Washington Public Librarian Certification Guide - 2022

Last Reviewed: November 18th, 2021

Librarian certification is required in the state of Washington for all public librarians or full-time professional staff working in a public library. 

The purpose of librarian certification is to uphold the standards of public libraries, as well as to ensure all public librarians are well-equipped to do their jobs. As the responsibilities of public librarians have expanded (largely due to the evolution of technology), the shape of education and training for public librarians has also shifted.

The requirements for certification vary across the United States. As a result, the certification process can sometimes seem daunting or confusing for those who are unfamiliar. So, this guide will help demystify the process and get you on the right track toward certification. 

To find out more about the specific laws governing public librarian certification in Washington, please refer to the Revised Code of Washington (RCW), Section 27.04.055 and the Washington Administrative Code (WAC), Chapter 300-12.

Please note that these laws only apply to public libraries and do not apply to the State Law Library or to county law libraries.

Public Librarian Certification Process

The certification of public librarians is overseen by the Washington State Library. There is only one level of certification available for all public librarians in the state. 

In the state of Washington, public librarian certificates do not need to be renewed. 

The following sections will help you understand the requirements and process of becoming a certified public librarian in Washington State.

Education Requirements

To be eligible for public librarian certification, you must obtain a master’s of library or information sciences (MLIS) degree from an institution that has been accredited by the American Library Association (ALA). 

The University of Washington is the only school that offers ALA-accredited programs in the state of Washington. However, many other out-of-state schools offer distance learning options for students. You can search for a school that offers distance learning on the ALA’s website.

If you have a master’s of library or information sciences (MLIS) degree from a non-accredited program, or if you received a degree from a foreign institution, you still may qualify for certification. These situations are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Please follow the instructions below listed under Instructions for Applicants Without an ALA-Accredited Degree.

Experience Requirements

To obtain public librarian certification, you do not need to have a particular amount of experience working in a library. However, a certain level of experience will help make you a stronger candidate for employment as a public librarian.

Just like with other employment opportunities, having a relevant background in library work will help demonstrate that you’re a good fit for the role. If you’re still in school and working toward the education requirements to become a public librarian, consider finding a job, internship, or volunteer opportunity in a library setting. 

Work experience is not a substitute for education according to WAC 300-12-015.

Testing Requirements

There is no additional testing required for public librarian certification beyond the requirements of degree programs. 

If, however, you’ve obtained a degree from a foreign or domestic non-accredited program, you must sit for an examination. This will be a formal written exam equivalent to one that is routinely administered to graduate candidates for a master’s in library or information sciences degree.

Background Checks

As public librarians obviously work in a public-facing role, it is vital for all library staff to undergo certain background checks. This helps keep our communities safe and ensures that all public librarians are well equipped to perform their duties.

There is no specific background check information you need to be aware of to become a certified public librarian in Washington state. However, applicants may be subject to the same background checks required of other government employees as a condition of employment. 

Application Process

The process of applying for library certification differs depending on whether or not you have a degree from an ALA-accredited program. Follow these instructions depending on which category you fall into.

Instructions for Applicants With an ALA-Accredited Degree

First, submit the Application for Librarian’s Certification along with a $20 check made payable to the Washington State Library. This fee covers the cost of administrative services involved with processing your application. You should mail your application and check to the address listed below.

In addition to your application, you must have official transcripts sent to the below address directly from the issuing school. This is to verify the completion of your degree. Applicants cannot send their own official transcripts – they will not be considered valid and will be returned to you.

If you have not yet graduated, wait to request your transcripts until after your degree has been conferred.

You will receive your Librarian’s Certificate or you will be contacted by the Washington State Library within four weeks of receipt of your application, or from your graduation date, whichever is later. The timeline for recent graduates is heavily dependent on how long it takes universities to release grades.

Instructions for Applicants Without an ALA-Accredited Degree

If you attended a university that was not accredited by the American Library Association, or if you received a degree from an institution outside of the United States, please visit the ALA’s Foreign Credentials Evaluation Assistance page.

If your degree was issued by a foreign institution listed on the ALA website as a recognized institution equivalent to an ALA-accredited master’s degree, follow the process outlined above under Instructions for Applicants With an ALA-Accredited Degree. 

Otherwise, the State Library will need to have your degree evaluated by an independent agency. You can find a credential evaluation agency on the Foreign Credentials Evaluation Assistance website. There, you will also find a list of questions to ask when selecting a credential evaluation agency.

After the evaluation has been conducted, if your credentials meet the qualifications for a master’s of library and information science (MLIS) degree program, the institution should submit proof directly to the address listed below. Then, you should submit your application for a librarian’s certificate, along with a $20 check made payable to the Washington State Library. 

Address for Submitting Materials and How to Ask for Assistance

Please mail your application, check, transcripts, and all additional materials to this address:

Washington State Library
Attn: Librarian Certification Program
PO Box 42460
Olympia, WA 98504

Alternatively, you can have certified electronic copies of your transcript and accreditation materials to librariancertification@sos.wa.gov. However, your application should not be sent via email. Please only submit applications with payment to the address above.

For more information about the certification process, view the Washington State Library’s FAQ page. If you still need help or would like to check the status of your application, use the following information to get in touch:

Email: librariancertification@sos.wa.gov

Phone: 360.570.5583

Mail:

Librarian Certification
Washington State Library
PO Box 42460
Olympia, WA 98504-2460