Massachusetts Public Librarian Certification Guide - 2024

AKA: Professional Certification of Librarianship, Subprofessional Certification of Librarianship

by Staff

Updated: August 23rd, 2022

Licensor: MA BLC

Public librarian certifications are essential requirements for several states today. The goal is to create an educational program that will provide the skills necessary for working within a library. Many librarians pursue this career with previous education but need more guidance on the specific requirements for applications, background checks, and other essential components to complete this certificate.

Within the state of Massachusetts, the public librarian certification process is different when compared to other states. Here, we will discuss the certification itself, the educational requirements, the experience required, testing, and the application process. The goal is to provide you with crucial information about how to become a certified public librarian in the state of Massachusetts. 

Public Librarian Certification Process

The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners administers the public librarian certification process. The certificate within this state is formally known as the Professional and Subprofessional Certificates of Librarianship. These are given to applicants who have the relevant work experience and education experience to receive this certification.

Levels of the Certification

There are two different levels for someone who wants to become a librarian in Massachusetts. They are the following:

  • Professional Certification of Librarianship 
  • Subprofessional Certification of Librarianship

Professional certificates allow the individual to work on their own and without supervision. This generally allows the individual to have the potential to work as a director or manager of the library. On the other hand, the subprofessional certificate is for those who would prefer to do clerical or administrative work or potentially only have the education and experience to qualify for this certificate.

Professional Certification of Librarianship

Educational Requirements

For those seeking to enter into a Professional Certification of Librarianship, all individuals must:

  • Have graduated from a school accredited by the American Library Association
  • Provide proof of graduation and degree presented in application from said school

Find Library and Media Science degree programs offered in Massachusetts.

Experience Requirements

Individuals pursuing the professional certificate will also have to adhere to the requirements of appropriate experience. At this time, there is no minimum requirement, but relevant work in a library setting would suffice this requirement. However, experience in any regard is deemed necessary because of the importance of the board to see the applicant’s ability to work in this setting and contribute meaningfully to the library’s productivity.

Testing Requirements

Professional certificate applicants must complete the exam as long as they fulfill the following requirements in their experience and their education:

  • Completed a four-year degree in general education, but not library studies
  • Completed 18 hours of coursework in the following:
    • Cataloging and classification
    • Reference methods, materials, and use
  • Minimum three years working in a related setting that pertains to administrative or librarian duties

All exams are held semi-annually, and they are also prepared by someone out-of-state as the examiner. The goal is to receive a 70 out of 100 to pass the exam on the objective portion. The essay portion must be deemed appropriate by the examiner without a set grade. At this time, there is no fee explicitly associated with the exam but rather with the complete application.

Subprofessional Certification of Librarianship

Unlike the professional certificate, there are some specific requirements for those who fall short of the professional certification. Here are some of the differences and how to qualify for this certificate.

Educational Requirements

For those who lack a Master of Library Science, there is an additional program to complete to suffice the state’s requirements. The Basic Library Techniques (BLT) certificate signifies completing four special training courses that focus on basic skills necessary for the job. Some of these skills include library administration, reference, cataloging, and materials selection. 

These are online, self-paced, and required for those without a Master’s. This is necessary before applying for the MA Board of Library Commissioners certificate. The price is determined by the course provider and what is required for your application.

Individuals must possess the following educational experience to prove they qualify for this certificate:

  • A degree from an accredited two-year program that meets the American Library Association Criteria for Programs to Prepare Library/Media Technical Assistants
  • Certified statement of completion from the Library Technology or other related program suffices

Experience Requirements

For those seeking the subprofessional certificate, the experience requirements are less than that of the professional program. However, experience is a must for the board to understand whether or not the individual is applicable for this certification.

  • Six months of experience working on various library tasks
  • Proof from the head librarian of their work and their proficiency in the tasks

Testing Requirements

At this time, there are no testing requirements for the subprofessional certificate. Therefore, those who fulfill the education and the experience requirements can apply and receive their certificate without examination.

Application Requirements

For both certificates, there are some requirements and fees.


There is a required application and associated fee. At this time, the price for both certificates is $53.00. The regulatory fees are confirmed and reviewed every three years, which candidates will need to watch out for as they consider applying.

Background Checks

While background checks are not required for the certificate, they will be required for the position of employment you choose. For more information on background checks, visit the Massachusetts government website to learn more. Typically, FBI background checks are $90.

Replacement Fees for Certificates

For those seeking to replace their lost certifications, it is $38.00. There are no renewal requirements at this time, but there is a form to complete before the replacement of your certificate. 

Application Process

For both certificates, there is a similar process. You must print off the form and then send the completed document in the mail with your check. Depending on your credentials, there are several options for you to pursue.

For Those Lacking Educational Requirements

The first step would be to complete the BLT certificate and perform the necessary steps to prove you have the required education. You can certify this by completing the Application for Certificate of Special Training in Basic Library Techniques. These courses are an additional cost depending on your program choice.

For Those With Appropriate Education for the Subprofessional

All you have to do if you satisfy the subprofessional certificate requires to fill out the application. This includes your basic information, your library employment, and your employment verification. Additionally, you will also have to include your recent employment location to prove you have appropriate library-related experience. This can then be sent to their offices along with the check.

For Those Who Qualify For the Professional Certificate

For those who qualify for the professional certificate, this application is similar to the subprofessional. Individuals have to record their education, experience, and any certifications they might already hold. This can also be sent to the offices along with a check.