Certificate in Community Informatics

Note: iSchool specializations will be retired this fall. Specializations will not be an option for those starting the MS/LIS program in Spring 2017 and after. If you started a specialization(s) before Spring 2017, you have the option to complete them. If you have questions, please contact Karla Lucht, klucht [at] illinois.edu

After satisfactory completion of 3 Community Informatics courses (12 credits), which can be a part of the MS/LIS program, students may apply online to receive a certificate. LIS 518 CO: Community Informatics, is required and 2 others are selected from a recommended course list. This coursework will introduce students to:

  • ways that diverse communities work to address their problems,
  • theories that adequately account for the complexity and diversity of distributed collective practice,
  • tools to mediate work on concrete tasks within communities,
  • effective processes for developing shared capacity in the form of knowledge, skills, and tools.

With this foundation, recipients of LIS degrees with a CI certificate may work in a variety of settings such as public and school libraries, nonprofit organizations, cultural heritage groups, and municipal governments as librarians, youth media instructors, and researchers, for example. Providing community information and referral is another job option. We especially encourage access to and participation in careers in library and information science for students traditionally underrepresented in graduate study and research.

Please ischool-cdi [at] illinois.edu (contact the Center for Digital Inclusion) if you have questions.

Courseload | Curriculum | Financial Aid | Admission Requirements

Community Informatics

Community Informatics (CI) focuses on the space between two concepts, community and informatics. This stresses that reciprocity must characterize relationships that emerge out of these concepts, because the balance of power among groups is often unequal and resources are used differently. There is a critical need to understand not only how communities access, create, organize, and share information, but also the types and qualities of connections between and among communities. Community members spearhead both naming the issues of the community and the process leading to solutions. People involved in CI use insights from fields such as sociology, planning, computer science, critical theory, women's studies, library and information science, management information systems, and management studies to empower personal, social, cultural, and economic development of and within communities. We prioritize collaborations with marginalized communities to create solutions to the most serious crises threatening society as a whole: poverty, health, violence, food security, etc.

Students in CI work with community members, faculty, and other students to build innovative community technology centers and networks, software, and library services in local, national, and international communities. Coursework focuses on theory, research, and practice in community informatics, social entrepreneurship, and community library and information services. Students are prepared to apply what they have learned to the creation of information services across a wide range of community-based and public interest organizations.

The CI program has unique strengths and expertise that come from fifteen years of University-campus partnerships with people in East St. Louis, Chicago, and north Champaign. More recently we have partnered with organizations in rural Illinois and West Africa. Hands-on engagement with these ongoing programs makes for a blended experience. A partnership between the iSchool and the Puerto Rican Cultural Center in Chicago provides special opportunities for students to pursue their coursework on-site in an inner-city neighborhood famed for its innovative approach to community-based learning. The project-centered approach helps students apply what they are studying to real-world situations that involve community partners in meeting local needs. Students have the potential for sustained relationships with communities.


The MS/LIS degree requires 40 hours of graduate study, including two core courses, LIS 501: Information Organization and Access and LIS 502: Libraries, Information, and Society. Students pursuing the CI certificate take an additional three courses in any order. LIS 518: Community Informatics is required and 2 others are selected from a recommended course list. To complete the certificate, students choose electives that meet their interests and needs. Since each person’s background, goals, and interests are different, other elective courses may be applied toward the certificate after approval. The Center for Digital Inclusion manages the CI certificate. ischool-cdi [at] illinois.edu (Contact CDI) for more information.


LIS 501: Information Organization and Access (4 hours)
LIS 502: Libraries, Information, and Society (2 or 4 hours)

Required CI Certificate Course

LIS 518: Community Informatics (4 hours)

Recommended CI Elective Courses (take at least 2)

Highly Recommended:
LIS 418: Community Engagement
LIS 519: Social Science Research in LIS

Also Recommended:
LIS 451: Intro to Network Systems
LIS 490GIG: Geographic Information Systems
LIS 490SM: Social Media and Global Change
LIS 490ST: Community Informatics Studio
LIS 490YS: Youth Services Community Engagement
LIS 590CA: Community Archives
LIS 590CI: Community Information Systems
LIS 590GL: Local, Regional and Global Intersections in Library and Information Science
LIS 590IBO: LIS590IBL Inquiry-Based Learning
LIS 590SJ: Social Justice in the Information Professions
LIS 590ST :Strategic Information Management

Students may also supplement their program of study by taking other LIS electives, or electives outside the iSchool and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.