If you are seeking a job as a librarian, you may have heard of ALA Accreditation. ALA stands for American Library Association, the biggest library association in the world. Founded in 1876, it is also the oldest association. Their mission is to develop and improve library and information services for all types of libraries in the U.S. and in other areas of the world. Among other things they do, they accredit academic programs that prepare professional librarians in the U.S., as well as Puerto Rico and Canada.
The Credential for Most Librarians
To work as a professional librarian at many types of libraries, such as public, academic, or school libraries, you will generally need to get a Master of Library Science (MLS) degree or another similar degree such as a Master of Library and Information Studies (MLIS). This degree needs to be from an ALA accredited school. The main exception to needing an ALA accredited degree is for school librarians who plan to work in a preK-12 setting. Those librarians may have an ALA accredited masters, but another education option would be to get a masters degree that specializes in school library work and that is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation. Those programs also need to be recognized by the American Association for School Librarians. For most other forms of librarianship, however, you will need to find a graduate program accredited by the ALA.
What ALA Accreditation Means
A school that has been accredited by the American Library Association has gone through a rigorous process in which they have been externally reviewed by the ALA in many areas. The ALA looks at all kinds of things as they evaluate graduate programs, including the program's goals, their curricula and teachers, their students and administrations, and their physical and financial resources. Choosing an ALA accredited school means that you are getting a quality education that will prepare you for librarian work in various settings. Having a degree from an ALA accredited institution will help open more doors in your library career.
You can find an alphabetical list of ALA accredited programs at the Association's website. They also have a database you can search and a map where you can look for schools by location. All ALA accredited schools have certain types of basic courses you must take in order to prepare for library work, but the programs can vary a lot by specifics depending on what kind of library specialty you are most interested in. Some programs are very strong in more traditional library areas while others are more cutting edge and have strong information science courses. Whether you want to become a digital librarian, an archivist at an art library, or a librarian who specializes in certain academic fields, you can generally find an ALA accredited program that will suit your needs.
On your way to becoming a librarian, there are many important things to consider as you plan your educational goals. One of the most important is to make sure you find a quality program that has successfully gone through ALA accreditation.