School libraries have had it tough lately. When school boards cut budgets, libraries are often one of the first things on the chopping block. With resources so tight, it is extremely important that school librarians use their limited resources to procure the best books possible, while ensuring that the existing stacks are well organized. Not only that, but they also need to be able to direct students to the correct resources if those resources are not available in the school library. Students pursuing an education degree focused on library and resource management learn all this and more in their coursework. What is even better, is that online degree programs are popping up like dandelions, and are almost as cheap.
Cheap, however, does not mean useless; far from it, in fact. Online degree programs actually have an instructional technology advantage in many cases. Take organization, for example. One online school uses software to simulate a virtual library that allows students to practice using the standard library organization systems. Procurement is not a straightforward process, either, and the software that makes it possible can be difficult to learn. In an online environment, the instructor can provide real time guidance to students without the institution having to invest in an expensive computer lab.
One area in which online instruction in library and resource management does not excel is in teaching students actual interaction with library patrons. Internships are probably the best way to learn this. Because of this drawback, some students may wish to pursue their degrees offline at a traditional institution. Not only do most of these institutions have an actual library at which students can practice, but they also have connections with local schools and libraries that can further hone students' skills. Effective pre-enrollment research should make it clear whether the advantages of online study outweigh the disadvantages for each individual student.