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AE 7: Library Director Certification

This Administrative Essential covers:

  • Wisconsin's Public Library Director Certification Law
  • Your responsibilities
  • Summary of certification requirements
  • Recertification and Required continuing education
  • Sources of additional information

Wisconsin's Public Library Director Certification Law

The Wisconsin Legislature has declared that it is the policy of the state to provide laws for the development and improvement of public libraries. Librarian certification has been part of Wisconsin law since 1921, when the legislature, at the urging of the Wisconsin Library Association, passed the first comprehensive state public librarian certification law. The concern was that the public libraries of the state be headed by qualified library personnel, assuring a high level of professional management and administration of Wisconsin's library resources, programs, and services.

Wisconsin's current public librarian certification law reflects a continuing interest in ensuring that qualified personnel direct Wisconsin's public libraries. The law requires a broad educational background, as well as coursework designed to focus on the issues and concerns relevant in a public library setting. The law also recognizes the need for public librarians to increase their skills and knowledge and be prepared for the challenges and responsibilities of library service in this information age by mandating relevant continuing education.

Your responsibilities

It is your responsibility to acquire and to maintain appropriate certification as a public library director from the Wisconsin Division for Libraries and Technology. Only libraries with properly certified library directors can be members of a library system. When you were recruited by the library board to serve as the library director, the library board should have made clear that eligibility for certification was a condition of your employment, and your employment contract and/or letter of appointment should have specified this condition of employment. If you do not acquire and maintain appropriate certification it will be cause for disciplinary action and possible termination.

It is essential that you apply for certification as quickly as possible after you are hired. If you meet all of the general education requirements and all of the library education requirements, you can apply for a regular certificate at the proper grade immediately.

If you meet all of the general education requirements but not all of the library education requirements for the grade level you will be eligible for a temporary public librarian certificate. Temporary certificates are valid for only a limited time period before they must be replaced with regular certificates. Note: An uncertified new library director needing a temporary certificate must apply for it within three months of the date of hire.

Summary of certification requirements

A regular certificate is valid for a period of five years, with legally prescribed requirements for recertification every five years. The required level (grade) of certification depends on the population of the library's community. The certification grades and their corresponding educational requirements and populations are:

Grade I: library system directors and library directors of public libraries representing a population of 6,000 or more.

Educational requirements: Bachelor's Degree and a Library and Information Science Master's Degree from an institution accredited by the American Library Association (ALA).

Note: Temporary certification will be granted for one year to applicants for Grade I certification to allow completion of the Library and Information Science Master's Degree.

Grade II: library directors of public libraries representing a population between 3,000 and 5,999.

Educational requirements: Bachelor's Degree plus twelve semester credits for the following courses:

  • Public Library Administration
  • Selection of Materials
  • Organization of Materials
  • Reference and Information Services

Note: Temporary certification will be granted to applicants for Grade II certification in order for them to complete the four required courses. Temporary certification will be renewed annually for up to four years (i.e., three renewals), provided that the candidate shows progress towards completing the educational requirement.

Grade III: library directors of public libraries representing a population under 3,000.

Educational requirements: for initial certification, 54 college semester credits (including at least 27 in the liberal arts and sciences) plus twelve semester credits for the following courses:

  • Public Library Administration
  • Selection of Materials
  • Organization of Materials
  • Reference and Information Services

Note: Temporary certification will be granted to applicants for Grade II certification in order for them to complete the four required courses. Temporary certification will be renewed annually for up to four years (i.e., three renewals), provided that the candidate shows progress towards completing the educational requirement.

Special provisional certificates are granted in certain circumstances, such as for an individual who is employed as the administrator for a public library in which he or she was originally certified at the appropriate grade level but who is no longer properly certified due to population growth. Special temporary certificates are granted to individuals who were previously certified and whose certification has been expired for at least one year and who have not served as the administrator of a public library or public library system in Wisconsin during that period. For details see the Certification Manual for Wisconsin Public Library Directors.

Recertification and required continuing education

Library directors are required to participate in continuing education activities in order to maintain their certification. These activities may be library system workshops, college courses, Wisconsin Library Association general and unit conferences, or a variety of other educational programs—as long as the activities are directly related to the individuals' position or will permit advancement in the profession. Librarians should report their continuing education activities to their library system continuing education validator annually. Every five years, as part of the recertification application process, librarians must report their participation in continuing education activities. Library directors in all grades must participate in 100 hours of continuing education over the five-year period.

The Division for Libraries and Technology recommends that, at a minimum, every library should budget sufficient annual funds for the continuing education needed to maintain the library director's certification and improve his/her knowledge. Payment of certification fees is recommended, as well as paid leave time and payment for other expenses needed to pursue continuing education.

Sources of additional information:

Certification Manual for Wisconsin Public Library Directors. Department of Public Instruction, © 2011 (also available at https://dpi.wi.gov/sites/default/files/imce/pld/pdf/certmanual.pdf)

TE 19: Library Director Certification in Trustee Essentials: A Handbook for Wisconsin Public Library Trustees

Your library system continuing education validator (https://dpi.wi.gov/pld/certification/consultants)

Division for Libraries and Technology's Public Library Certification Consultant, Terrie Howe, teresa.howe@dpi.wi.gov, (608) 266-2413.


Administrative Essential: A Handbook for Wisconsin Public Library Directors was prepared by the Division for Libraries and Technology. © Copyright 2008 Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. Duplication and distribution for not-for-profit purposes permitted with this copyright notice.