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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:Ph.D. Minor in Library and Information Studies; Ph.D 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 Pawley (director), Downey, Robbins; Associate Professors Eschenfelder, Kim, Whitmire; Assistant Professors Paling, Rubel, Smith, Willett


The Wisconsin Library School was founded as a summer school under the auspices of the Wisconsin Free Library Commission in 1895. By 1906, it was a full-time professional program. Three years later it became affiliated with the University of Wisconsin. In 1938 the school came under the direct supervision of the university in the College of Letters & Science.

Today the School of Library and Information Studies (SLIS) is a graduate professional school offering a program of education in library and information studies at the master's and doctoral levels. In addition, SLIS operates one of the world's largest continuing education programs for library and other information workers. The school is a member of the Association for Library and Information Science Education. 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 by the State Department of Public Instruction for licensing of school library media specialists.


SLIS exists to educate professionals to bring together information in all its cultural forms and the people who need or want it, thereby contributing to individual and collective knowledge, productivity, and well-being; to create and disseminate knowledge about recordable information, its users and uses, the services, processes, and technologies that facilitate its management and use, and the economies and policies that impact access to it; to provide for the continuation and enhancement of the faculties of schools of library and information studies through a doctoral program built on interdisciplinary research and teaching excellence; and to help shape the future of the library and information professions.


The school is known internationally for its focus on service. The faculty and staff are known as leaders locally, in the state and regionally, nationally, and internationally as they take on key service roles in organizations in each of these arenas. In addition, service is a core value and mission of the school's more than 4,000 graduates. Service is also a key component of the SLIS Continuing Education Services (CES) (see Current Continuing Education Courses & Conferences ).

The variety of continuing education programs offered by CES provide library and archives staff at all levels with the opportunity to develop professionally. This includes both the ever-changing information technology skills needed to function at ever more sophisticated levels of expertise, and the management/leadership education that leads to higher levels of public service.


The School of Library and Information Studies occupies some 22,000 square feet on the fourth floor of Helen C. White Hall. Facilities include administrative offices, faculty offices, instructional laboratories, a conference room, and a student commons. The school maintains its own laboratory library containing more than 65,000 volumes and providing access to over 400 periodical titles in the area of library and information studies. The laboratory library provides an in-house site for many class projects and practicum opportunities. Students are encouraged to use the laboratory library to design and carry out research and gain practice in various aspects of library and information service. The school's computer lab is attached to the library and allows access to specialized tools and databases besides those available on the campus network. Many user education workshops are facilitated in the computer lab by library staff and students; book discussions and other programs take place in the library. The laboratory library also provides a home base for several community outreach projects as well as the office for student organizations.

The Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC) is a unique gathering place for books, ideas, and expertise in the field of children's and young adult literature. Located in proximity to the school, it provides a noncirculating examination, study, and research library for Wisconsin school and public librarians, teachers, early childhood care providers, university students, and others interested in children's and young adult literature. The CCBC, part of the UW–Madison School of Education, receives additional support from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

The extensive collections and services of the UW–Madison General Library System and numerous specialized libraries are available to all students, as is the library of the Wisconsin Historical Society. The many business, college, and state agency libraries in the Madison area offer a range of specialized employment and praticum experiences. The Madison Public Library, with its central building and variety of branch services, provides an important laboratory. The Madison public schools have a strong program of library media centers, with a variety of patterns of organization, and demonstrate a centralized technical services plan.

Master's Degree 

Through the SLIS on-campus and distance master's degrees, students prepare themselves for a wide variety of positions available in libraries, archives, and information centers, and for other information work. The information professions are concerned with the ways people create, collect, organize, store, analyze, find, distribute, and use information. Employment opportunities in the information field are as diverse as the people who work in it; examples of some of these opportunities are librarian, digital librarian, information resources manager, abstractor or indexer, archivist, records manager, online search specialist, information broker, children's or young adult services specialist, information architect, and information products and services sales representative. The core of the master's program focuses on theories and philosophies of knowledge and information in its historical, economic, social and cultural perspectives; the information infrastructure including multiple information environments, diverse users and their needs; organization of information; philosophies, theories, and values of the library and information professions; and professional practices. Specialization, which combines information studies with other disciplines or professional fields, can be individually designed for students.

Goals of the Master's Program

Graduates of the master of arts degree program will have knowledge, skills, and understandings sufficient for the practice of librarianship and information service at a basic professional level in a technologically and culturally diverse, global society. The M.A. program will also provide a foundation, including relevant concepts from fields outside library and information studies, upon which students can build further competence and specialization. Specialization beyond the basic or general level can be accomplished by completing additional courses or learning experiences beyond the 42-credit master's program, or by careful selection of elective courses and learning experiences within the 42 credits. Other specialties may be developed by combining advanced study in the school with study in related academic disciplines. Supervised field practice also provides a valuable way to strengthen specialized study. The school cooperates with Wisconsin libraries and information agencies to provide such practicum experiences.

Master's Program in 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, 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).

Master's Program in Library and Information Studies Emphasizing Archives and Records Management Administration (ARA)

This specialization, begun in 1967, is designed to prepare graduate students, primarily in library and information studies and history, for professional archival and records administration positions.

Double Degree Programs

Another way that students gain preliminary specialization is to combine the master's degree in library and information studies with advanced degree work in other fields. College and university libraries especially recognize the value of master's and doctoral degrees in subject fields such as area studies, art history, history, and law. In some jurisdictions, academic librarian appointments are tenure track and may require a subject master's for continuing employment. SLIS offers a dual degree with the Law School and a double degree program with the School of Music. Other double degree programs are under development.

Other Areas of Specialization

Students can tailor their course work to specialize in other areas, such as academic, public, or consumer health/medical librarianship; book studies and print culture; children and young adult services; digital libraries and resources; and other areas of interest. For more information about the master's program,  see the Future Students on the SLIS website.

Ph.D. Degree

The doctoral degree is a research degree, and though the program permits specialization in course work, the emphasis is on comprehensive knowledge in library and information studies and on research proficiency. The program prepares students for careers in teaching and research. For more information, see the Ph.D. program description and the Ph.D. Program Planning Guide.

Ph.D. Minor

A SLIS faculty member, serving as minor field advisor, shall determine the adequacy of library and information studies preparation, using as a guideline the completion of 12 credits composing a unified program that is judged by this advisor to equip the student appropriately. Throughout the student's progress, the school's faculty member must be kept informed by appropriate means, such as early consultation, notification of dissertation topic proposal, and service as a member of the reading committee for the dissertation.

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.

Admission to the Doctoral Program 

The School of Library and Information Studies requires 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 library and information studies or other 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. GRE scores are not required for admission to this school.

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: 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.