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What Kind of Degree Do You Need to Be an Elementary School Librarian?

by Cassandra Ifie, studioD

Elementary school librarians should possess at least a bachelor's degree with a concentration in school library media. Often referred to as library media specialists, some states require school librarians to have a master's degree. Many colleges and universities offer educational programs focusing on school library media. Aspiring elementary school librarians should thoroughly research education and licensing requirements before enrolling in a degree program.

Instructional Role

Elementary school librarians teach students how to conduct research using print and electronic library resources and they provide training on how to use the library effectively. A significant amount of a librarian's time is spent promoting and encouraging reading by offering a variety of programs and services to students, faculty, administrators, and parents. In addition, school librarians are responsible for all activities associated with managing the library and serving as instructional support through faculty collaborations.

School Library Media Programs

According to the University of South Carolina, school library media programs provide future elementary school librarians with the academic training and experience to perform their professional duties. The University of South Carolina's school library media certification program offers courses focusing on topics such as children's literature, young adult literature, library management, instructional technology and children's/young adult library programming. Students can choose to enroll in classes online or in a traditional classroom setting. Online classes are sometimes the best option for individuals who decide to juggle working full-time and attending school. For teachers transitioning from the classroom to the library, Kent State University offers school media library degree programs and licensure options completely online that can be completed in approximately two years.

State Licensing Requirements

All public school educators, elementary teachers and librarians must be certified by the state in which they plan to teach. Each state has different licensure requirements. Typically, in order to be certified to teach, elementary school teachers are required to earn a bachelor's degree, pass professional exams mandated by the state and complete a student teaching practicum. Certified teachers interested in becoming librarians should enroll in additional coursework beyond the undergraduate degree to receive an endorsement in school library media. Some states require potential elementary school librarians to earn a master's degree in library science or complete classes focusing specifically on school libraries. For instance, Memphis City Schools in Memphis,TN requires applicants to have an endorsement in library media and a master's in library science.


Before selecting a college or university, prospective librarians should make certain the institution offers a concentration in school library media. Students may also want to consider other degree options such as earning a Master of Library Science or a Master of Science in educational technology. It is important that students assess their educational goals and objectives and select an appropriate academic program. Browsing the list of schools and degree programs accredited by the American Library Association and the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education-American Association of School Librarians should also assist with the decision-making process. Additionally, some states and school districts only approve certain teacher education or school library media programs. It is important that students looking to become librarians investigate their state licensure and certification requirements before officially enrolling at any institution. They should also take time to browse advertisements for school librarian positions in their local area and take note of the desired qualifications.

About the Author

Cassandra Ifie is a librarian living in Richmond, Va. She has also been a writer since 2008. Ifie received her Master of Library Science degree from Texas Woman's University and earned a Bachelor of Arts in sociology from Rust College.

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