[last update: 26 September 2003]


  • ALA, through the ALA Committee on Accreditation, accredits master's degree programs of Library and Information Studies in the U.S. and Canada, based on the ALA Standards for Accreditation, approved by the ALA Council.  There are currently 58 programs at 56 institutions accredited by ALA.
  • ALA participates in the accreditation of master's programs with a specialty in school library media, through membership and participation in the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), using standards developed by the American Association of School Librarians (AASL).  There are currently 16 programs accredited by NCATE using the ALA/AASL standards.

KEY ACTION/PRIORITY AREAS:  Education & Continuous Learning, Personnel Resources
RELATED ISSUES:  Library Personnel - Salaries/Related; Recruitment

Current Goals:

  • Policy 1.3 E:  (1) Library and information science education meets the changing library and information needs of society.   (2) Master's level programs are effectively accredited.

Emerging Issue(s) or Trend(s):

  • A question posed by COA in 1983 resurfaced at the 1st Congress on Professional Education in 1999: What is the profession for which ALA accredits graduate schools?
  • The 1st Congress on Professional Education recommended that ALA explore the feasibility of an external accreditation body.  A task force was appointed and recommended an external accreditation body representing, and receiving funding from, a broad range of library and information organizations.  The proposal received support from the boards of other organizations, but not from ALA.  This COPE1 recommendation is currently pending further exploration.
  • The 3rd Congress on Professional Education recommended that ALA move forward with approval of the 1998 revision to Criteria to Prepare Library Technical Assistants (originally developed within ACRL's Community and Junior College Library Section) and establish a process for the regular evaluation and revision of those criteria. Various COPE discussions also suggested ALA involvement in accreditation of Library Technical Assistant programs.

Key Units/Member Groups:

  • ALA Office for Accrediation/ALA Committee on Accreditation
  • ALA Office for Human Resource Development and Recruitment/ALA Committee on Education
  • American Association of School Librarians/NCATE Coordinating Committee
  • Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL - CJCLS)

Key External Allies/Coalitions:

  • ALISE (Association for Library and Information Science Education)

Key Action/Position Development Milestones:

  • 1883 -- The Committee on Library Schools was appointed to consider current projects and proposals for the education of librarians; their last report was at the 1900 Annual Conference.
  • 1900 - Formation of the Committee on Library Training was authorized. 1905 - ALA recommended 2-3 years of college as a prerequisite to library education.
  • 1923 - The Committee on Library Training recommended that ALA appoint a body to review library training agencies and define standards for evaluating or accrediting them.  The Temporary Library Training Board was appointed.  That year, the Carnegie Corporation published Training for Library Service, by Dr. Charles C. Williamson.
  • 1924 -- The TLTB recommended establishment of a Board of Education for Librarianship, to study the needs of the field, promote the development of library education and develop (for ALA Council approval) minimum standards for library schools.
  • 1925 - ALA Council approved minimum standards for five types of schools: junior undergraduate, senior undergraduate, graduate, advanced graduate, and summer schools.
  • 1933 - ALA Council approved a revision of the minimum standards, defining three types of library schools:  Type 1 (requiring a BA for admission), Type II (requiring 3 years of college for admission) and Type III (requiring 2 years of college for admission).
  • 1951 - BEL recommended and ALA Council approved new Standards for Accreditation, incorporating the basic premise that the professional program should encompass a minimum of five years of study beyond secondary school and should lead to a master's degree.  At the same time, Standards for Undergraduate Training were approved.
  • 1955 - BEL was replaced by the ALA Committee on Accreditation
  • 1962 - The ALA Commission on a National Plan for Library Education was appointed, to reassess needs and make recommendations "for the selection, education, and utilization of professional personnel." By the mid-60s, the ALA Office for Education was established, to coordinate ALA activities related to library education.
  • 1972 - ALA issued new Standards for Accreditation: "the statement of requirements and recommendations emphasizes qualitative rather than quantitative considerations," "the Standards lend themselves to some variation in interpretation...[and] are indicative but not prescriptive."
  • 1984 - The Association of Library and Information Studies Education (ALISE), with an H.W. Wilson grant, convened a conference of 17 library-related organizations, including ALA, to discuss whether the accreditation process could be broadened to provide for governance and operation through a collaborative, mutually-supported mechanism.  COA announced receipt of a U.S. Dept. of Education grant to explore implementation of a collaborative accreditation structure.
  • 1986 - Accreditation, A Way Ahead was issued.  The recommendations were not implemented.
  • 1987 - The AASL Board of Directors voted to ask ALA to join the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education, as a specialized accreditor focusing on graduate programs, within schools of education, with a specialty in school library media.
  • 1988 - ALA Council approved policy 54.2.2, recognizing a master's degree with a specialty in school library media as "the appropriate first professional degree for school library media specialists."
  • 1991 - The Special Committee on Library [School] Closings recommended that the ALA Executive Board "initiate an action program that will (a) recast the image of the functions of library and information science as vital to society in the information age; and (b) influence the direction of library and information science education in the modern age."
  • 1992 - ALA issued new Standards for Accreditation. "....The requirements of these Standards apply regardless of forms or locations of delivery of a program."
  • 1999 - ALA convened the 1st Congress on Professional Education, focused on initial preparation for librarianship. This was followed by the 2nd Congress in 2000 (Continuing Professional Development) and 3rd Congress in 2003 (Support Staff Issues).  See specific Congress reports.
  • 1999 <check> -- ALA Council amended policy 54.2 to recognize a master's degree from a program "accredited or recognized by the appropriate national body in another country..."
  • 2003 - ALA COA issued revised Accreditation Process Policies & Procedures.
  • 2003 - NCATE approved revised ALA/AASL standards for master's programs with specialization in school library media.

Issue Summaries

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