Library Science Certification

Most people think of librarians as information experts, with skills and qualities necessary to manage the massive amounts of information and materials contained in libraries. But beyond the logistical considerations most people think of in keeping a library up-and-running, librarians are also in the business of encouraging and inspiring community enrichment and engagement.

More than just a building in which to store books, a library is a community culture and learning center. Children come to listen to stories and engage their bountiful imaginations. Adults come to socialize and discuss their latest novel in a book club. Community leaders and organizations use the space as a meeting arena, and its resources to learn and educate themselves and others.

Positioned at the center of all this activity, librarians encourage the relationship between the library and community by organizing children’s story readings, computer education seminars, literary or cultural celebratory events and an array of other events meant to encourage literacy, education and cultural exchange within their communities.

In order to ensure that libraries are properly managed and positively engaged within the community, states have instituted certification processes to ensure that only qualified individuals are granted such vast responsibilities.

“Certification” Defined

Getting your certification in library sciences indicates that an individual has met all the state-mandated criteria to practice library sciences in the area of their certification. These criteria vary between states and institutions, however in general the certification process requires the individual to undergo stipulated coursework, receive a passing grade on examinations and otherwise demonstrate their competency in the field. Many states require a practicing librarian to hold a Master’s Degree from an ALA accredited program, while others only require a certificate or license to practice.

To determine your state’s certification requirements, click here.

A Librarian’s Primary Responsibilities

Library Collection Management

A primary responsibility of all librarians is to gather all of the library’s collection of books, documents, information and other materials. A librarian must be intimately knowledgeable about existing library resources and be able to select and procure additional resources that will complement or supplement the library’s collection. Being able to select relevant and useful sources to a collection will enhance a user’s library experience.

Additionally, many libraries incorporate collection management policies or mission statements into their general policies. For example, the Norfolk Public Library incorporates in its Mission statement that collection management must be done to meet the goals of the broader Norfolk community’s “life-long learning, cultural enrichment, intellectual stimulation and recreation.” Norfolk hopes to create a “City of Readers,” to engage with as many members of their diverse community as possible and inspire them to be “literate, techno-literate, [and] productive.” It is important for librarians to communicate with library patrons, community leaders and library administrators in building a collection that represents the distinctive needs of the community.

Library Organization

Any given library is chock-full of information and resources in varying forms. Books, computers, furniture and people all populate a library at any given time, and one of the most difficult aspects of a librarian’s job is to keep everything organized. A librarian certification exam will include questions about the importance of collection organization, as well as space utilization within the library. For example, a potential librarian would know that at story time, it is important to have enough space for many children to listen as well as have the seating arranged so every child can see.

Organization of library materials involves more than just grouping similarly themed material together. Librarians will need to plan and execute a system that meets the stipulated goals and guidelines of the library, administration or local government Teachers looking to get certified should be able to anticipate the needs of the library and organize resources in an easy to use way. Being able to identify different types of systems used in libraries and how to effectively use them is an important component in getting certified.

Information Technology

Technology and the Internet have opened up the accessibility of information to infinite possibilities, and at an extremely fast pace. As masters of information, librarians need to keep abreast of current information technologies. In fact, many larger libraries maintain distinct positions for librarian media specialists, and several universities offer graduate degrees in this area of library science.

As a librarian, you’ll have to assist library patrons in effectively using this information to achieve their goals. Librarians are often tasked with teaching members how and why to use alternative resources, and many libraries maintain public computers for members to use to access the Internet and other electronic resources. As a librarian, you may be asked to conduct seminars instructing members in computer literacy and how to use basic functionalities such as web browsing or e-mail.

As we have probably all encountered, while the Internet is a wealth of great information, it is also populated with a lot of dubious content. Librarians are tasked with assisting students or community members in discerning quality material from unreliable sources. Librarians must effectively evaluate and teach others how to evaluate information that is found on the web or on other public, non-peer reviewed outlets.

If you are stationed in a library with limited space or resources, you may have to come up with creative ideas to bring computing accessibility to your community. A great way to do this is create a mobile computer lab with laptops. This can give the library more space as well as bring computer access to community members who may be unable to travel to the library.

Customer Service and Community Relations

Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of a librarian’s job is interacting with library users and the broader community. Librarians function as the face of the library, communicating with library patrons and community members, organizing library events, inspiring patron’s quest for enrichment and knowledge and providing superior customer service with a pleasant delivery. A person looking to get certified in library science will understand the importance of positive member interactions and have a passion for wanting to enrich peoples’ lives.

In addition to providing useful and personable service on a day-to-day basis, librarians will often be called to coordinate learning exercises with the community. Librarians can assist in educating members and the community about such weighty topics as intellectual freedom, information literacy, best research practices and many other salient areas.

They are encouraged to organize community outreach events and activities, and to further the goals of information sharing and distribution. As a librarian, you can put together reading groups, educational seminars and lectures, events and celebrations in honor of community culture or diversity and other activities. For example, a librarian can coordinate different reading clubs for children according to age. This allows readers to learn and grow with people their own age and skill level as well as socialize and participate in the community.

The Importance of a Library Technology Plan

Technology now plays a salient role in the operations of most libraries. It is in the interests of the library, library staff and the community to produce a long term plan with regard to technology in the library. Such a plan serves several purposes. Technology represents a high cost to libraries, and also has a high turnover rate as new technologies are introduced. Planning for upgrades and equipment replacement is necessary in order for a library to maintain a high quality of technological competency. Additionally, technology places an additional demand on librarians and other staff, as computer troubleshooting and member assistance become part of their regular job responsibilities.

A successful technology plan can be as much as a carefully detailed, comprehensive ten year plan, or as little as a short mission statement relating to the library’s technology goals and priorities. It should be developed with input from library administration, staff, library members and the broader community.

A successful technology plan should incorporate serve several roles. It should establish clear and realistic goals for technology within the library of an extended period of time. It should incorporate why and how these technologies will contribute to the broader goals of the library and of the community. It should incorporate any additional training that might be required for library staff to understand, effectively use and instruct library patrons on how to use the new technologies. It should include a realistic budget, including all hardware and software that may be required and that accounts for potential cost increases of various information technologies in the future. Finally, it should include a mechanism by which the library can evaluate the performance and effectiveness of the technology, and whether it is meeting the goals stipulated in the plan.

You should be as specific as you can in developing your plan, and stick as closely as possible to the plan in execution. Don’t be afraid to tweak aspects of the plan if you believe the changes will help you better achieve your technology goals. With technology evolving at such a fast past, libraries should strive to constantly evaluate how these powerful tools may be used to further the goals of information maintenance and distribution.

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