprofit, and government settings. Its master's program is accredited by the American Library Association, recognized by the Wisconsin Division for Libraries, Technology, and Community Learning for certification of public librarians, and recognized by the state's Department of Public Instruction for licensing of school library media specialists. SLIS offers a Ph.D. curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary research and teaching excellence designed to contribute to the research base of information studies and the faculties of information schools.

The SLIS faculty is noted for its scholarly work in the areas of information policy and ethics, user behaviors and literacies, print culture, library and information technology history, electronic publishing, and the social aspects of information and communications systems. For example, SLIS hosts the Center for the History of Print and Digital Culture, a research center focused on authorship, reading, publication and distribution of print and digital materials. Faculty have made valuable scholarly contributions in the areas of medical information retrieval systems, online search behavior and search effectiveness, publisher e-journal licensing practices, information technology history, print culture and library history, information ethics and policy, and youth and new media.

SLIS is well known for its public-good, community engagement orientation. SLIS is home to several student organizations that shepherd long-term, information-justice projects including the Jail Library Group, the Tribal Library Archives and Museums Group, and the Allied Drive Literacy Project.

SLIS students can take advantage of a research-oriented faculty, excellent student services, a strong and healthy community, the resources of a world-renowned university, and a city rich with information and cultural heritage institutions.


The mission of SLIS, the Information School of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is to:

  • educate responsible leaders, critical thinkers, and creative innovators in the information professions who are adept in the creation, retrieval, use, and curation of information in all its forms; who are able to provide access to and understanding of information for all those who need or seek it; and who contribute to individual and collective knowledge, productivity, and well-being;
  • create and disseminate research about past, present, and future information users and uses; the processes and technologies vital for information management and use; and the economies, cultures, and policies that affect information and access to it;
  • contribute to the development of the faculties of information schools through a doctoral program built on interdisciplinary research and teaching excellence; and
  • provide useful service to information professionals, the people of Wisconsin, and all information users.

Master's Degree

The master's degree in LIS is a generalist degree that prepares graduates to develop and provide new information services that create, collect, organize, store, analyze, find, distribute, and use information in a diverse, technological, and global society.

Through the SLIS on-campus and distance master's degrees, students prepare themselves for a wide variety of positions in rapidly changing information fields including digital librarian, metadata specialist, digital archivist, electronic records manager, knowledge manager, children's or young adult services specialist, public outreach librarian, information architect and electronic resources specialist. The current SLIS curriculum aims to prepare students to lead, innovate and manage change in an increasingly multicultural and technological society.

The master's degree requires 42 credit hours. Students attending on a full-time basis generally complete the program in two academic years with summer work; part-time students complete it in three to four years.

Students gain hands-on experience as part of their degree through SLIS’s required 3 credit field practicum. Students may choose practicum settings based on their career goals and combine real-life work with classroom sessions that provide support and encourage reflection and professional growth. Practica experiences allow students to develop and practice professional skills important to their future careers including leadership, project management, and outreach, as well as apply technology skills, information organization expertise and theoretical understandings gained through coursework. Students may take multiple practica as part of their program. Students may choose a specialized library instruction practica—this option, offered in conjunction with the University of Wisconsin Libraries, allows students to join a library instruction team for the semester.

Students specialize in order to gain a particular skill set or to prepare for a particular field. Most SLIS students combine coursework from two or more specializations. Students should also focus their practicum, work experience and extra-curricular activities in light of their chosen specializations. Specializations do not have separate degree requirements with the exception of the School Library Media specialization. Current specializations include:

  • Librarianship: academic, public, law, art, music, science, corporate
  • Archives and records management
  • Youth services
  • Information management
  • Organizational systems: cataloging, metadata, and e-resource management
  • School library media librarianship (requires state licensure)
  • Book, print, and media studies

SLIS also offers a specialization in information innovation and organizational change in conjunction with the UW School of Business, and double degrees with the UW Law School, the School of Music, and the Department of Art History. Distance students should note: Specialized courses in art, music and law, as well as courses offered outside SLIS that may be part of specializations or double degrees, are generally not available online. For a distance student with academic background in one of these areas, combining the general LIS degree with the specialized background may be the best preparation. For more information see the SLIS specializations overview page.

School Library Media Services and Administration

To qualify for careers in school library media centers, students require preparation in two professional fields, librarianship and education. A valid teaching license is required for certification in the state of Wisconsin. The teaching license can be obtained before or after completing the SLIS master's degree; it is not required for admission to the SLIS master's program. Preparation in library and information studies includes course work in children's and young adult literature and media, administration of the school's library media center, use of library media and technology in the curriculum, and a field experience.

For those who already are licensed classroom teachers with master's degrees, Web-based school library media courses for certification are available through the UW-System School Library Education Consortium (UWSSLEC).      

Admission to the Master's Program 

The school admits students to its on-campus and distance master's programs once a year, for fall semester. Applications are available in September and are due December 15.

The Graduate School requires a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution, or a comparable degree from an international institution. A minimum undergraduate grade-point average (GPA) of 3.00 (on a 4.00 scale) on the equivalent of the last 60 semester hours is required.

SLIS considers applicants on indicators of their academic abilities, professional promise, leadership and community engagement. An undergraduate program that includes breadth in liberal arts and sciences is required. Any major is acceptable; undergraduate course work in library and information studies should not be so extensive as to dilute the liberal arts component of the bachelor's degree. Prior work experience in a library or other information agency is useful, but is not required. The GRE is not required and is not considered.

TOEFL or equivalent scores are required if English is not your native language, or if your undergraduate instruction was not in English. SLIS requires minimum TOEFL scores of 580 (paper-based); 237 (computer based test CBT); or 92 (internet based iBT); IELTS score of 7; or MELAB of 82. For more information about admission to the master's program, see SLIS MA Application.

Ph.D. Degree

The doctoral degree is a research degree designed to prepare academics to research and teach in information schools. The program emphasizes scholarly writing, interdisciplinary and boundary-spanning inquiry, employment of theory to frame and guide inquiry and analysis, expertise with cutting edge scholarship techniques (including those using new technologies), and preparation in undergraduate and graduate teaching. For more information, see the Ph.D. program description and the Ph.D. Program Planning Guide.

Doctoral Minor in Library and Information Studies

UW–Madison students seeking a doctoral minor in library and information studies work with a SLIS faculty member (serving as minor field advisor) to plan a 12-credit course of study that best meets the student’s scholarship goals. Students may take count SLIS M.A.–level courses and Ph.D. seminars toward this minor.

Doctoral Minor in Print Culture History

Like the study of print culture itself, the minor is intentionally flexible. Students are required to take a minimum of 12 credits in courses whose subjects may range from the history of mass communications, cartography, literature, education, consumer movements, and library and information studies, to subjects dealing with gender, race, age, social class, and sexual orientation issues. At least 3 credits must be from seminar studies at the 900 level. To determine if a course is eligible, contact the Print Culture PhD Minor Director

Admission to the Doctoral Program 

Ph.D. admissions at the School of Library and Information Studies require GRE scores, a GPA of 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) or better in the last 60 hours of academic credit earned; a master's degree in an appropriate field; a detailed written statement of the area of research interest, fit with current faculty and the purpose for pursuing doctoral study; and an interview with the school's Ph.D. committee or other faculty members serving on the committee's behalf. International students must meet Graduate School language and degree requirements.

Applicants whose GPA falls below the required level must provide other evidence of academic ability. (Advice on the type of evidence appropriate to the applicant should be requested from the administrator of the doctoral program.) Applicant qualifications for admission will be reviewed by the school's Ph.D. committee, which will make an admissions recommendation to the director who, in turn, makes a recommendation to the Graduate School. The criteria used in this review include academic promise, the probability that the school's doctoral program will meet the goals and research interests of the applicant, and that the applicant will be able to complete the program successfully. Under certain circumstances, admission may be approved on a probationary basis or with deficiencies. Students will not normally be permitted to continue longer than the first year on probation. For more information see the PhD program admissions page.       

For more information: School of Library and Information Studies, 4217 Helen C. White Hall, 600 North Park Street, Madison, WI 53706; 608-263-2900; fax 608-263-4849.; uw-slis@slis.wisc.edu ; www.slis.wisc.edu