South Carolina Public Librarian Certification Guide - 2024

AKA: Professional Certificate, Provisional Professional Certificate, Pre-Professional Certificate, Provisional Pre-Provisional Certificate

by Staff

Updated: December 12th, 2023

Public librarian certification is a process required for all members of public library staff in South Carolina. Certification is important because it allows library boards to select only the most competent personnel, and it assures the public that taxpayer dollars are being spent on the highest quality public library service.

Over time, the duties and responsibilities of public librarians continue to change based on innovation and shifting community needs. The average public librarian wears several different hats while on the job including that of a technology expert, a community program director, a literacy expert, and a large-scale buyer.

As you can imagine, this wide variety of responsibilities requires public librarians to be equipped with a wide range of skills, education, and experience. The public librarian certification process ensures that all library staff members are capable of serving patrons at the highest level. It also assists in the progression of the public library profession as time goes on.

The state formalized the Certification Program for South Carolina Public Librarians in 1962. Since then, the program has been governed by State Law. Now, every full-time employee who works in a South Carolina public library must be certified.

Every state regulates its public librarian certification process. For this reason, certification requirements may sometimes be unclear. This guide provides a complete overview of the public librarian certification process in South Carolina. So, if you’re interested in advancing your career as a public librarian, read on to find out the steps you must take.

The Public Librarian Certification Guide

The process of becoming a certified public librarian in South Carolina varies depending on the level of certification you’re seeking. There are four certification levels for public library staff, all of which are part of the Certification Program for South Carolina Public Librarians. They are:

  • Professional
  • Provisional Professional
  • Pre-Professional, and 
  • Provisional Pre-Professional

Each certification level has unique education, experience, and renewal requirements.

The Professional Certificate is permanent, meaning it never has to be renewed after you’ve obtained it.

The other three certificates, however, need to be renewed. If you hold a Provisional Professional certificate, you must renew after four years. If you have gained the required experience, you may be eligible to exchange for a Professional certificate.

Those who hold a Pre-Professional certificate must renew after five years of continuous full-time library experience and six hours of additional academic credits. 

And finally, Provisional Pre-Professional certificates are valid for three years, after which they must be renewed. Renewal of this certificate also requires 6 hours of additional academic credits.

Before you can renew your certification, you first must become certified! How can you do so? The following steps outline the process for applying to become a certified public librarian in the state of South Carolina.

Education Requirements

One goal of library certification is to regulate the levels of education required to serve as a public librarian. As such, there are certain education requirements candidates must meet to be qualified candidates for certification. 

These education requirements vary depending on the type of certificate one is seeking: 

  • Professional Certificate: Candidates must obtain a master’s degree in Library Science (MLIS) from a university accredited by the American Library Association (ALA).
  • Provisional Professional Certificate: Candidates must obtain an MLIS degree from an ALA-accredited university.
  • Pre-Professional Certificate: Candidates must obtain a bachelor’s degree in any field, and they must complete at least 18 semester hours of MLIS coursework.
  • Provisional Pre-Professional Certificate: Candidates must obtain a bachelor’s degree in any field.

Many different institutions offer Library Science bachelor’s and master’s degree programs. If you’re serious about becoming a certified public librarian at any of these levels, look for a school that is ALA-accredited. To assist in your search, find all Library and Information Science degree programs in South Carolina.

Bachelor’s degrees typically take four years to complete, while an MLIS degree can be completed in approximately one to two years if you study full-time. If, on the other hand, you’d rather complete your master’s degree through part-time study, it could take you longer. Thankfully, many ALA-accredited programs offer 100% online instruction which affords extra flexibility to those who work full-time.

Most MLIS programs are very similar, but when it comes to choosing one, be sure to research the institution’s accreditation status, concentration options, cost, and internship opportunities. Depending on your unique career goals, certain programs may be more suitable than others.

Experience Requirements

For library staff members seeking a Provisional Professional, Pre-Professional, or Provisional Pre-Professional Certificate, no specific work experience is required. Even so, certain types of work experience will help prepare candidates and accelerate their careers. If you can intern or volunteer at a library before pursuing a career as a public librarian, you will prepare yourself well for the responsibilities associated with the job.

If you are seeking a Professional Certificate, you are required to have at least three years of full-time professional experience working at a public library. Your three years of experience must be continuous, but they are not required to be in the same position or at a single library. Also, this requirement is not limited to South Carolina libraries; you may gain these three years of work experience in any other state.

Testing Requirements

There are no specific testing requirements to become a certified public librarian in the state of South Carolina. However, those with Provisional Pre-Professional, Pre-Professional, and Provisional Professional certificates must renew their certification by obtaining adequate library experience and additional academic credits.

Background Checks

Background checks are vital for keeping library patrons and staff safe. Individuals who work in public libraries must undergo thorough background checks to ensure they can serve the community at the highest standard.

Application Process

The application for public librarian certification is available online. Be sure to follow these instructions when you apply:

  1. Be sure to have your education and work experience information ready before you start the application. You won’t be able to save your information in the online form until you submit it.
  2. If you are entering information about a degree program in which you’re currently enrolled or a job you currently have, leave the ‘date completed’ field blank.
  3. Have your university registrar send your official transcripts directly to the State Library either electronically or by mail. Alternatively, you can send in your transcripts as long as they are in a sealed and signed registrar’s envelope. Submit all transcripts to the Public Services Librarian at or 1500 Senate St., Columbia, SC 29201.
  4. After you submit your application, you’ll receive an email from confirming the receipt of your application. The email will contain a copy of your completed application for your records.

The online application is clear and straightforward. Simply fill out all the form fields, click submit, and send in your transcripts.