Debatable topic #7: Certifiably “Right” or Provisionally “Wrong”?

As my students have debated this topic in the past, I never really compared the stand of other states with Georgia on this issue. As my interest was piqued on the matter, I did a little searching and found an excellent resource in School Library Media Activities Monthly: “School library media certification by state (2008)”, by Deborah J. Jesseman, Scott M. Page, and Linda Underwood (2008). I was shocked to find that only four of our 50 states require no teacher licensure as a certification requirement – that is, they offer provisional or conditional certification without holding prior teacher certification. According to Jesseman, Page and Underwood, only Georgia, Maine, Oregon and Texas allow for SLMS initial employment without full teacher certification. However, Georgia is one of the fifteen states that does require a Master’s Degree as the entry level for the SLMS. While Georgia’s entry level for school library media is indeed the Master’s level, one can still be hired while working on the degree/certification prior to completing the program in some school districts in Georgia.

So, based on this extremely brief glance at certification requirements across the country, the question becomes: should full certification be required for hiring the school library media specialist, or should the provisional certification while the candidate is working on full certification be sufficient for hiring?

Considering full certification: Research across the country (Lance, 2005) shows that test scores improve when a good, strong media program is in place. If a media specialist is employed who has not been fully trained, those statistics might be in jeopardy. Also, Information Power, the national standards for school library media programs, presents standards and goals that should guide our media programs and, without being fully trained through a solid media training program, these goals and standards cannot be adequately accomplished. NCLB brings another dimension to the role of the media specialist that cannot be fully appreciated without mastering the breadth of a full preparatory program. Consider the mission statement of the American Association of School Librarians: “…to advocate excellent, facilitate change, and develop leaders in the library media field.” This requires adequate training.

Considering provisional certification: While certification implies qualification, this is certainly not true in all instances. Broadwell states “…there are things that can be done on the job, where the actual work is being done in the true environment, that cannot be simulated in the classroom” (1994). It is true that the most effective learning takes place when one is fully involved in the experience. Students who are employed in the media center prior to being fully certified bring an enthusiasm and energy to the media center that is infectious for the entire school. Practical application of policies and procedures are the cornerstone of the most effective teaching practices, and that practical application comes on a continual basis, not at the close of a program of study. Also, there are areas in Georgia where fully certified media specialists are not available, so a viable option for employing and training good media specialists is to hire those “in process.”

Georgia recognizes the importance of a certified school library media specialist, but also recognizes that there are quality applicants that could be hired and then encouraged to complete their certification. In the final analysis, a superior candidate is one who manifests qualifications for successfully discharging the duties and responsibilities of a school library media specialist, and that is the candidate that should be working hand-in-hand with our students and faculties. Is full certification a necessary component for such a superior candidate???

Comments welcomed!!

Dr. Phyllis R. Snipes
University of West Georgia

Broadwell, M.M. (1994). Supervisor: On the job training. (4th ed.). New York :Basic Books.

Jesseman, D.J., Page, S.M., & Underwood, L. (2008). “School library media certification by state (2008).” School Library Media Activities Monthly. From Libraries Unlimited. Retrieved January 20, 2009, from

Lance, K.C. (2005). Powering achievement: The impact of school librariews and librarians academic achievement. Library Resource Service. Retrieved January 21, 2009, from

Posted on January 24, 2009, in Debate and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I’v got certified the IT certification BI0-132
    It is very pleasing.
    It was a bit of a surprise in my life, to be honest.

  2. Anne Hendricks-Browning

    Phyllis, great article!

    One interesting thing to add: I had no teaching experience before I started my career as a media specialist with a M.Ed. in library media. At the age of 23, fresh out of West Georgia, I was the youngest librarian in the state at the time (I had to have been!). You do not have to have teaching experience to be a media specialist in Georgia if you have certification and the degree. Remember, media specialists have “S” certification – service certification!

    In fact, my undergraduate degree was in Theology and Communications. I had NO teaching experience. Zero. I was CLUELESS.

    My M.Ed. in library media trained me for librarianship in schools…not teaching. Now, fifteen years later, I know how to teach, but those first few years? I was clueless. I remember my supervising media specialist recommended I “pay my dues” in a classroom for a year. She was right! If I hadn’t had a patient school staff, a wonderful media paraprofessional (who had been in a media center longer then I had been on this earth!), and the sheer determination to figure out how to teach besides “how to library,” I would have been in another field!

    Hindsight is 20/20 – I think all media specialists should serve at least two years in the classroom before becoming library media specialists. Period. No debate, no argument, take it from me: previous teaching experience will be beneficial to a beginning library media specialist.

    Anne Hendricks-Browning, NBCT
    (not a certified teacher in Georgia, but a National Board Certified Teacher… funny, huh?)

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