Library Education & Licensing
The purpose of this website is to help you explore if school librarianship is for you (and we hope it is!) and then to help you find an education program that will meet your needs. Finding a library education program can be a challenge in some states. ALA-accredited programs are found in thirty-two of the fifty states and the District of Columbia. NCATE-accredited programs are found in twenty-five states, seventeen of which also have ALA-accredited programs. Some states have programs that are accredited by their state departments of education. Many of these programs have distance education components that allow a student to earn a degree with little or no time spent on campus.
What does it mean to obtain certification or licensure?
Certification, licensure or endorsement are terms used by the various states to recognize that a person has taken coursework in a subject area, passed a variety of tests, and/or met competency requirements. The certification or licensure then allows the person to teach or work in that subject area for specific grade levels.
Each state has different requirements to meet in order for a person to receive certification or licensure. For school librarians many states first require certification or licensure as a teacher in another subject area before the librarian certification can be obtained.
Some states require a Master's degree while others require only certification or licensure. Contact the state department of education where you plan to work for details. Many states will accept the teacher’s/library certification from another state. If you move to another state, you will want to check with the certifying agency to see if your certificates are transferable or accepted. With a Master’s degree you have a wider selection of options for employment with other types of libraries, so your mobility, career aspirations, current life obligations, and location will also impact your choice of degree or licensure only.
The University of Kentucky College of Education website on 50 States' Certification Requirements links to the teacher certification requirements in each of the 50 states. If you dig deeply here, you can find the requirements for school librarians.
The School Library Monthly website provides information on School Library Media Certification by State.
Types of Library Education Programs
As you look for programs to become a school librarian, you will also note that they are accredited by different agencies. American Library Association policy states that "[t]he master's degree in librarianship from a program accredited by the American Library Association or a master's degree with a specialty in school librarianship from an educational unit accredited by the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education" is the appropriate first professional degree for school librarians (ALA Policy 54.2.2). Programs accredited by the American Library Association generally educate librarians and information specialists for a wide range of settings from school libraries to academic libraries to the corporate world. If you are interested in moving across library settings it is generally recommended you seek out an ALA-accredited programs. These programs generally meet the licensure requirements for school librarians in the state where they are located but not necessarily for all 50 states.
The National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) also accredits library education programs, many of which lead to a master's degree in education with a specialty in school librarianship. If you plan to focus solely on school librarianship these are also a good option.
Individual states also accredit library education programs which may or may not lead to a master's degree but allow one to work as a school librarian in that state and possibly in other states. Check with each state's department of education for more information on these programs.
Where are library education programs located?
A wide range of educational programs are available.
- Directory of Institutions Offering ALA Accredited Master's Programs in Library and Information Studies
- Search the database of ALA Accredited programs for distance education opportunities
- Nationally Recognized NCATE-AASL Reviewed & Approved School Library Education Programs
- Also, review state-by-state information for state-accredited library education programs.
How do I decide which program is for me?
The American Library Association provides guidelines for choosing a master's program in library and information studies. If you are interested in exploring a distance education program, check out Laura Raphael's article "Far and Away: The Pros and Cons of a Long-distance MLS" (American Libraries, October 2002, pp. 50-52). Interesting in getting the most from your LIS education program? Check out the article “Slow Down: Making the Most of Library School” by Patricia Katopol (May 2010) published by LIScareer.com.
Where can I find financial aid?
Scholarships are available from many agencies and associations. First look to see if your school district helps to pay for classes to add additional certifications or licensure. Check with your state Library Association to see if they offer any scholarships. The universities themselves often have scholarships and financial aid for graduate students.
- ALA has a scholarship program with an annual directory of awards from state library agencies, national and state library associations, local libraries, academic institutions, and foundations who give some form of financial assistance for undergraduate and/or graduate education programs in library and information studies. School librarians are also eligible for some of the other ALA scholarships:
- Marshall Cavendish Scholarship
- David H. Clift Scholarship
- Christopher Hoy/ERT Scholarship
- Century Scholarship (for individuals with disabilities)
- Spectrum Scholarship (for African American, Latino/Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander and Native American/Alaskan Native students)
- ALSC Frederic G. Melcher Scholarship
- ALSC Bound to Stay Bound Books (BTSB) Scholarship
- Mary V. Gaver Scholarship
- Beta Phi Mu Scholarships
- University of Arizona's School of Information Resources and Library Science's Knowledge River Scholarship for Hispanic and Native American Students