ALA   American Library Association Search ALA      Contact ALA      Login     
American Association of School Librarians logo
American Association of School Librarians
School Libraries & You button Education & Careers button Issues & Advocacy button Awards button About AASL button AASL News button
Publications & Journals button Conferences & Events button Professional Tools button

Library Education & Licensing  
  Online Continuing Education
  Professional Learning Communities
  School Library Media Education Programs
  Recruitment to School Librarianship
   Learning about the Job
   Library Education & Licensing
   Finding a Job
   Recruitment Ideas
   State-by-State Information
  Conferences & Events
  Calendar of Events
  National Board Certification
Opens new window to print this page

Library Education & Licensing

The purpose of this Web site 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 statesNCATE-accredited programs are found in twenty-three 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.

State Requirements

Each state has different requirements to meet in order for a person to receive certification or licensure. For school librarians or library media specialists 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 selections 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 Web site on 50 States' Certification Requirements ( links you to the teacher certification requirements in each of the 50 states. If you dig deeply here, you can find the requirements for school library media specialists.

The School Library Journal publishes an article that lists the latest requirements for school librarians. Along with the requirements the name of the agency that oversees library certification and its Web site is also given. In the most recent article cited below, an e-mail address is listed when available. The requirements are ever changing and the most recent article states that 17 states had “revised or updated their library media specialist certification requirements” since the last update was published. It is imperative that you check first the Web site then personally contact the state agency in charge of certification to seek clarification or answers to your questions. Whomever you talk to get their name and direct phone number so that you can contact them again in the future.

Thomas, M.J. and Perritt, P.H. (2003, Dec.). "A Higher Standard." School Library Journal,  49 (12), 52 (6p.).

Types of Library Education Programs

As you look for programs to become a school library media specialist, 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 library media from an educational unit accredited by the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education" is the appropriate first professional degree for school library media specialists (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 library media specialists in the state where they are located but not necessarily for all 50 states.

The National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education also accredits library education programs, many of which lead to a master's degree in education with a speciality 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 library media specialist in that state and possibly in other states. Check with each state's deparment of education for more information on these programs.

Where are library education programs located?

A wide range of educational programs are available.

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).

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 Media Association to see if the offer any scholarships. The universities themselves often have scholarships and financial aid for graduate students.

  • The Become a Librarian Web ( page provides connections to other scholarship possibilities from national and state organizations and library schools.
  • School Librarian's Workshop Scholarship is awarded to a full-time student specifically preparing to become a school library media specialist at the preschool, elementary, or secondary level. Application, instructions, and reference forms will beavailable online.
  • 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 (PDF documents: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 (index)). School librarians are also eligible for some of the other ALA scholarships:
    • Marshall Cavendish Scholarship
    • David H. Clift Scholarship
    • Christopher Hoy/ERT Scholarship
    • New Members Round Table Scholarship
    • Century Scholarship (for individuals with disabilities)
    • Spectrum Scholarship (for African American, Latino/Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander and Native American/Alaskan Native students)
  • 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

50 E. Huron Chicago, IL 60611 Call Us Toll Free 1-800-545-2433

©2009 American Library Association. Copyright Statement
View our Privacy Policy. For questions or comments about the Web site, complete the Feedback Form.
FAQ   Member and Customer Service   Events Calendar

Last Revised: July 20, 2009