Pursuing Management: How an MMLIS Degree Can Help

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Students studying MMLIS degree coursework.

Leadership skills are essential for modern workers looking to climb the career ladder. They help guide managers as they work to understand and meet the needs of their employees, steer their teams in the right direction and weather challenging circumstances in an ethical and effective manner.

Leadership skills that are particularly relevant today include:

  • Strong ability to communicate
  • Ability to pivot and adapt
  • Ability to leverage technology

The management-centered coursework of USC’s online MMLIS degree means its applications span across industries and careers in the information professions. The core curriculum of this degree is dedicated to advanced management and leadership skills building, helping prepare students to not only serve their local communities but also effectively mobilize teams, lead organizations and manage from every stage of their careers.

Some students pursuing USC’s online Master of Management in Library and Information Science degree may be working toward careers as librarians, library managers or library directors; others may be interested in any one of the many career paths in the information professions such as archivist, curator or digital asset manager. What brings them together is the management and leadership acumen they build as they work toward their master’s degree.

Below, find five ways an MMLIS degree can help students build these leadership skills and prepare for management careers across a variety of industries.

Training in Modern Technologies

Libraries offer a plethora of resources and services, including new technologies that many people can’t get elsewhere. For this reason, an education in library and information science includes an emphasis on technology. American Libraries Magazine points out some of the predominant technology trends impacting not only libraries but also many businesses:

  • 3-D printers
  • Online calendar systems
  • Augmented, mixed and virtual reality
  • Cybersecurity measures
  • Real-time translation
  • Open access, open science and open data
  • Coding and app prototyping

Regardless of the industry, understanding available technologies and adapting to the constant change that comes with them is a critical skill for managers to cultivate.

The USC MMLIS online program offers the Library and Information Technology Management (LIM 562) elective course for those who want to focus on the technologies changing services today.

Networking and Collaboration Skills

The importance of collaboration and networking is well established. Collaboration can help reduce stress levels and increase the odds that a team will successfully meet its goals. As a manager, you may be tasked with creating a collaborative environment for those you work with, enabling different types of people to succeed. Additionally, the ability to network and make connections is critical for building connections with employees, outside vendors, professional peers and more.

Arguably the most critical component of both networking and collaboration is communication. Learning how to clearly communicate with others is especially important for current and future managers. In the library space, for example, communication is also a critical skill for negotiating with vendors and licensors.

How does an MMLIS program support networking and collaboration skills? The USC MMLIS online program has a course dedicated to Management Communication for Leaders (GBSA 502) as well as an elective for fine-tuning negotiation skills: Partnerships and Collaborations in Libraries (LIM 563).

Data-Driven Decision-Making

The ability to properly analyze, synthesize and act on data is an invaluable skill for leaders in any kind of business.

Thanks to modern technology, library leaders can see how many times a particular book is checked out, which programs and activities attract the most patrons, which software programs are most commonly used on the library computers, what age demographic is most likely to frequent the library and much more.  For those working in a library, data is critical to both ongoing growth and the ability to keep operations moving smoothly.

An MMLIS degree highlights the importance of synthesizing and translating information, assessing programs and services, and designing and interpreting different research and evaluation methods. Students can learn to make wise, informed decisions using available data in courses like:

  • Collection Development and Management (LIM 502)
  • Information Description, Organization and Retrieval (LIM 503)
  • Library Information Sources and Services (LIM 535)
  • Library and Information Technology Management (LIM 562)

Adaptation and Application

Technology and outside forces are continually changing the way libraries operate and what services they provide. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic has hugely impacted libraries, creating questions like:

  • How can libraries still serve the public without serving as physical gathering spaces?
  • How can library technologies be used to help communities weather this crisis?
  • What are new and innovative ways in which libraries can serve their communities during quarantine and social distancing situations?

These are very real questions faced by library managers ― as well as business managers ― in 2020. Everyone is changing and adapting to an entirely new world.

An advanced degree helps prepare leaders to be more adaptable and apply their learning in new and different ways to serve the public or their companies. They have to do all of this while launching new and equally important projects, keeping strategic and ethical fundamentals in mind.

What the COVID-19 outbreak has shown is that guidelines that were once sufficient could become unsafe. A current way of operating could be ineffective in a few months if something changes, or if the library expands to offer new services and/or brings on new team members. The ability to continually assess performance and practices and make important, change-oriented decisions is imperative to long-term success for leaders.

The USC MMLIS program offers several courses that correlate to this skill, including ones that help teach students to manage the launch of new projects and initiatives:

  • Legal, Ethical, and Strategic Fundamentals for Library Managers (LIM 537)
  • Library Project Management (LIM 536)
  • Archives and Archival Management (LIM 599)

Growth Mindset Cultivation

Leaders with a “growth mindset” are those who have an ongoing desire to learn, believing talents can be developed and improved through hard work and input from others.

Pursuing a master’s degree encourages students to ask questions, collaborate and continue to seek lifelong learning. The only constant in the world is change, especially with technology and world events demanding that libraries continue adapting to meet needs in new ways.

As leaders, students will likely be responsible for managing change on a regular basis, bringing new and different strategies to the table as they serve local communities and/or employees. The only way to know how and when to change is to keep tabs on their industries and keep current on trends and developments. Modern leaders have to have a consistent focus on growth ― both personally and within their organizations.

The USC MMLIS program offers courses in Research Methods in Library and Information Management (LIM 504) and Strategic Information and Competitive Analysis (LIM 552) to help prepare students for a future that demands constant research and analysis.

Welcome to the Cutting Edge of Leadership

Librarians have had an outsize impact on the world around them, providing the services, tools and amenities that community members need to reach their personal and professional goals. Mildred L. Batchelder, for instance, changed the way libraries operate by striving to bring in resources for school libraries and ensure that children of all races and genders could access them with ease. Louis Shores and Frances Henne saw the need for non-print resources at local libraries and brought in audio-visual materials that have benefitted countless individuals throughout the nation. Marvin Scilken started a campaign that ultimately helped the U.S. Senate to expose price-fixing by publishers while Forrest Spaulding led the charge to oppose the censorship of library collections.

Each of the library professionals mentioned above demonstrated the importance of leadership acumen for driving change in an industry. Whether students pursue careers in the library space or without, the online MMLIS degree can help cultivate the management skills that can help students move their industries forward.


American Libraries Magazine
Harvard Business Review