Librarians, also known as information professionals, stay on top of the current technological trends in managing and storing information. They perform tasks that involve the tracking of both paper and electronic records to assist people with finding and accessing information for research and personal purposes. Librarians also develop efficient systems for users to find and use information. Though not necessary for all information professionals, state licensing is specifically needed for school librarians. To become a licensed librarian, an individual must obtain a master’s degree in library science (MLS). To obtain licensure, librarians must pass a comprehensive examination. Some states require that school librarians hold a teaching certification, as well.
With the rapid speed of change in an information society, librarians must be at the forefront of this change by not only being knowledgeable about the tools, but by also demonstrating that knowledge as students.
Lorelle SwaderDirector of the Office for HR Development and Recruitment and ALA-Allied Professional Association for the American Library Association
Getting Librarian Licensure and Certification
Licensure is a necessary step for any professional librarian who hopes to work in a school library. The specific qualifications vary by state; however, most states require librarians to pass an assessment to obtain teaching certification. Doing so will not only ensure employers that the individual is good at managing information, but also prove that they know how to relate information retrieval and uses to students. An assessment will prove that the librarian has the knowledge necessary for performing both administrative and technical duties required by the positions.
Some public libraries have begun to require licensing as well, though these requirements vary based on state and local jurisdiction. Licensing "provides a foundation for professional work and for continuing education," according to Karen O’Brien, the director of the Office for Accreditation for the American Library Association. It also "provides mobility between workplaces and states in the U.S. and provinces in Canada," she said.
To obtain licensure, students must first finish their MLS degree. Then, they take a compressive examination that measures their skills, and school librarians culminate this process with a teaching certification. It is possible for a librarian to specialize in a field as well, such as law or corporate information, and professional degrees in the concentrated subject, while not necessary, are very helpful. A strong background in the field in which a librarian hopes to work can increase the possibility of being hired, especially if the librarian holds an advanced, specialized degree, such as a law degree, in addition to the MLS.
Work experience is not a necessary component to the licensing process, but it is helpful in gaining experience necessary to get hired and then work in the field. Experienced professionals can move on into positions of leadership, such as library directors or chief information officers.
Maintaining Librarian Licensure and Certification
The maintenance of licenses and certifications is also governed on a state-by-state basis. Continuing education is an important facet of many librarian careers, as librarians must stay on top of technological developments to efficiently run a library. According to Lorelle Swader, the director of the Office for HR Development and Recruitment and ALA-Allied Professional Association for the American Library Association. "Continuing education is required to renew a librarian's license at the state level for mainly school librarians, and at both the state and national levels for some public librarians." To fulfill this requirement, librarians must take specific continuing education courses, many of which are now offered online to accommodate a librarian’s work schedule.
"Online continuing education has become a very valuable tool in the delivery of both education for the initial accredited MLS, as well as continuing professional education," said Swader. "With the rapid speed of change in an information society, librarians must be at the forefront of this change by not only being knowledgeable about the tools, but by also demonstrating that knowledge as students."
For librarians that are also certified to teach, continuing education classes are necessary for upholding certifications. These are often provided through school districts; however, they can be completed through online programs, as well.