What school offers the fastest, cheapest distance MLS program?


Anonymous Patron writes "I'm looking for the fastest, cheapest, easiest to earn distance MLS. It must be ALA accredited. It should be as close to completely online as possible and it should require the bare minimum of on campus time. I do not care about prestige just the quickest cheapest MLS available. Surely I'm not the only one who has embarked on this hunt."


Sometimes education means putting in time. I took the GED my junior year of high school. Having taken all the college prep courses there wasn’t much of a reason to complete my senior year. Was it a waste for me to spend another year and three months in high school when I could start college a year early? I’ve never felt so. Plus I had the time of my life with an extended summer.

At times education does come down to putting in time. Anyone who hasn't taken a class just to finnish is a liar.

If you are smarter and or more experienced than the course work, putting in time is what education becomes. I do not feel the MLS is a challenge. From my experience it is a qualification. Some qualifications just require an investment in time.

Now to start the flame war. I doubt the year spent getting a library degree is any more distinguishing than the sum of expereince pre-MLS. To distinguish yourself with education do something practical like actual work experience or take some truly advanced statistics or accounting course from another department.

Thanks. I appreciate your comments. Unfortunately, the person to whom I was responding with my post paints everyone who attends my school (or one similar) with the same brush: To this person, we're all stupid and lazy and looking for a free lunch. And not worthy of careful consideration when applying for a job. I just wanted to emphasize to this is not the case. Each person/job candidate should be examined on his or her own merits, and not be the victim of some deeply insecure person's prejudices and misplaced arrogance.

Yawn I can't imagine a more boring subject than history of libraries.

Isn't the MLS a hoop? Theoretical librarianship? Wow! finally a term to compliment knowledge mentor and information archictect. It can be lots of work to earn a MLS, but the theoretical work in library science is very week. Most of the arguments and discussions end in pretty obvious conclussions. The MLS could be a whole lot more practical and still qualify as a masters program. A greater emphasis on accounting and practical management issues would truly improve most programs.

Thats a big assumption. Give the slackers credit, lazy doesn't mean stupid.

I don't think anyone said they would not hire you based on your education. But, if you are working on a graduate degree with the attitude that it must be fast, easy and & cheap, this attitude will prevail in your interview. You might appear to be unprepared against other candidates that are doing "extra". Many people feel the library job market is swamped with potential candidates, so many students are looking for the extras a program offers.

I don't think all these comments are meant for someone in your position. You are doing all the "extras" that the original poster appears to want to avoid.

You are doing everything a successful grad should be ding to supplement the traditional classroom instruction

Good luck in your career.

I have to be "in the field" to be in a position to judge "what kind" of advisor or professor the good Dr. would make? No I do not.

I'm no librarian and haven't studied to be one.

Oh, well, thank you for admitting that your comment about Dr. de la Pena McCook was, indeed, pure reactionism, then. After all, if you have absolutely no qualifications in the field, then by your own rules how can you possibly be in any position to judge what kind of an advisor or professor of L.I.S. she would make?

Not all programs are created equal. Yes there are easier programs which are fully blessed by the ALA.


Good grief. I'm no librarian and haven't studied to be one. What's your excuse?

My MLS was far from challenging. The biggest gripe I have about the work is being locked away during a really pretty summer trying to squeeze 12 credit hours into 8 weeks. The classes were not really hard but the time spent making the minimum instructor contact hour requirements was horrendous.

I finished by MLS in 1996, got a job before I graduated at 38k. Cost of housing was around $400. My job was extraordinarily rewarding got to do more than I ever expected. My director prepared me extraordinarily well for my later career. Learned everything from fund accounting to reading blue prints.

My library school experience provided an MLS nothing more. If there was a shortcut I took it. I spent time learning the profs and the mechanics of the classes I took. By doing that I spent less time with the actual class work. That time paid off over and over again by taking the same instructors each semester. Know your audience.

Why did I get a decent salary and a great job? It wasn't because I suffered for education. I'm great in an interview. Very few of my classmates understood the importance of self-confidence, charisma, and the ability to effectively speak. The better employers covet those skills.


I fail to see the correlation.

I expect that a library school in Boston or Chicago will charge a higher rate of tuition even to distance ed. students because, being in a large urban area, the school and its parent institution have much higher fixed costs and higher salaries to pay (not necessarily because they draw better staff, but because the cost of living is higher). Another institution--for example, Texas Woman's University or University of North Texas, both in Denton, TX--may be in a largely rural area where land and other costs are lower. These costs drive up tuition in urban universities without necessarily corresponding to a better quality of education.

All this can be said before getting into the issue of public versus private schools. The latter generally charge more, but not all private schools necessarily provide a better education.

I go to Texas Woman's University, a public institution. If it converts itself to a private university tomorrow, loses state funding and raises tuition accordingly, with all other factors remaining as they are, will the quality and prestige of the program automatically increase in your eyes?

Barry Barancik

Well, no. I wouldn't say History of Libraries was especially easy or especially difficult. It required a lot of reading (1700 pages over the semester plus the textbook), self-direction (we chose our own library history books to read), and discipline (we had to keep a journal in which we explored ideas and concepts addressed in the books we read with a minimum of one typed page of journal for every hundred pages of reading and due at the end of the semester) in addition to a few other assignments. Obviously the subject matter is either interesting or not, depending on the student.
And I'm afraid in your eagerness to *invalidate* my perspective, you missed my point altogether. My "high" salary is not the reason I am happy. It demonstrates that I was externally rewarded for my effort, yes. But my point is that I made the choices I did because of internal "rewards": a tremendous sense of accomplishment, deep knowledge of my realized personal power, the satisfaction of having tested my limits and succeeded without compromising my standards, a fuller, richer, more profound experience of my own life... these were my reasons for expending my best efforts, along with wanting to know as much as I can know. These things are not quantifiable. I simply do not live my life as if I were a machine.
So while you can't *invalidate* my perspective or my experience of my life, you could illustrate wide diversity in experience if you found someone who spent less effort for a higher salary and who also experiences similar internal rewards. (I think I know someone like that - someone who was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple.)


I do not think I said anything about being "stupid." I said the slackers many not be prepared or demonstrate the same abilities as those that have done extra. Getting hired is all in the perception you portray in an interview.

No you didn't say stupid but I certainly do not agree with your viewpoint. Interviews are not about how hard you worked in school. They are about how well you present yourself. Interviews are about selling yourself. No matter how hard the academic work, the candidate with better verbal communication skills has an edge. Why do you equate those seeking an easy program with not being able to excel in an interview? It’s a different skill set that most library science programs don't offer significant opportunities to develop. Most faculty that I’ve encountered aren't capable of providing the necessary instruction.

My advice to someone seeking the cheap, fast, and easy is to attend Dale Carnegie in some of your spare time.


I do not think you read all my comments.

I said someone seeking out the "easiest route" in school, may not be on equal ground of someone that seeked out a harder or more thorough program. From my experience, most (not all) that seek the easy route for school, do little to increase there chances in getting employment. They may have equal or better interview skills, but usually take the easy route in everything they have done to prepare.

People should think about preparing for a career in the same way that athletes prepare for competition...there is always someone preparing more.

It is not the school choice I question, but the attitude of looking for the easiest way instead of the best opportunity to get employment.

I'm looking forward to the day when I will be judged for a job on my skills and abilities, not the quantity of education I have completed.

Sounds to me like an excellent argument for dropping out of high school. Because "education" just means having put in time, right? Doesn't imply actually having learned anything.

I'm sorry for everyone who apparently got nothing out of their MLS programs. Perhaps you went to the wrong program for you. I simply could not be the librarian I am today without all the stuff I learned in my MLS program.

Insightful? Hardly. Elitist and arrogant? Yes!

I've been doing this for 10 years and don't have a masters degree.

I'm sure there is a lot I could learn in getting a MLS degree, but at this point, is it worth the time and effort?

Probably half the jobs advertise salaries lower than what I'm making now, so I see little incentive to get my MLS. Why would I spent $20,000+ to make less money?

I'm looking forward to the day when I will be judged for a job on my skills and abilities, not the quantity of education I have completed.

The MLS is a hoop to jump through.

Hmmm. Don't recall any published story. You could view the archived postings to the alternative student group, alis-shrugged, a Yahoo group. (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/alis-shrugged/). It began as a response in March 2003 so that first month would contain comments about the situation. The university only gave terse statements later when they changed the original group to unofficial status and maintained control over all posts through BlackBoard. Re-reading the March 2003 posts refreshed my memory. The initial flap was directly tied to Gov. Jeb Bush's attempt to close the Florida State Library. Dr. Mccook and others called for library professionals and citizens to publicly denounce this effort. The director of the SLIS program, Dr. Vicki Gregory and the university president, Dr. Judy Genshaft both got nervous about criticizing the govenor and 86'd Dr. McCook without any notification. They didn't post her messages and didn't consult her or explain why. Sorry that the archives don't present a "balanced" view, but the opposing side did not make any public statements that I'm aware of.

The preferred term is "protected class". Can you discriminate based on education? Yes, it occurs all the time. Usually in the determination of whom not to interview based on compliance with the desired, required, or preferred qualifications.

Out of curiosity i'd like to see the list schools whom I should reject all canidates based on attendance.

>Refusing to hire someone who went to a school you view as easy is about as defensable as not hiring based on race

Sorry, one is a protected category, and the other is not. Given your erudition, I'm not going to tell you which.

-- Ender, Duke_of_URL

I am not sure how the program cost and length compare to other institutions, but Drexel Universitydrexel.edu> offers a fully online and ALA accredited programdrexel.com>. Good luck!

P.S. Unlike some others who have responded, I don't see anything wrong with your question. Afterall, practicality can be just as important as theoreticism.

Dr. McCook intrigues me. Is there any place I could read up on the whole flap over moderation?

That is exactly why I posted. When Dr. McCook is wearing her professorial "hat' in the classroom, she is a professional and does not bring her private political views to the forefront. She is passionate about intellectual freedom and the mission of libraries and librarians. She posts her political views on ALIS and ALIS-Shrugged, 2 listservs for the USF SLIS community. She began ALIS when she was the director of the library school, I believe, in order to promote discussion within the SLIS. When the university administration began moderating posts, she refused to be moderated and a student began the alternative, ALIS-Shrugged. This year she is posting to both and USF officially states that neither is affiliated with the administration. Yes, she is progessive, outspoken and left of center. But I believe the question was about her abilities as a professor in library school. The depth of her knowledge and experience is phenomenal. A person who does not agree with her political agenda will not feel uncomfortable in her classroom, unless that person is ignorant and intolerant of others.

"treats opposing views with curtesy"

That's not my perception, hence my earlier comments.

Having just graduated from USf I would like to offer a few words about Dr. McCook from a library student's perspective. She obviously needs no one to defend her as she is a most outspoken person. She is the absolute best professor I encountered in the 2.5 yrs it took me to complete the degree program. Every one of Dr. McCook's classes fill up on the first day of registration. She teaches a seminar in public libraries, a course in Adult Services and an incredible course on Libraries as Cultural Heritage Institutions. She is online and available 24/7. You feel as if you were in a graduate seminar online and one develops an amazing rapport with the other online students thanks to herskill with teaching in an online environment. She respects the diversity of student opinions and treats opposing views with curtesy. Her classes remind one of why we wanted to bother to get the degree and to work in libraries to begin with. My one regret is that I have never had the pleasure of meeting her in person, a minor drawback of distance education.

From my very first post, I have always taken the same stand.

Unless you already have library experience, participate in professional activities, or have a job already lined up, I would worry about limiting your choices to "fast" and "cheap". Fast & cheap will do little to distinguish you from all the other recent grads out there that cannot find jobs.

Everyone has the MLS. I have said several times now, it is how you distinguish yourself the will lead to employment. If all someone does is the "easy" degree program, and does nothing to supplement their education, how have they made themself any different than all the other unemployed MLS graduates?

You are revising your point and adding aditional assumptions. Undue toil is not a quality I see a particular need to respect or admire. Just because someone works harder doesn't mean they are any better at the task. I tend to assume, yes I'm assuming, that the person taking the easier route will work smarter not harder. The MLS is the same no matter how hard you work or don't work.

Freedom is just another word for nothing left to loose. Sorry I bet Janice is a little to liberal.

You missed the point in your self-righteous soliloquy. Isn't that the case with so many passionate arguments? On the surface history of libraries sounds pretty easy. I bet that would gravitate it to the top over many other elective choices.

Your argument is pretty easy to invalidate. One only needs to find someone who spent less effort for a higher salary adjusted for inflation and cost of living. I wonder if those without jobs feel the same way about the effort they spent.

Sorry your library educational experience was so arduous, however it appears that was personal choice. Bet your still waiting for the Trivial Pursuit library history category.

One mans' crank is another mans' freedom fighter:>

I am disgusted and appalled at this question. I hope you are not interviewing for a job at my library. Because if I found out that you were the type interested in the fastest! cheapest! easiest! way of doing things, I'd pass you over in a moment in favor of a candidate who believes in hard work and investing in the future.

Clearly you view the MLIS as a hoop to jump through, no more.

1. Are you interested in an MLIS as a path to a better-paying job? If so, it makes sense that it should require an investment (of time, energy, money, etc), and should involve learning something.

2. This whole issue points to a disagreement among library educatees over what an MLIS is. If it's viewed a trade degree intended to teach ACTUAL JOB SKILLS - along the lines of many technical schools - then grumbling about the impracticality of research-oriented programs may be justified. On the other hand, if it's viewed as an academic degree along the lines of an MA, then grumbling about too-easy programs may also be justified.

I say "may" because, imo, the purpose of the degree is to learn theoretical stuff that may not be immediately useful to one's immediate job, but which is (again imo) essential to understanding the whys behind things, and seeing the bigger picture. I see this as the same sort of question as kids asking "Why do we need to learn history? It's not USEFUL!", or the issue of memorizing math formulas versus understanding why they work.

And thank goodness it's a master's degree, since how many of us who came to librarianship later in life would have been willing to go back to undergrad for it?

Sorry for being anonymous; I just discovered this site and don't have a user account.

Everyone has the MLS, so it can not be all that matters. The ones with the extras (experience, professional involvement, and/or additional skills) are finding jobs and succeeding faster.

If the person's main goal is to attain the MLS, "cheap, fast, & easy" is probably the best criteria. If the person is looking for the best opportunity to find employment, they should consider all criteria and schools as well.

I disagree. Hmmm... spend lots of money and effort and not get a job? Spend less money and effort and still not have a job? Well there fast and cheap wins. It's the MLS that matters, nothing else.

Unless you already have library experience, participate in professional activities, or have a job already lined up, I would worry about limiting your choices to "fast" and "cheap". Fast & cheap will do little to distinguish you from all the other recent grads out there that cannot find jobs.

University of Illinois - Graduate School of Library and Information Scienceuiuc.edu>

Best is a relative term - I'm satistifed with LEEP so far, but I've heard some positive and negative things from outside our little community. The focus is on both asynchronous coursework (bulletin boards, emails, etc) and synchronous coursework (the lectures are given online where you can chat with the other students and the instructor). You also have to attend the on campus day each semester, and a 10 day 'boot camp' at the beginning of the program.

You need 40 credits to graduate, and since most classes are 4 credits you need approx. 10 classes to graduate. It is pretty fast - some students complete the degree in a single year, about 2 years is average taking 2 classes a semester and one class in two summers.

As far as cheap, for in-state students, its about $1400 for 4 credit class. For out of state studnets, tuition is about three times as much and because you have to be resident on campus every semester you'll spend a significant amount of money on travel.

It makes you a librarian. In my opinion there is no high quality MLS program (and most probably needn't be). I agree with Greg that library science could be a fine undergrad degree. In fact I have an undergrad degree in Information Studies and some of the classes were no different than the graduate program.

If you are in school to be a librarian you are probably not challenging yourself with difficult courses because you don't plan to go on to the PhD or do research. If you are using the MLS as a stepping stone to an advanced degree you will probably be more CS oriented than Info Studies oriented so the MLS would take more of a data management track than an info sources & services track.

That said the MLS is not a very rigorous degree in my opinion. I have 2 other degrees that were harder (MS in Chemistry and MBA) for me. I am getting another MS in Irish Cultural Heritages which is not as hard as the first 2 I got... it seems on par or a little harder than my MLS.

However being a librarian did teach me one thing, I can direct you to the resource, in this case hereala.org>.

"Dr. de la Pena McCook"

Wha?? Makes Fang-face look tame. Very scary thought to have to have her as advisor or professor or whatever.

Now, what's with all the anon patrons posting in this thread? If you want to talk smack about a school, do it proudly.

Texas Woman University: a possibility to study further.

Wisconsi-Milwaukee: nope a thesis/comp requirement not going to do something that is not required to meet the minimum. If you could take the comp and kill all your requirements in one fell swoop that would be one thing but to have to do 36 hours then a thesis or a comprehensive examination is nothing to consider.

Clarion: over priced, but it certainly meets the easy requirement. As a graduate of Clarion I can attest to it being fast and easy. It was cheap when I was a resident. Really liked my Clarion experience, but trust me there is no easier degree.

High quality program FSU? You jest.

No better than any other program. There is no marquee name in library science education.

-FSU require 42 hours, which by my calculation is 6 hours longer than the minimum it's out.
-USF requires 39 hours. 3 hours over the minimum

Both affordable via academic common market, but both drop the ball on the fast portion of the equation.

You might try FSU, it can be done completely online. If you are a resident of one of the academic common market states ( here sreb.org>) you pay in state tuition.

The University of South Florida also has a program that can be done online, but I am not certain if it is completely online. Dr. de la Pena McCook if she is on could probably answer that.

Both are high quality programs so I'm not sure easy applies.

I compared commuting two hours to paying out-of-state tuition with distance education programs. The only ones I found (as of 12-04) with reasonable out of state tuition that did not require residencies were Texas Woman's Universitytwu.edu>, Wisconsin-Milwaukee uwm.edu> and Clarion University of Pennsylvaniaclarion.edu> Clarion specializes in rural libraries, but they have not announced additional cohorts.

Other universities offer DE, but either require face-to-face time or out of state tuition is stiff. For example, OoST at Pitt is more than $900 per credit hour.

I think a lot depends on what you are looking for. I decided to commute two hours to Indianapolis for classes and (other than the drive) I'm not regretting my choice.

Exactly. I got my MLS following the fastest, cheapest, and easiest route. One of the brighter decisions I ever made. If you have library experience why follow any other route. An MLS is an MLS. I've been a librarian now for 10 years. Not once have I felt less a librarian for my decision. In fact I really do not believe the profession has a true prestigious institution.

Just remember you get what you pay for.

When I went to library school (Columbia University, 1979-80) I wanted to specialize in rare books and special collections. Columbia was really the only place to go. A degree from any other place at that time would have meant very little. No matter how fast or how cheap, it would have been a waste of money.

So my advice is to look for the best program in whatever subject you want to specialize, more than just the cost or the reputation of the school as a whole.

Very scary thought to have to have her as advisor or professor or whatever.

How very reactionary of you to respond in this fashion; Mdoneil wasn't recommending Dr. de la Pena McCook as an advisor or professor, although I suppose "whatever" might apply since she was used as a reference. I don't see what political affiliations and personal beliefs might have to do with information about whether or not her employer offers distance learning programs, however. A fact is a fact and should not be confused for mere opinion anymore than you should confuse your opinions for facts. I guess when some librarians were studying information sciences they failed to learn how to differentiate between information and barnyard excrement.


It's not fast food, for heaven's sake. Don't bother doing any graduate program if you're not going to wring every bit of learning from it.

Online programs take a lot of discipline and commitment. I've heard they are harder than in-person ones. Don't think you're going to get a free ride. If it's really an accredited school, you'll have to work.

BTW - don't bother applying where I work, either.

Using efficiency as the basis to evaluate your life and life choices? Hmmm... sounds just like Melvil Dewey, which you would know if you took a History of Libraries course. You wouldn't do that though, because it's not essential and wouldn't be the most efficient use of your time.
Yes, use your critical thinking skills. I applaud and value efficiency in the operation of a library or other organization. But I would evaluate success by other more human, less machinistic criteria, like the overall vibrancy of the Library Friends group or of the library itself. You can behave as if you are a machine if you want to - it's your life.
Why go the extra mile? There are those who value experience and knowledge for its own sake, for its ability to test and strengthen our character, to show us the limits of our capabilities, to know ourselves and our lives fully. Working hard can be a worthwhile experience. Working smart and working hard are not mutually exclusive. I suppose on this we can agree to differ.
Incidentally, I worked full time for a publisher while I attended library school full time, while I parented my daughter full time, while I also volunteered for about 3 different local grassroots/charity groups. I didn't get a whole lot of sleep for those two and a half years and I didn't watch TV. I was hired within 4 weeks of my graduation at a decent salary ($40K in a rural area where housing costs are about $400 a month) to create a brand new school library for a three-year-old private high school. I'm very happy with the choices I made to get to this point and I enjoy 99% of my job. Would I have gotten to this point if I had put in less than my best effort? Doubt it.