Wisconsin Public Librarian Certification Guide - 2022

AKA: Regular Grade I Certification, Regular Grade II Certification, Regular Grade III Certification

Last Reviewed: November 18th, 2021

Licensor: Wisconsin DPI

Public Librarian Certification for library directors has been required by law since 1921. The certification process ensures that public libraries in Wisconsin are being run by highly qualified personnel. And, as the responsibilities of public librarians have expanded with the advancement of technology, the certification requirement has helped to maintain high standards of operation at all public libraries.

In the state of Wisconsin, Public Librarian Certification is only required for library directors. However, qualified library staff members who are not directors may apply using the same procedures outlined in this guide.

The necessary qualifications for certification depend on education, professional training, and experience. This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about certification and how you can apply.

For more detailed information about Public Librarian Certification in the state of Wisconsin, please refer to the Certification Manual for Wisconsin Public Library Directors.

Public Librarian Certification Process

There are three levels of certification for library directors in Wisconsin. The certification level required for a director depends on the population of the municipality or municipalities that established the library where they work. 

These are the three certification levels:

  • Regular Grade I Certification: required for administrators of public libraries with a municipal, joint municipal, or county population of 6,000 or more
  • Regular Grade II Certification: required for administrators of public libraries with a municipal, joint municipal, or county population between 3,000 and 5,999
  • Regular Grade III Certification: required for administrators of public libraries with a municipal, joint municipal, or county population under 3,000

All Regular Certifications must be renewed every five years. 

In addition to the Regular Certification levels, the Division for Libraries & Technology may also grant a Temporary Certification of the appropriate grade level for certain applicants to complete their library education requirements. You can find the conditions for Temporary Certification in the Certification Manual for Wisconsin Public Library Directors.

Finally, a Provisional Certification may be issued by the Division of Libraries & Technology to certain library directors as long as they continue to work at the same library and comply with the continuing education requirements for recertification. To qualify for a Provisional Certification, you must fit one the following criteria:

  1. You are the administrator of a public library in which you were originally certified, but you are no longer certified due to population growth in the jurisdiction in which your library is located. 
  2. You were already employed as the administrator of a public library at the time the library became a part of the public library system.

The following sections outline the requirements for certification as well as information about how to obtain certification.

Education Requirements

Public library directors are required to have varying degrees of education depending on the level of certification they are seeking. 

To achieve Grade I Certification, you must have both of the following:

  • A bachelor’s degree from a college or university that has been approved by an accrediting association with greater than statewide standing
  • A master’s degree from a library school program that has been accredited by the American Library Association (ALA)

You can easily find ALA-accredited library programs by searching through the ALA’s searchable program database. There are several schools that offer distance learning options, so you are not limited to the institutions in Wisconsin. 

For Grade II Certification, you must hold a bachelor’s degree from a college or university that’s been approved by an accrediting association that has greater than statewide standing. 

Also, your coursework must be include or be supplemented by 12 semester credits of coursework in each of the following areas:

  • Basic public library administration
  • Advanced public library administration
  • Organization and management of collections
  • Public and community services

Alternatively, you will qualify for Grade II Certification if you have a bachelor’s degree with a minor in library science and you complete the advanced public library administration course.

Finally, Grade III Certification requires candidates to have completed at least 54 semester credits at a college or university approved by an accrediting association of more than statewide standing. At least half of these 54 semester unites must be in the liberal arts and sciences. These include behavioral and social sciences, fine arts, humanities, natural sciences, and mathematics. 

Additionally, to be eligible for Grade III Certification, your coursework must include or be supplemented by 12 semester credits of coursework in the same areas listed for Grade II certification above. 

After you obtain initial certification, you will need to meet certain continuing education requirements to be eligible for renewal every five years. This involves obtaining 100 hours of continuing education in the five-year period prior to re-certification. At least 10 of those hours need to be technology-related training. 

More details about the continuing education requirements can be found in the Certification Manual for Wisconsin Public Library Directors.

Experience Requirements

Requiring library directors to have experience is a reasonable prerequisite for individuals who work with complicated technology, assist library patrons, and manage library personnel. 

You do not need any specific experience requirements to be eligible for certification. However, relevant library experience will make you a stronger candidate when applying to be a library director. 

Working as a member of public library staff will prepare you to become a certified library director. And, you can obtain certification while you are a non-director. 

Testing Requirements

There are no specific testing requirements outside of the education requirements for each certification level. 

Background Checks

Background checks are a normal part of the hiring process for many workplaces including public libraries. Although the certification process does not explicitly involve a background check, you may need to undergo a background check if you are a candidate for employment at a public library.

Application Process

You should apply for the highest level of certification for which you are qualified. Please complete the following steps to apply for public librarian certification:

  1. Fill out form PI-2450 (this is required for both first-time and renewal applicants).
  2. Gather the necessary supporting documents (see below for details about what is required for each certification type).
  3. Scan or take a picture of the application and supporting documents. Then, send the files to LibraryCertification@dpi.wi.gov
  4. Mail physical copies of these materials, plus a check made payable to DPI to the following address via USPS:
Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction
Attn: Accounts Receivable
125 South Webster Street
P.O. Box 7841
Madison, WI 53707-7841

The following sections detail what materials you should send based on the level of certification you are applying for.

First-Time Applicant with MLIS Degree

Please include the following with your application:

  • Official or unofficial transcript OR a copy of a diploma that demonstrates your master’s degree in library science from an ALA-accredited institution
  • Check for $50 made payable to DPI

First-Time Applicant with Bachelor’s Degree

Please include the following with your application:

  • Official or unofficial transcript that proves you have earned a bachelor’s degree (and your non-library master’s transcript, if applicable)
  • Schedule of completion of the four required library courses, indicating the semester and year you intend to take each course and the school at which you will take them; OR a schedule showing you’ve completed the Advanced Administration course if you have a minor in Library Science; OR certificates of completion for any required courses you’ve already taken
  • Check for $10 made payable to DPI

Renewal of Regular Certificate, Regardless of Grade Level

To renew your certificate, please include the following with your application:

For all other circumstances of certification, please refer to the Public Library Director Certification page of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s website. There, you’ll find details about how to apply for all levels of certification, including temporary and provisional certification.