New York State Public Librarian Certification; Frequently Asked Questions: Professional Development Requirements for Public Librarians in New York State

1. Why is professional development for public librarians important?

We live in a time of exponential change. Not only are electronic technologies proliferating at an unprecedented rate, but the population of New York is growing continually more diverse. These changes have transformed, and continue to transform, library services and the skills necessary to deliver them. New Yorkers of all ages and backgrounds need the help and guidance of a skilled, diverse library workforce to make full use of library resources. The New York Library Association (NYLA) and the Board of Regents recognize that librarians and library staff need continual training to stay current with these developments in information technology.

2. How does this benefit the library profession and library services in New York State?

Studies show that one of the major predictors of success for public libraries is having an informed and knowledgeable librarian. Requiring professional development for certified public librarians benefits librarians, local libraries, library customers, and local communities. Keeping current about changing trends in library services enables public librarians to better meet the ever-changing information needs of the library’s customers.

3. Who is affected by these requirements?

The professional development requirements apply only to those public librarians initially certified by the State Education Department on or after January 1, 2010. Librarians with professional public librarian certificates issued prior to that date are currently exempt.

4.Why aren't school library media specialists included in these regulations?

School library media specialists are already required to take 175 hours of professional development credits every five years under the State Education Department’s Office of Teaching Initiatives.

5. What about public librarians who work in libraries serving rural or small communities?

The State Education Department does not require librarians working in public libraries that serve populations fewer than 7,500 to hold a professional certificate, although, if qualified, they are encouraged to apply for a professional certificate. If a professional certificate holder wishes to maintain an active certificate he/she must complete all continuing education requirements. [See also CR 90.8: appointment of library personnel.]

6. What other models were used as guidelines for requiring continuous professional development?

Within the state of New York, all teachers, teaching assistants, and school library media specialists must participate in continuous professional development in order to maintain a valid certificate. Other professions, monitored by the State Education Department’s Office of Professions, requiring continuous professional development and/or continuing education include speech-language pathologists/audiologists, professional engineers, land surveyors, optometrists, public accountants, architects, and more. Various considerations, guidelines, and methods of information collection were taken from these different models in order to formulate a model that worked best for the public librarian professional certificate in New York State.

7. May a public librarian certificate from another state be transferred to New York State?

No. You must apply for a New York State Public Librarian Professional Certificate through the New York State Education Department.  Requirements | Application

8. How will employers know if a librarian is certified?

The New York State Education Department currently lists the names of licensed and certified individuals on its website for a wide range of professions. This is public information, which is made available for the public’s protection. The lists are used by potential employers and the general public to determine if an individual is appropriately licensed or certified to practice their profession in New York State, as required by law and regulation. The State Education Department has provided the names of approved holders of public librarian professional certificates on its web site since 2007. All privacy and security issues are handled in accordance with the New York State Education Department’s Internet Privacy and Security Policy.

9. Who pre-approves the professional development activities?

Some providers of professional development activities are defined in Commissioner’s Regulations, including colleges and universities, state associations and library systems. In addition, the public library or library system may review a provider to determine whether they are approvable. Upon request, the State Education Department will also review provider/professional development activities to determine whether they are approvable. Some approved providers are listed on the State Library’s web site.

10. Do these requirements for public librarian professional certificates essentially requiring a lifetime of “formal” education for public librarians?

No. CR 90.7 requires professional development, but not necessarily in the formal sense of a college or graduate level course. E-courses, webinars, library system workshops, conference programs, and many other, less costly and time-intensive activities are acceptable. Professional development activities are intended to help equip public librarians with the basic tools and information they need in order to deal with rapidly changing information technologies and environments.

11. What happens if a librarian fails to meet the professional development requirements?

The librarian may apply to the State Education Department for a temporary certificate for a fee of $5, for a one-year time period. Within this one-year time period the librarian must complete the hours missing from the previous five-year period as well as an additional hour per month. At the end of the year, when all requirements have been completed, or earlier if requirements are completed earlier, the professional certificate will be reinstated. SEE: CR 90.7

12. Do these changes apply to all professional librarians?

All holders of a public librarian’s professional certificate working in a library or library system will have to accrue 60 hours of professional development every five years, whether they work full-time or part-time. Public librarians not employed in a library or library system must complete professional development every five years at a rate reduced by ten percent for every year not employed in a library or library system. Note that this does not apply to certificate holders who received a certificate before January 1, 2010.

13. Will these professional development requirements enhance the recruitment and retention of public librarians in New York State?

Yes. Encouragement of ongoing professional development for library staff by library boards and directors creates a supportive work environment that will enhance the recruitment and retention of a highly skilled library workforce. The New York Library Association (NYLA) and the Board of Regents recommend that the public librarians of the future constantly stay abreast of new developments and trends in library management, library services and library technology. This commitment will help promote excellence in New York State’s library workforce and will provide multiple career options for public librarians.

Professional development requirements are already standard practice in school librarianship and the teaching profession as well as in the 52 other professions licensed by the New York State Education Department.

14. Do smaller public libraries have the resources to give their librarians time off to attend the required professional development courses/workshops?

Public libraries serving populations under 7,500 in New York State are not required to hire a certified public librarian, so libraries serving small communities are not affected by the professional development requirement for public librarian certification. [See also CR 90.8: appointment of library personnel.]

However, studies show that one of the major predictors of success for a public library is having informed and knowledgeable librarians. The New York Library Association (NYLA) and the New York State Education Department recommend that public library boards, regardless of the size of the library, make ongoing professional development for library staff and trustees a priority. A skilled and knowledgeable library staff that is trained to meet information needs benefits both the library users and the local community. A trained and knowledgeable library board realizes the critical link between a skilled staff and quality library services.

15. How do these regulations impact the ability of New York’s public libraries to comply with the minimum public library standards?

Requiring professional development for certified public librarians should not affect a local public library’s capacity to comply with any existing Education Laws or Commissioner’s Regulation. The education requirements for public library directors as outlined in Commissioner’s Regulations 90.2 and 90.8 will remain the same.

16. What does this requirement mean for library trustees?

First, library directors and trustees should familiarize themselves with the regulations and determine if the regulations will apply to any positions at their library. Public libraries serving populations under 7,500 are generally not affected, unless the library has professional librarian positions. Public libraries serving populations of 7,500 or more are at minimum required to employ a paid certified professional public librarian as director in order to meet minimum public library standards.

Second, if the regulations do apply, then the library director and trustees should think about what internal policies or controls the library might put in place to ensure that the public librarians they employ are successful in meeting the new requirements. Also think about how the library will handle the situation if an employee’s certification is suspended. A librarian without an active New York State certification may not be employed in a professional librarian position. This certification requirement has been in place since 1909 and it applies regardless of whether the librarian position is full time or part-time.

Third, the library director and trustees should think about what kinds of policies, structure, support and encouragement the library can provide to assist individuals in completing and documenting their professional development within required time frames. Will the library provide financial support for staff to attend classes or professional conferences?  Allow time on the job for staff to complete online courses? Formally recognize staff for completion of professional development activities? Include documentation of professional development as part of the annual performance plan and evaluation process

17. What does this change mean for library systems?

The major role of the library systems in assisting with successful implementation of the new requirements of CR 90.7 is to continue to provide and promote a wide range of high quality professional development activities for librarians and staff. Systems should be prepared to respond to a possible increase in requests from participants for written documentation that such activities have been successfully completed.

Library systems and boards should consider the following questions:

  1. Is the library system able to indicate to the workshop participant the number of contact/clock hours that will be earned through each continuing education activity?
  2. What kind of written documentation will the library system provide to participants who request such documentation? Will the library system provide a formal certificate of completion indicating the name of the provider, the activity, the date, the number of contact/clock hours completed, complete with an original signature? Will this written documentation be in the form of a certificate or a letter? Who will sign such a document?
  3. Will the library system have a policy/procedure in place to track workshop participants in the event someone returns at a later date and requests such documentation? There is no requirement in CR90.7 that library systems must provide a tracking system. If it is the system’s intent not to track workshop participants, then this should be made known at each professional development event.

18. What is the definition of a contact hour?

CR 90.7(3)(c) states that "Public librarian’s professional certificates issued as of January 1, 2010, and thereafter shall only remain valid when 60 hours of professional development is completed every five year period."

The State Education Department interprets the phrase "60 hours" to mean 60 clock hours. It is the responsibility of the professional development provider to determine the equivalent number of hours for each continuing education course that is provided.

Specific Questions

1. Are any of the professional development hours I completed prior to my Public Librarian Professional Certificate issue date applicable?

No.  The 60 contact hours must be completed within each five-year certification period.

2. How many contact hours do I earn for taking a formal course?

The school offering the course would make the determination as to how many contact hours the course would represent.  Please ask them to provide that information to you in writing and keep the letter with your continuing education files.

3. May I get credit for teaching a course?

Yes.  Up to 12 hours of the 60 hours can include instructional activities that contain relevant content both created by and delivered by the public librarian professional certificate holder.

4. Do webinars count toward continuing education requirements?

Live webinars count if

  • they cover an appropriate topic (see list above for a sample of eligible topics) and
  • you retain your registration confirmation information and a description of the class for your records. 

Archived webinars count if

  • they cover an appropriate topic and
  • you have, at a minimum, a copy of written documentation from a supervisor confirming that you participated. 

When live webinar completion cannot be confirmed with a registration e-mail supervisory verification may be requested. In all cases a continuing education certificate is preferred if available. In all cases the New York State Education Department reserves the right to accept/deny credits.

5. If I attend a conference how many continuing education hours can I get?

As with other continuing education, the conference must cover an appropriate topic.  You will receive continuing education hours only for the individual sessions/workshops that you attend, not for the entire duration of the conference.  Please keep a record of the sessions/workshops you attended, their duration and their descriptions.

6. Does volunteer work count toward continuing education requirements?

Up to 12 hours of volunteer work may count IF the time is spent completing a supervised professional development project in a relevant content area for which no academic credit is awarded.  The supervisor must be a certified librarian.  The details of the project must be documented in writing by the supervisor.

7. Are meetings approvable for continuing education?

No.  Work meetings and professional organization meetings cannot be counted toward continuing education hours.

8. Are continuing education certificates required for all activities?

No.  They are not required.  If a certificate is offered please keep it for your records.  If it is not offered please keep all other documentation related to the activity (description of activity, registration information and any other relevant documentation).

9. How do I submit my 60 continuing education hours to the New York State Education Department?

The certificate holder is responsible for obtaining and keeping all records of continuing education hours.  The State Education Department may request documentation at any time to verify completion of professional development requirements.  The certificate holder should not send records of continuing education to the State Education Department unless they are requested to do so.  The sample form is for personal record keeping only. 

Questions about the New York State Public Librarian Certification Program may be directed to:

Amy Heebner, Public Librarian Certification Program Manager
Division of Library Development
New York State Library
518-474-4883

Last Updated: April 16, 2014 --asm; for questions or comments, contact us