University of Illinois

Practicum Overview (LIS 591)

A practicum is an excellent way to gain work experience and explore career options in a wide variety of professional settings.

Catalog Description

Supervised field experience of professional-level duties in an approved library or information center. Prerequisite: Completion of 14 hours of library and information science courses. A maximum of 2 hours may be applied toward a degree program.

Because the Practicum is a for-credit work experience, it must meet specific requirements. It is open to students in good standing with 14 or more LIS credits, and earns 2 credits. Practicum students work for 100 hours in an organization under the guidance of a designated Site Supervisor, who has professional qualifications in the area of the Practicum activities, usually for the duration of one semester. Included in the 100 hours is the preparation of a special project. At the end of the Practicum, the Site Supervisor prepares a written performance review evaluating the student's work. A GSLIS faculty member (Practicum Faculty Advisor) oversees the Practicum and assigns the final student grade. The Practicum must be nonpaid, and cannot be undertaken at a student's current or previous place of employment.

Comparison to Internship

In contrast, the Internship is a non-credit work experience. It may be paid or nonpaid. Because the Internship does not earn academic credit, no specific projects or written evaluations are required. Internship students may work for any number of hours over any time period. Students and organizations are free to negotiate the terms of Internships as desired. Follow this link for more information about Internships.

Field Experience Forum

Students may monitor the Field Experience Forum to see a current listing of sites that are seeking students.

In addition, the Internships page lists organizations which frequently offer Internships, some of which may meet the requirements for Practicum.

Program Goal and Objectives

The Practicum is a professional field experience program designed to provide the student with the opportunity to work in a professional environment under the supervision of an experienced librarian or information specialist with the guidance of a GSLIS faculty member. This opportunity allows students to integrate the theory and knowledge of course content with the application of principles and practices in a work environment, including these specific objectives:

  • To gain practical experience based on the understanding and application of theoretical knowledge.
  • To observe the analysis of and solutions to problems arising in professional work settings.
  • To interact with colleagues in a professional work environment.
  • To participate in a representative range of professional activities in the work setting.
  • To develop a professional self-awareness.

Program Participants

The Practicum experience involves the cooperation of four participants - Students, Site Supervisors, Faculty Advisors and the Practicum Coordinator - as described below.


Students have the freedom and responsibility to create the Practicum experience that best meets their interests and career goals. Students initiate the process by identifying library or information sites of interest to them, contacting staff at the site to identify a potential Site Supervisor, and meeting with the Site Supervisor to discuss the parameters of the Practicum. Students also identify and meet with a GSLIS Practicum Faculty Advisor to secure faculty approval for the Practicum. Students complete two required Practicum Forms - the Practicum Contract and the Special Project Abstract - and submit them to the Practicum Coordinator (Roy Brooks).

In order to allow sufficient time to make Practicum arrangements, students should begin the process in the semester prior to the semester in which they wish to schedule the Practicum. For complete information about the student responsibilities, required forms, and lists of Faculty Advisors and past Practicum sites, please see Information for Students.

LEEP Students

LEEP students are also encouraged to participate in LIS 591. The Practicum requirements and responsibilities are the same for LEEP students as for on-campus students.

Community Informatics Students

Students interested in focusing their practicum in the area of Community Informatics will follow all the regular Practicum procedures, and enroll in LIS 591CIC/CIL.

K-12 Library Information Specialist Students

School Practicum, LIS 591M, is required for students in the K-12 LIS Licensure program and highly recommended for students earning the LIS Endorsement on their Illinois Professional Educator License. Students interested in school librarianship will work with the K-12 Program Coordinator for school Practica placements. For complete information about school Practica, please see the K-12 Library Information Specialist Practicum Guide.

Practicum Site Supervisors

The Practicum Site Supervisor is a professional working at the organization where the student wishes to conduct the Practicum. The student and Site Supervisor negotiate a Practicum Contract defining the activities to be undertaken during the Practicum and the Site Supervisor oversees the student's activities at the site. Site Supervisors receive a Tuition and Fee Waiver as a token for service and supervision rendered to GSLIS. For complete information about the Site Supervisor responsibilities and the Tuition and Fee Waiver, please see Information for Site Supervisors.

Practicum Faculty Advisors

The Practicum Faculty Advisor is a member of the GSLIS faculty or staff who offers advising about the Practicum arrangements and activities, approves the Practicum forms, evaluates students assignments associated with the Practicum, and assigns student final grades. For more information about the Practicum Faculty Advisor responsibilities, please see information for Faculty Advisors. For a listing of the designated Faculty Advisors and their areas of interest and expertise, please see the List of Faculty Advisors.

Practicum Coordinator

The Practicum Coordinator offers oversight and assistance to all participants in the Practicum program, including the following:

  • Conveys the purposes, objectives, and requirements of the Practicum to students and Site Supervisors.
  • Maintains a database of current sites, service areas, and Faculty Advisor subject area interests.
  • Assists students in identifying potential Practicum sites.
  • Communicates with sites as necessary for the purpose of administration and assistance.
  • Ensures that the student's file contains the Practicum Contract, Practicum Special Project Abstract, and Performance Review.
  • Periodically posts Practicum opportunities.
  • Sends letters of appreciation and copies as requested by Site Supervisors.
  • Hosts Practicum Focus Discussions for participating students.

For more information on or assistance with LIS 591, please contact:

Roy Brooks
Practicum Coordinator
Graduate School of Library and Information Science
University of Illinois
501 East Daniel Street MC493
Champaign IL 61820
Telephone 217-333-6202
Fax 217-244-3302            
Email: -rebrooks, at  

Overview of the Program Components


  • 2 hours of graduate credit may be earned in LIS 591.
  • Only one Practicum (2 hours) may be used in fulfilling the requirements of the M.S. or CAS degrees.
  • Approximately 100 hours is spent in field work experience with no more than 25 hours of that time devoted to the Special Project.
  • Additional time may need to be allotted for project and additional assignment requirements determined by the Faculty Advisor.
  • The Practicum may not be undertaken at the student's previous or current place of employment.
  • The Practicum cannot be paid.
  • Practicum registration is available to GSLIS degree-seeking students in good standing.


The student and the Site Supervisor arrange a plan for meeting on a regular basis throughout the Practicum. Faculty Advisors also provide meeting opportunities to the student and/or the Site Supervisor either by phone or in person.

Special Project

A Special Project, not to exceed 25 hours of the total 100 Practicum hours, is required. The project should evolve out of a real need or problem of the library or information center. Students should demonstrate their capacity for self-direction and creativity in the planning and implementation of the project. Students complete and submit a Special Project Abstract to document their proposed Project.

Additional Assignments

The Practicum field work experience is a course in which students learn from their work experiences, Site Supervisors and Practicum Faculty Advisors. In addition to the Special Project, the Faculty Advisor may assign other tasks such as: keeping a log or journal; producing a bibliography or literature search; preparing assessments and evaluations of professional practices; or writing a final paper.

Focus Discussions

Students also participate in the LIS 591 course forum in order to share their experiences with other Practicum students and explore issues related to the profession in general.


The final grade (S-U) is determined by the Practicum Faculty Advisor based on the following:

  • Consultation with the Site Supervisor regarding the quality of work, attitude, level of commitment, decision-making ability, and fulfillment of the contract;
  • An evaluation completed by the Site Supervisor;
  • Active participation in the focus discussions;
  • Completion/evaluation of required assignments;
  • Personal observation and contact with the student.

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