Minnesota School Librarian Certification Guide - 2024

AKA: Library Media Specialist


by LibrarianCertification.com Staff

Updated: June 9th, 2023

Becoming a school librarian requires a license in the state of Minnesota. Along with all educators in the state, the school librarian track follows a tiered structure to licensing made up of four different levels, all having a different set of requirements. This tiered structure extends not only to library specialists, but all types of educators in the state.

The minimum requirements for obtaining a role as a school librarian are to have a teaching license, Bachelor’s degree, along with passing the Minnesota Teacher Licensing Exams (MTLE). Specifically, prospective school librarians will need to complete the Library Media Specialist certification through MTLE in order to qualify for the role.

The process of licensure for Minnesota school librarians was developed with a specific goal in mind — to ensure that only qualified professionals can fill these roles. This prevents the job market from being oversaturated with applicants that would otherwise have little experience or expertise in the field. This quality control measure positively impacts the profession and rewards candidates that are committed to the profession.

Initial School Librarian Certification Process

The path to licensure varies depending on a person’s personal professional experience. If an individual is already a licensed educator in the state and wants to add a field to their licensure (like school librarian), they will have less requirements to fulfill. Along with licensure, school librarians must also pass extensive background checks.

Education and Experience Requirements

In the state of Minnesota, there are several minimum requirements that must be met to work as a school librarian. The applicant must have a Bachelor’s degree, a state education license, and a passing score on the Library Media Specialist (Grade K-12) certification test held by the MTLE.

Find all Library and Information Science degree programs in Minnesota.

Assuming applicants already have a Bachelor’s degree and a state education license, the final step is ensuring a passing score on the Library Media Specialist (Grade K-12) exam through the MTLE.

One of the requirements of obtaining licensure is completing required coursework in the field of library and media science. When a student is searching for a university to complete a library media specialist program, there are several components that must be taken into account.

  1. First, finding a program in a university that provides the required coursework accepted by the MTLE. Students who are already in possession of a teaching license can apply to most programs offered. These programs are specifically tailored to provide the required education, and assume all pre-requirements are already met. When applying to participate in these programs, proof of experience and a curriculum will need to be submitted to ensure all requirements are met or exceeded.

    If a student is not in possession of a teaching license in the state of Minnesota, they will need to seek out a university offering a program that provides additional coursework and student teaching opportunities to fulfill this requirement. Not all universities offer both options, so seeking out a university in which to complete a library media specialist program will vary depending on the individual’s specific situation.

  2. Secondly, students must determine whether they are looking to complete coursework with a goal of just obtaining certification, or are also looking to obtain a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science (MLIS). The MLIS, in conjunction with the certification provides school librarians with different options in their career path. Aside from a student’s personal goals for obtaining a master’s degree, this can also be helpful in obtaining a higher tier of licensure, with a Master’s degree being a qualifying option for Tier 2 licensure.

Testing Requirements

The application process for taking the test through Minnesota Teacher Licensure Examination (MTLE) is held online. Prospective test takers will need to fill out an application, provide all requirements to the institution, and then schedule a time to complete the tests. One can complete this process is on the MTLE website. By navigating through this page and selecting “Locate a test center” prospective test takers are taken to the Pearson Vue website through which the test can be scheduled.

The Minnesota Teacher Licensure Exam (MTLE) subtests are taken through a computer based setting. Since the Library Media Specialist licensure requires two subtests, both must be passed with a score of 240 points or more to receive a license. MTLE, the testing agency is responsible for hosting the certification exam, reviewing requirements, and providing the official test scores.

Tests can be taken year round, and are available on a first-come first-served basis. Through the MTLE website, prospective test takers can view available openings for testing as well as testing locations. Tests can be taken at certified testing centers nationwide as well as in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Canada. MTLE offers the benefit of flexibility for test takers, and, if needed, can provide other necessary accommodations to test takers to ensure they are able to complete the tests in a manner that is accessible to them.

Each subtest has a cost of $47.50, so for the Library Media Specialist certification, the approximate overall cost is $95. Each subtest must be scheduled individually, and test takers have the option to complete both tests back to back, or on different days. MTLE also offers the option of a practice exam for a price of $29.95. This practice exam is a good option for candidates to take in advance of the real exam to ensure they are prepared for the type of questions that will be included in the exam.

In the state of Minnesota, this is the only method for obtaining a library and media specialist certification, with several options for achieving this through their tiered approach.

Background Checks

Another reason for which licensing is an important process for working in a school librarian role is that it filters out inadequate candidates who cannot pass the background checks required to work with children. This process ensures the safety of students is not compromised, and extensive background checks are a part of the process.

Background checks for education professionals research an individual’s adult and juvenile arrests (if any). In addition to this, the board of educators will also review FBI records and whether an individual has been arrested in any other state aside from the one through which they are applying for licensure. The Minnesota school districts have also recently began taking this background check process one step further than the Minnesota Board of Teaching with implementing additional background checks through private firms that check not only official records, but also seek out red flags on an applicant’s activity on social media and with previous employers. This ensures that all education professionals, including school librarians are qualified to work on school premises.

However, as far as school librarian licensing in Minnesota goes, candidates will only be required to submit to a criminal history background check by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension consistent with Minnesota Statutes.

  1. First request a fingerprint card. To request a fingerprint card, email pelsb@state.mn.us or call 651-539-4200 (option 1) and include your full name and mailing address in your message.  If you use a fingerprint card from a local police station, make sure it has the sky blue border.
  2. Have your fingerprint card filled in with your fingerprints at an appropriate location. This is a process your local police station can help you with.


The process for applying for your license begins online at the following Minnesota Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board webpage.

Remember Why the Certification Process Matters

It’s important to remember why the certification process is important for the role of school librarians. Oftentimes in this role, librarian professionals are faced with specific challenges and circumstances that librarians working outside of schools may not encounter often. At schools, a librarian’s interactions are primarily with children in various stages of mental development. School librarians must know how to tailor their work practices to best suit the needs of each individual student.

Through the licensing process, prospective licensed school librarians will learn the ins and outs of knowledge organization, methods for accessing information, and management of the library and media centers in which they work. These programs are required by the state to teach the principles of librarianship, and how to service children and young adults specifically. This includes learning about child psychology, and the philosophy of education for elementary through high school levels.

Certificate Tiers and Renewal Process

Certification renewal timelines are dictated by which tier the librarian is operating through the board of education and can vary from one to three years. At the time of renewal, the Minnesota professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board requires educators to begin the process of renewing their license on January 1st of the year that their current license expires. All requirements for renewal must be met at the time of application, and the renewal process is done through the portal located on their website which guides applicants through all of the steps.

** All renewal processes are completed online. **

Tier 1 requires only a Bachelor’s degree, and licensing is provided on a yearly basis. Tier 1 applicants may only renew their license up to three times.

Tier 2 offers a couple of options. The first is a Bachelors degree, as well as enrollment in a Minnesota approved teacher preparation program. Another option is a Master’s degree in this specific content area. The final option is a combination of training, credits, testing, and experience. Tier 2 provides licensure for two years, and can also be renewed up to three times.

Tier 3 has three requirements: a Bachelor’s degree, passing scores in content and pedagogy, and the option of either passed tests, experience, portfolio submission, or a state approved teaching preparation program. This tier offers indefinite renewals and is provided for a three year period each time.

Tier 4 is the final tier with the most requirements: a Bachelor’s degree, completion of a preparation program, passing scores in content and pedagogy as well as board approved skills exams, teaching experience, and an evaluation.

Since a teaching license is required to become a state school librarian,  this is something that must be taken into account when in the process of licensure.

The benefit of the renewal process is that it gives licensees the opportunity to  have the option to move through the different tiers of licensure and the process is as follows:

Moving from Tier 1 to Tier 2 requires submitting the processing fee with a Tier 2 application, as well as one of three options: providing evidence of enrollment in a Minnesota teacher preparation program, completion of a Master’s degree in the licensure field, or providing alternate evidence to meet their needs.

Moving from Tier 2 to Tier 3 requires submitting the processing fee with a Tier 3 application, passing the MTLE in the specific licensure field, and one of the following options: completion of an approved Minnesota teacher preparation program, or completion of an out-of-state teacher preparation program, or completion of licensure via portfolio, or three years teaching experience in the licensure field while holding a Tier 2 license, or completion of two years of out-of-state teaching experience while holding a professional out-of-state license in the licensure field.

Moving from Tier 3 to Tier 4 requires submitting the processing fee with a Tier 4 application, obtaining a passing score on the MTLE in the specific licensure field, obtaining passing scores on the Basic Skills Exam or proof of alternate demonstrated proficiency, completion of state approved teacher preparation program, and finally, three years of experience in the state of Minnesota as the teacher of record.

Since Tier 1 and Tier 2 licensure is limited to 3 renewals, prospective school librarians must take these requirements into consideration to be able to continue working in this profession long term.

Certification Reciprocity Process

Through the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education (NASDTEC), the state of Minnesota participates in a reciprocity agreement allowing certain certification requirements obtained in other states to be accepted for licensure. This, however, does not mean that possession of a teaching license in a different state will be valid for use in Minnesota.

The NASDTEC agreement facilitates the transfer of information, making the process easier for applicants who already have experience in other states and are looking to work in a Minnesota to become certified. For example, through this agreement, the board of education in Minnesota will be able to see an applicant’s past history of employment and active licensure in other states, which helps to expedite the re-licensing process. This applies to all educators, including library and media specialists.

Regardless of past experience and licensure in other states, Minnesota requires the Minnesota Teacher Licensing Exam’s Library Media Specialist examination to be taken by all applicants to complete the certification process.

Access the application on the MTLE website, here.