School of Information Sciences - Library and Information Science Program

Public Libraries Area of Interest

Fall Term of Entry only.

According to the American Library Association, there are more than 16,000 public libraries across the United States and 58% of adults in this country have public library cards.  Thus, public libraries…and the professionals who staff them…play a critical role in society. The public library is more than a repository of books. Such libraries provide FREE access to digital resources such as databases, local and national newspapers, job hunting tools, the Internet, and physical and electronic books and publications. They host programming to enhance financial literacy, to increase reading proficiency, and to gain skills in using new technology. Perhaps most importantly, they provide a welcoming, safe place in which to find information and a community. At this time of economic distress, the public library is a refuge and a resource for many who greatly need both.

“You are on the front lines of a battle that will shape the future of our country,” Caroline Kennedy said in a speech at the Carnegie Corporation of New York/New York Times I Love My Librarian Award ceremony in New York City in December 2011. “It is a battle that is fought out of view, and the heroes are people who didn’t seek a career of confrontation but who live lives of principle and meaning—understanding that the gift of knowledge is the greatest gift we can give to each other. Whether it is providing a social environment for seniors, a safe space for kids after school, or a makerspace to unleash the talent in the community, libraries are becoming more important than ever.”

Public librarians are called upon to provide a great variety of services to patrons and programming to very diverse communities. They have the skills and knowledge to go beyond search engines in helping people find the right information by clearly defining the information need, identifying potential sources of information, and ensuring the validity of the gathered information.

As a publically-funded entity, the library's resources are available to everyone, which is one of the great challenges of this type of career. Public librarians work with those who know how to use the web and do research, and those who are just learning these skills. The public librarian works with those who are just learning to read and those who have a lifelong love of learning. The professional will assist children, adults, corporations, media outlets, and government agencies in the search for appropriate information.

In addition, the library serves as an increasingly important venue for community based events and programs. For example, a public librarian might be asked to plan and host events such as 

As part of the local fabric of a town, the public librarian goes beyond the physical walls of the building to provide service connections via social media, community daycare centers, Farmer’s Markets, Literacy Volunteers of America and so forth.  Public librarians are part of local-based movements such as the "pop-up" library and the Little Free Library movement.

Our teaching is informed and inspired by personal experience, current research and leading thinking in the field. The courses in the Public Libraries area of interest will equip you for the challenges and demands of planning, managing and delivering resources and services through exploration of their historical contexts, current positions, and future directions.

The Public Librarianship Program of Study

All students in this area of interest will take the four core MLIS courses (12 credits).

Prescribed courses (12 credits) from the list below:

Electives (12 credits):

*The Field Experience is a 3-credit/150 hour program of supervised professional work.  Although not required in the Public Libraries area of interest, it is highly recommended for students who lack professional experience. 

To view the term in which a class is offered, please see the Projected Course Offerings.

Click here for the current plan of study.


The Public Libraries area of interest is supported by a team of full-time regular faculty and adjunct faculty, all of whom are experienced practitioners in the field.
Elizabeth Mahoney, Lead Faculty

Professional Organizations

Financial Assistance

The Partners Program
The Partners Program provides students with real-world experience and financial support as they earn their master’s degree in Library and Information Science. In the past, students interested in academic libraries have gained experience at the libraries of Carlow University, Carnegie Mellon University, Chatham University, Duquesne University, Point Park University, Robert Morris University, and a variety of locations within the University of Pittsburgh Library System.


For more information about this area of interest, please contact our Student Recruitment Coordinator at or 412-624-3988.

Strong Foundation

The blend of theory and application at the iSchool distinguishes its graduates in the job market, giving them a strong foundation of theoretical knowledge and practical experience.