How To Become a Librarian in North Carolina

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Updated on March 25, 2024
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Librarianship is a profession that wears many hats – on any given day in a librarian role, a person might find themselves assisting patrons with a massive variety of queries, troubleshooting technology, recommending new books to readers of all ages, managing collections, supervising a department, leading instructional sessions, and beyond.

While librarianship can encompass many different roles, all of them center on a main focus: helping people find the right information or resources they need. Whether someone is looking for highly specialized information for a research project, learning how to use new technology, or trying to determine which local bank offers the best interest rates, many people turn towards libraries – specifically the librarians staffing them – for guidance to find the information they are seeking. 

Becoming a librarian in the state of North Carolina can take a prospective library school student down a few different pathways. While there are some different requirements for becoming an academic librarian, a K-12 school librarian, and a public librarian, some of the requirements for each of these pathways are the same. 

What kind of education and certifications does a prospective librarian need to be employed in North Carolina?

The majority of professional librarian roles in North Carolina require a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree, preferably from an American Library Association (ALA) accredited library school program. While MLIS is most commonly used to denote a library science degree, it is also common to see Master of Library Studies and Master of Library Science (both MLS). Whether a program is listed as an MLIS or MLS degree, both refer to a Master’s-level degree in library studies.

Not all libraries require their librarians to graduate from a college or university with an ALA-accredited MLIS program, but it is typical to see this detail mentioned under the “required” or “preferred” qualifications lists on librarian job postings in various institutions and public library systems in North Carolina. 

Before entering an MLIS graduate program in North Carolina, a prospective librarian can hold a bachelor’s degree in any subject area. It is possible to obtain a bachelor’s degree in library studies, but this isn’t a requirement if a person decides to enter librarianship after they have completed their bachelor’s degree in a completely different subject area. 

Bear in mind that, depending on which librarianship pathway a person is interested in pursuing in North Carolina, the requirements, degrees, and certifications can change. A bachelor’s degree in any subject area and then an MLIS are the standard requirements necessary for the majority of librarian positions. 

How does a person become a K-12 school librarian in the state of North Carolina?

School librarians, also called media coordinators, serve the specific population of students, teachers, and school personnel within their buildings. School librarians exist within public, private, and charter schools in North Carolina. School librarians in North Carolina typically serve in elementary schools (K-5th grades), middle schools (6th-8th grades), or high school (9th-12th grades). However, an MLIS degree with a focus on school librarianship prepares a graduate to serve in K-12 environments, meaning their completed degree would qualify them to work with any age group. 

To become a K-12 school librarian in the state of North Carolina, a prospective student would need to…

  1. Complete a bachelor’s degree in any subject area…but be prepared to obtain a teaching license if you don’t already have one from your undergraduate studies.

An MLIS candidate with a focus on K-12 school librarianship can enter their master’s program with any bachelor’s degree; however, it is highly beneficial for a person to already have a bachelor’s degree in education, such as elementary or secondary education, already under their belt. This is because an undergraduate education degree often leads a person through the steps to become a licensed teacher in the state of North Carolina.

In North Carolina public schools, K-12 school librarians double as teachers. They often teach media literacy courses within their schools and are on rotations for classes to visit not only for book checkouts and computer usage, but also for lessons on media literacy and more. Many North Carolina school librarians will collaborate directly with classroom teachers to assist with enriching classroom content through lessons involving research, books, databases, and other resources. This means K-12 librarians are doing more than maintaining their school libraries’ collections – they are also teaching classes. 

If you do not have your North Carolina teaching certification for any age group, don’t fret – many MLIS programs with focuses on K-12 school librarianship also offer joint programs that help prospective candidates earn those certifications while they’re completing their master’s degrees. While you work toward earning your media coordinator license, you’ll also earn a teaching license.

  1. Find the right MLIS program for your needs and apply. 

Refer back to #1 in this subsection: do you already have a bachelor’s degree in education and hold your North Carolina teaching license? If so, you will not need to enroll in an MLIS program that also offers a joint program that will help you obtain that specific license. Whichever MLIS program with a K-12 school librarianship focus you choose will help you add on a media coordinator license to your existing teaching license.

If you do need a teaching license, make sure you are choosing a program that will help you obtain this specific requirement. Without it, you may be unqualified to serve as a school librarian in North Carolina public school systems.

  1. Take the media coordinator PRAXIS exam (#5321). 

PRAXIS exams are tests designed to evaluate a prospective educator’s knowledge on their specific subject areas. To become a licensed public school educator in any subject area in North Carolina, you must pass the PRAXIS exam #5321 as a part of your final requirements. There is a PRAXIS exam for media coordinators that focuses on library knowledge, collection development, library instruction, and more. Your MLIS program will help you prepare for this exam.

How does a person become a public librarian in the state of North Carolina?

Public libraries exist all over North Carolina. According to the State Library of North Carolina, 412 public library facilities existed across the state to serve citizens in 2021. In those facilities, library workers staff different departments, ensuring that they are able to run smoothly and provide services of all types to citizens. Many of those library workers are librarians. 

To become a public librarian in the state of North Carolina, a prospective student would need to…

  1. Complete a bachelor’s degree in any subject area. 

People who work as public librarians often have undergraduate degrees from a wide variety of disciplines. As stated in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s admissions requirements, they like to see prospective students with a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences – academics included. While some folks may opt to complete a bachelor’s degree in library science, it isn’t required to enter an MLIS program. 

  1. Apply for an MLIS program. 

Consider whether the public library systems to which you are interested in applying prefer their librarians to hold degrees from ALA-accredited programs. This can be a determining factor in which program might be best for you. 

  1. At the end of your MLIS program, apply for Public Librarian Certification through the SLNC. 

Once you finish your MLIS coursework, you can apply for Public Librarian Certification. Similarly to an ALA-accredited degree, this is often found under the “required” or “preferred” details within job postings for various public librarian positions. The certification process is a quick application that requires you to submit official graduate transcripts and other information detailing your qualifications to serve as a public librarian in the state of North Carolina. 

How does a person become an academic librarian in the state of North Carolina?

College campuses all across North Carolina have libraries, special collections, and archives operating within them. Between community colleges, private universities, and state schools, most of them have libraries for students and faculty to utilize. Many of those students and faculty members depend on knowledgeable academic librarians to help them not only find the subject-specific information they need, but to also learn research skills.

To become an academic librarian in the state of North Carolina, a prospective student would need to…

  1. Obtain a master’s degree in a specific subject field. 

Many academic librarians hold multiple graduate or postgraduate degrees. Besides an MLIS, many of them often hold degrees and certificates in other subject areas. This is because colleges – especially some of the bigger university systems in North Carolina – have large departments with their own libraries to serve them. For example, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro has the Harold Schiffman Music Library on its campus specifically to serve the many students in the university’s various music programs. Academic librarians often have other degrees besides their MLIS because they are also content-specific subject experts with the knowledge needed to serve that department’s population best.

  1. Obtain an MLIS. 

Similarly to prospective K-12 or public librarians, academic libraries often require their librarians to hold an MLIS. Just as MLIS programs often have study tracks for K-12 or public librarians, most programs also offer options for people interested in pursuing academic librarianship. Depending on the type of academic librarianship you want to pursue, you can find an MLIS program that will have a focus tailored to that study track. For example, if you are interested in academic library instruction, archival work, or collection development, you can find specific programs that will prepare you for those specific areas of academic library work.

Other Resources: (Community Colleges job board; academic library positions are often listed here) (SLNC’s official job posting board for public library positions across the state)