Hack Your Program: Indiana University-Indianapolis SLIS

*Disclaimer: These are my personal opinions and are not representative of the student body. I started in Fall 2010 as a full-time, out-of-state student. All criticism is meant to be constructive.

SLIS classrooms are on the first floor and the basement.

I go to the  School of Library and Information Science at Indiana University-Indianapolis (a.k.a. IUPUI). It’s a nice campus that located just west of the downtown area. Overall, I would say that my program has a very traditional approach to the LIS education. For example, we graduate with an MLS, not an MLIS. Students can either take classes online, on-campus, or long-distance, via satellite classes, although long distance learners are required to take at least one class in person. I moved here from CA because I wanted to attend a school in person, so I mostly am taking on-campus courses, which works best for me personally. I really have connected with the student body and the professors here, which has made my experience really awesome.

Concentrations and/or specializations:
There are three main tracks that people take, academic, public, and school media specialists. Additionally, there are some dual degrees and specialization certificates offered on this campus. Some that stand out in my opinion are the MLS/ Master of Science in Health Informatics and the MLS/ Master of Arts in Philanthropic Studies. These are specializations that I haven’t seen offered at many other schools.

Financial aid:

SLIS Indy has several graduate assistantship positions, either in the SLIS office or at the university library. Getting a GA position means you get 6 credit hours a semester reimbursed, you work 20 hours a week, and get a bi-weekly stipend. However, you must apply by May 1 for the following fall semester to be eligible for consideration. Otherwise, financial aid can be found through FAFSA and work-study positions. I also suggest looking at professional associations to look for scholarships. The down-side to this is that the university library here cut the GA program for the next year so now students primarily work in the SLIS office.


Here at SLIS, we have 15 credit hour foundational courses that we must take. The degree is a 36 credit-hour program, which takes about 2 years to complete if you go to school full-time.

Core Classes:

  • Collection development
  • Library management
  • Introduction to research
  • Reference
  • Cataloging or representation and organization of information.

After we take these core classes, the rest of the coursework are electives which we can tailor to our own interests. We are also allowed 6 units outside of SLIS, if we want, as long as it is approved by an advisor. This means 6 units at the Bloomington campus or in another department. Personally, I wish that I didn’t have to take all of the foundational courses but in the end, I suppose I will graduate with a well rounded education. Our degree does not require a final project or a thesis, so students feel either relieved or directionless. We have the option to do directed research or reading for credit, so if students feel compelled to take on a personal research project, they can do so for credit. I think it would be nice to feel like I was working towards a capstone project or some sort of culminating final project, as opposed to taking a bunch of classes, then just being done. There’s not any room in our program for that level of self-reflection, which might be very helpful in a graduate degree.

Internship availability:

IUPUI has several libraries on it’s campus, including law, art, medical, and dentistry libraries. In addition, Indianapolis is home to several museums, special libraries (like the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library) and private companies which offer volunteer and internship opportunities for SLIS students. As a result, this is a great campus to get practical experience. Internships are not required, but students can earn up to 6 credit hours for internships that they do.

We also have this great program, The 21st Century Leadership Program, funded through an IMLS grant that provides students with the opportunity to do an internship for credit and take a leadership forum class. These credit hours are paid for, in addition to a stipend and travel grant money. You can do your internship anywhere as long as it’s approved by your advisor. This allows students to get practical experience and be paid for their time. However, funding for this program might only be for 2011.

Student Involvement:

IU Bloomington has the ALA Student Chapter, plus many other great student groups geared towards all the specialty degrees. We have ALISS, our own student group which I was recently elected as the Chief Information Officer. Unfortunately, getting people to participate is hard because our school has many commuters and long-distance students. Every semester there are brown-bag lunches with professors, guest speakers and special events, connecting students to alumni and faculty.


  • Nice campus and main library. The classrooms are all up-to-date and have a.c. in the hot summer. I say this because I’m taking a class in Bloomington and the classroom is really stuffy (I know, this is a personal thing).
  • Many opportunities for students to get practical experience since this campus is located in an urban setting. The Indiana State Library is two blocks away from campus and welcomes SLIS students to come volunteer on projects that align with students interests.
  • Great student body and faculty. Everyone here is really friendly, which has helped me feel more welcome in a new place. The faculty are pretty approachable and are willing to talk to students, even if they’re not their advisor.
  • SLIS Indy/ IUPUI UL Joint Research Conference is held here in our library. It’s a great way for students and the librarians to interact and hear about what research projects. It’s also an opportunity for students to present their research in a low-pressure setting, since they have the home team advantage. I wrote more about it on my blog and I volunteered to be on the planning committee for next year. It’s a good way to get experience with conference planning!

Areas for Improvement:

  • No option for MLIS. Yes I know, it’s a single letter difference, but it matters to some. I recently found out that IU-Bloomington is part of the iSchool caucus, and I think their course offerings reflect that. Even though we are supposed to be the same school, our courses differ. More information science classes would be awesome.
  • More technology classes would be nice. IUPUI has an informatics program, including a master’s program in human computer interaction. If only we had some of those classes, but geared towards library students. Think of the possibilities!
  • Limited opportunities to get instruction experience. This is a requirement for many academic library jobs, but at our school, it’s hard to get that experience unless you find an internship that allows you to do information literacy instruction. The professor who normally teaches the education of information users course didn’t teach it this past year; so many students never had the chance to at least take the class dedicated to this area of librarianship.

Looking forward:

Next year, IU is going up for ALA re-accreditation. This means that all the faculty members, from both campuses, are looking critically at the program and potentially making some changes. For IU-Indy, an academic librarian track is most likely going to be added. We also got a new Executive Associate Dean, Dr. Lipinski  this past January, so I do expect more changes in the coming years.

Overall, I would say that this program is very heavy on practical experience and lighter on theory. Many of our class projects have us go out into the community and talk to real librarians. I really appreciate that aspect of my education because I think it enhances my understanding of librarianship.

If anyone has any questions about IU please ask away. I am not the lone spokesperson for this program so IU Bloomington students, IUPUI students, if you guys have any experiences or thoughts you want to add, please go ahead and add any additional comments or experiences to address anything I missed.

15 replies

  1. Annie, you did a fantastic job summarizing the program. I agree with your description, strengths and areas for improvement. In the last category, I would add the following:

    The classes I’ve taken so far (halfway through the 36 credits) generally seem more relevant to academic librarianship. I would like to see more class content for public librarianship and perhaps school librarianship. Considering the urban setting of the Indianapolis program and the small-town setting of the Bloomington campus, it would make sense to skew the Indianapolis program toward public and school librarianship and the Bloomington program toward academic librarianship. Another division of emphasis could be large public libraries (Indianapolis) and smaller rural and suburban public libraries (Bloomington).

    Both programs would benefit from more coursework in technology (particularly management of e-content); advocacy (community relations, communications, social networking and marketing) and, as you mentioned, instruction.

    In general, the IU program seems a bit dated, as though it were preparing students more for what librarianship has been than for what it is becoming.


    • My hope is that they will make some changes to the curriculum or even just update some of the core classes. For example, in collection development you could have people creating online libguides for a subject area of their choosing. Stuff like that would be a step in the right direction.


  2. “…students feel either relieved or directionless.” This is a great point that I think might be endemic of LIS educational generally – what happens in the end? You finish 2 years of courses, maybe an internship to show for it, but what of scholarship, engaging difficult ideas, challenging the educational/theoretical paradigms through research and writing? FSU has a thesis option, and I am still kicking myself for not doing it. I’d love to have some piece of writing that I really put a lot of effort and thought into that would contribute to the field and summarize my education. This kind of ties back to my Publish or Perish post.

    Anyways – great review Annie.


    • I concur! Annie has amazing posts.

      I agree that some sort of thesis program would give my fellow students a sense of direction and accomplishment, but there is one option that is Annie mentioned that no one really talks about. Producing scholarship in the research field. Annie mentioned the joint research conference that was held on our campus, in our library this past semester, and it was brought together by one of the most well known (and loved) professors we have. Andrea Copeland, formerly Japzon.

      Andrea also teaches the Intro to Research class that some students are either required to encouraged to take. She also is very vocal in asking, cajoling, brow-beating, and encouraging students to continue on and finish their research, and have it published. While proposing, conducting, collecting, and analyzing research is no breeze, neither is writing a thesis. I believe that having the chance to conduct and write up research that you the student did and felt connection with can be just as rewarding as a thesis.

      Annie Rocks.


  3. I agree that an MLIS option would be nice. I know that I could probably qualify for information/knowledge/buzzword management jobs, but I’d feel more prepared if I had more course work in that area.

    And it’s really too bad that University Library is cutting back on the GA program – I was able to get a year’s experience on the reference desk and in ILL, AND didn’t go deep into debt this past year.

    Speaking of which, the price tag for the program is a good selling point. Annie, I don’t know what the out-of-state cost is, but the rates for in-state students were what convinced me to move back from beautiful Washington state while I could still qualify for them.


  4. The MLIS is the big downer for me too. On some level, it seems like the program is burying its head in the sand regarding technology, just as Michael was suggesting. The courses that are offered are still pretty basic. Whenever I look at Bloomington’s schedule of classes, I get really jealous.


  5. I’d echo the comments regarding technology. In my time in the program (August 2008 – December 2010), I was most surprised at how little the courses incorporated the technology that we will so clearly need to be comfortable with in our future jobs. There were a few times I was able to adapt assignments in order to experiment with technology (used WordPress to do what was supposed to be a handwritten journal, etc.), and I did appreciate that flexibility from the faculty. I had considered sticking around to complete the extra 9 credit hours for the certification in Library Technology Management, but my experiences in the technology-focused courses were so disappointing that I decided I’d be better off saving my money and learning what I need on-the-fly.

    I also felt a little adrift sometimes because I’m more interested in special libraries than the more traditional public/academic/school paths. Fortunately, I’d say the majority of the classes I took could apply to basically any type of library job. Overall, I enjoyed my time in library school, and despite its limitations, it was a much better fit for me than social work!


  6. I have tried to heed the call to contribute to this blog but I have never received a reply back so I will try to “hack this site” in order to “hack my program” and hope this comment gets approved. I’ll keep this short though just in case and write more if the web is truly “our campus’ meaning all of us and not “our campus” meaning the first few people who signed up to be “hackers” on this blog.

    So, I went to the University of Sheffield where the Information School has been ranked number one in the UK in terms of quality of research for the last 24 years in a row. It is often seen as the most balanced school of the three major programs with University College London being very traditional and Loughborough being very tech-driven.


    The degree is not an MLS but rather an MA in Librarianship which I found refreshingly direct and explicit. Other options include: Info Systems, Info Management, Info Literacy, Digital Library Management, Health Informatics, and Multilingual Info Management. Within the Librarianship program, emphasis could be placed on studying academic libraries, public libraries, or children’s services.

    Financial Aid

    At the University of Sheffield, most nationalities can get an automatic 2,000 pounds off tuition just for studying abroad. In addition, funding is available through FAFSA just as if you were going to school in America.


    There were standard courses on the three areas of emphasis listed above, of which it was required that at least one were taken. In addition, there was a compulsory management class which spanned both semesters. Aside from that, there was ample room for customization to fit individual needs. I took a course on building a CMS from scratch using PHP, HTML, CSS and SQL as well as building e-learning objects with WIMBA, Blackboard, and Second Life. What is interesting about the coursework is that it is taught by committee so that the lecturer with the most knowledge on a subject is always the one teaching that material. In addition, there were a number of notable guest speakers including Camila Alire and Jo Bryson.


    Most students came into the program already having worked in libraries still a select number of internships were available as well as positions at the university library. I think about 5 of my classmates worked at the library and I had an internship at a small corporate library.

    Student Involvement

    Ned Potter’s LIS-NPN is active at the university as is a social society for iSchool students.


    The campus is beautiful and everything related to the information school is mostly all housed in one building which is convenient.

    Also, the library (information commons) is open 24 hours and includes silent study spaces and silent computer labs which are great for when deadlines are looming.

    Lastly, the faculty are all well-published, internationally-recognized experts in their fields.

    Areas for Improvement

    This is speaking specifically as an American studying in the UK.

    On the Internet, there is plenty of information on the UK Post-Study Work Visa which, as the name implies, allows you to work after studying and begin the process towards gaining citizenship. However, there is a separate law that you won’t hear much about which basically states that if anyone in the EU applies for a job that you apply for they will be given the job first. In other words, it will be very hard to stay in the UK and work. Also, while in the UK, it will be very difficult to even find part-time work.

    Also, if you just plan to come back to the States you may find that although CILIP and ALA have a reciprocity agreement and recognize each others credentials, employers may not accept the CILIP-accredited degree as an equivalent to an ALA-accredited degree.

    In short, even though the education is excellent you will be hindered when looking for a job in the UK or in the US. In the end, I ended up going back to Korea to regroup and I will be beginning my job search again in the near future. If I have better luck, I will post an update but for now, despite the quality of the program, it is difficult to recommend studying outside the US.


    • Michael,

      Thank you for being forward about getting your content up here. Please forgive us for falling behind on contacting people about guest posts – for a few of us graduation and job hunts have been a priority these past weeks, to the detriment of the blog. If it’s alright with you, I’d love to publish this as a full post. email me at micahvandegrift at gmail and we’ll work out the details.


  7. You didn’t mention the Technology Management Specialization. For better or worse, that’s what I decided to do. I think on this track you are exposed to a lot more technology than in the traditional program. However, I came into this program with a Bachelor’s in Computer Information Systems, so the technology classes I have taken so far have felt very basic. I’d forgotten a lot of stuff, and it’s valuable to know how technology relates to libraries. So I wouldn’t say any of the classes are a waste of time or anything (okay, maybe a couple of them are). I know most people going into a library program don’t have technical backgrounds, so I don’t hold that against the school. I’m not really interested in a being a computer programmer or IT person anyway (hence library school), so I think it’s more important to sort of understand how technology is changing libraries and learn about how to apply it to the profession to hopefully make it better and keep it relevant. I do kind of wish there was an MLIS. The Tech Specialization is probably the closest we’ll get.


    • Yes! I totally forgot to mention that. I feel like I have taken several of the classes that are in that specialization but I don’t think I’m going for the certificate. Thanks for mentioning it!


  8. Great review Annie! I just graduated from the Bloomington campus and I would say some comments hold true to both campuses. I think some of the IUB classes tend to be heavier on theory, in part because there is a slight i-school focus (but the ischool people would beg to differ) and because many of our faculty have never been practicing librarians.

    -The Bloomington campus has slightly more opportunity for instruction experience on campus (but still lacking in my opinion).

    -We also have more technology courses but the information science side doesn’t merge well with the library side. So you make take a PHP course, but never even talk about the application in a library. Additionally in the library side courses much of the technology/material is outdated. We have our own computer lab, but much of the software is outdated, including some lovely Windows XP computers that for some reason can’t even open Adobe PDFs…

    -We follow basically the same curriculum

    -There is more student involvement primarily because Bloomington is not as much of a commuter campus like IUPUI, and many SLIS students work on campus so it feels like you are always there. We did work with ALISS last year for one event, but it is hard to communicate across the campuses. I’m sure Bloomington would love more collaboration!


  9. I just found this post and thought I would join the conversation. I graduated from SLIS-IUPUI in December 2009. I was a commuter student from Lafayette and took courses on-ground and online for the duration of the program. While I received a good education, I do think it lacked in some major ways and now that I am actually working as a Research Librarian I can vocalize them clearly. First, I agree that there was not enough camaraderie among the students and networking is so important in our field. I wish I had gotten a chance to know some of my fellow classmates better but when the majority of the population are commuting, I’m not sure this is feasible. I also felt that since I was a commuter student, I was out of the loop in terms of really getting to know my professors on a working level as I did not intern or take on an assistantship as I had a full-time job elsewhere. I know this was a feeling other students in my graduating class felt as well.

    I also agree that there needs to be more in terms of focused research. It would be so beneficial to those of us who wanted to go the academic route to have a research proposal or a working paper already finished that could be put on our CV. I was fortunate enough to take on an independent study with Professor Schilling my last semester and working with her was invaluable as I got to see how the research process actually worked outside the classroom. In my opinion, it is more important to actually SEE how something is done instead of “in theory.”

    There needs to be a teaching component. I cannot stress this enough. I graduated and never had the opportunity to teach and I was lucky in that I found other ways to gain that experience. If you go the academic route, you will need to do a presentation, usually a teaching presentation on a topic provided for you. I can’t even imagine doing this if I had not gained any teaching skills. And for those who go into public libraries and even corporate or special libraries, teaching skills are just as valuable as you will more than likely be leading workshops and programs. We need those skills in order to build up confidence in front of people and what better way than to prepare while still in the graduate program in front of your peers.

    And lastly, IU-Bloomington has way more course options and specializations that IUPUI and I think that is a shame. Most commuter students do not have the opportunity or the time to take classes on the main campus. I would have loved to take a class or two in Rare Books or Conservation but it just wasn’t an option at IUPUI. Once upon a time there was talk of a dual degree program with SLIS and the Museum Studies Program at IUPUI and I waited patiently for that to happen. Sadly, it never came into fruition but I think it would have been a very popular choice for many students.

    All in all, I am glad I went to IUPUI. It was a smart economic choice for me but beyond that, I did gain the necessary skills to land a fantastic job once I graduated. As with any program, most of your real learning will happen the moment you start your profession.


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