Massachusetts School Librarian Certification Guide - 2024

AKA: Library Media Specialist Endorsement

by Staff

Updated: December 11th, 2023

Certification is a process that confers a qualifying status on an individual making them competent for a particular set of duties. The education sector is an immensely sensitive factor in a nation’s growth, hence state governments pay particular attention to the quality of professionals employed in the system. School librarians are also required to be certified before they can practice in any given state, as in addition to their traditional librarian roles, they will be required to help pupils and students take advantage of technology and various other benefits of the library. 

Since the techniques and practices in library management have changed over the years, a school librarian will often find adaptability to be a useful skill. In addition to this, you must have excellent communication and interpersonal skills, since you will be working with students and other teachers towards the furtherance of the school’s objectives. Succeeding in certification exploits requires determination, patience, and the right set of instructions. If you are considering a career as a school librarian in Massachusetts, you should read on to know how to get started.

Initial Librarian Certification Process 

The Massachusetts state government places tremendous value on the schooling system hence only qualified professionals are employed. As an intending school librarian, you will be required to prove that you are capable of discharging the responsibilities expected of you by fulfilling certain educational and testing requirements among others. The initial educator license is valid for five (5) years and permits one to teach while they fulfill other requirements to be eligible for a professional license. For more information about how to convert an initial license to a professional license go here.

Educational Requirements

A bachelor’s is the most fundamental educational requirement for educator licensing in Massachusetts as laid down by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).

For general educators, there is no fixed rule about what field your college education must be in. However, courses in behavioral sciences, social sciences, and education are usually helpful. School librarians are also required to be licensed as educators and endorsed as library media specialists. As an aspiring school librarian, you should normally have either a bachelor’s in library science (or have done some coursework relevant to the discipline) or a master’s.

In addition to a degree, educators are required to undergo a state-approved teacher preparation program. This is compulsory for all applicants for an initial license, unless in cases where you have completed an equivalent and acceptable program in another state. You can contact the DESE to confirm the eligibility of your program. These programs equip you with the requisite skills to deliver in the capacity of an educator as is expected of teachers in the state.

Experience Requirement

Teacher preparation programs usually include some supervised, student teaching exercises that enable you to practice what you have learned. Experience is necessary for educators as it helps you find a balance between guiding principles and your uniqueness as a teacher. It also provides an opportunity for you to confirm if teaching is a good fit for you as a profession. The teaching exposure will usually last for about one year.

An initial license is like a provisional license that permits you to take up an appointment in Massachusetts while you take other steps to fulfill the requirements for a professional license. You qualify for a professional license after having taught in the state for three years and fulfilled some other requirements as can be seen here.

Testing Requirements

DESE requires all applicants for an initial license to take relevant tests by their department. You might want to contact your preferred institution of employment to determine what test you should take as an intending school librarian. In most states, school librarians are usually expected to take a proficiency test for library and media. These tests are used to evaluate your knowledge of the field and to prove that you are qualified for a job as a school librarian.

The accepted tests for licensure in the state are Massachusetts Test for Educator Licensure (MTEL). School librarians are usually not required to take any specific subject matter tests such as one on ‘library and media’. The DESE only requires that a competency review is conducted to establish that they possess the necessary skills.

However, you might be required to take the Communication and Literacy Skills test (01). This test can be taken as a computer-based test or via online proctoring. It has two parts; reading and writing, each made up of 42 and 35 multiple choice questions respectively. The writing section also includes 7 short sentence correction items and 20pen-response assignments. The test lasts for 4 hours and 15 minutes with the initial 15 minutes for CBT tutorial and NDA. The total testing fee is $112 ($76 and $85 for reading and writing subtests respectively). The passing score is 240 points. You must abide by the testing rules. Learn more about this test here and access practice materials here.

Background Checks

This is an important part of the certification process as it has to do with the safety of the children you will be working with as well as the other staff members. Background checks look into your criminal history among others to rule out the presence of criminal tendencies that can cause harm to the people around you. Particular attention is paid to sexual offenses as this is a delicate subject. 

According to the Massachusetts General Laws chapter 71, section 38R, background checks must be run on individuals working in private and public schools. These checks are inquiries into an individual’s criminal history records at the state and national levels. They are done by running your fingerprints through the database of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and state police authorities. For more about the fingerprinting process and background checks, go here.

Application Process

Once you have fulfilled all the requirements explained above, you can begin the online application process for your license. Note that even without completing the requirements fully, you can apply. DESE will usually respond with a review pointing out what other requirements you need to meet such as taking a degree course or smaller course offerings in accredited institutions. The Educator Licensure and Renewal Portal (ELAR) offers the easiest way to apply for a license. You will be required to create a profile here.

The initial licensing fee is $100 and your licensure application will be evaluated once you have submitted a complete application; licensure fee; transcript from degree awarding institution, and the passing score for your MTEL test. You will be sent a detailed evaluation letter if your application is rejected. You can access this under “Check license status and history, make a payment” on your ELAR account welcome page Scroll to the bottom of the page for the latest information on your application.

If you run into any difficulty or problems while filling an application online, you can opt for the hardcopy option by downloading a form, filling it, and mailing it in. Note that this will usually lead to a longer processing period. You can mail the hardcopy application to this address

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
75 Pleasant Street
Malden, MA 02148-4906

After completing your application, you will usually be required to send in your supporting documents including a transcript, signed by the registrar of the degree-awarding institution that you attended. You can either mail it traditionally or fax it to the DESE. Here is a guide on how to send supporting documents. For more information on the application process go here.

Renewal Procedure

The initial license is valid for five (5) years after which you should renew it. This does not prevent you from upgrading the license from an initial one to a professional license if you fulfill the requirements for the upgrade in due time. The renewal applications are also put forth using your ELAR account. The kind of renewal you will be doing depends on what stage you are in as it relates to requirements fulfillment.

If you are yet to satisfy the requirements for upgrading to a professional license, you might be needing an extension on your initial license. You can submit an online application with an application fee of $25 in addition to a verification of the initial extension plan and a Massachusetts school-based employment. Check here for more information about how to renew an initial license. This page contains information for advancing, extending, and renewing licenses.

Reciprocity Process

The DESE extends reciprocity to licensed professionals from states that have signed a NASDTEC agreement with Massachusetts. Learn more about this here. This means that the certification procedure in these states is similar to what operates in Massachusetts hence if you qualify, you can apply for a license directly. Contact the DESE here to obtain information about your eligibility for reciprocity based on your qualifications. This will help you see if you need to fulfill some other requirements which will be specified before you send in your application.