Procedures for Establishing a Certification Program

Certification Program Proposal

  1. Any individual, committee, institution or ALA division submits a certification program proposal in a specialty area to the appropriate ALA Division.

    The proposal will be submitted on a form made available on the division or ALA-APA Website.

    Certification Program Proposal

    All proposals will include the following information:

    • ALA Division initiating concept

    • Names of Certification Program Development Committee

    • Identification of assessed need / Current trends / Future needs

    • Name of Certificate / Specialty Area

    • Relevance to mission and goals of the APA Certification Program

    • Description of the competencies required for this area of specialization

    • Outline of subject coverage

    • Description of assessment exam and evidence of expected results

    • Target audience

    • Eligibility requirements

    • Background, experience, and number of potentially affected

    • Outcomes/results for the profession

    • Description of specific, observable, or demonstrable results for individual

    • Description of program evaluation methodology (including both quantitative and qualitative data)

    Additional information to be attached as appendices to the proposal:

    • Contact information for the lead individual submitting the proposal

    • Identification of other agencies (divisions, committees, etc-co-sponsors) represented by the submitting individual

    • References to existing documents establishing the competencies or standards for professional practice to be certified

    • References to regional or state librarian certifications where appropriate

    • Specifications for delivery of the program content [here include standard guidelines against discrimination, promoting accessibility, etc.] and any special requirements for delivery of content

    • Recommendations of content providers, if available

    • Literature review

    • Letters of recommendation or support

    Division Approval

  2. The entity within the ALA division designated to deal with certification program applications (division Education Committee, Board subcommittee, etc.) receives and acknowledges the application, and may

    • establish a timeline for dealing with the application in a timely manner;

    • assign a division member as a liaison to the proposers;

    • task individuals to evaluate the application.

  3. Individuals designated by the division evaluate the certification program proposal following established criteria:

    • Completeness of the application

    • Perceived need for the certification program in the context of ALA-APA, including feasibility, and in context with other established certification programs

    • Recognition of the specialization as comprising a distinct set of certifiable competencies

    • Relation to existing State or jurisdictional certifications if relevant. [links to state certification Websites]

    • Other evidence of need for the certification

    • Methodology including assessment

    • Cost-benefit analysis

  4. The division reviewers submit a recommendation to accept or reject the proposal to the division Board, or in some cases, send the proposal back for more information. The recommendation to the Division Board should incorporate all information elements required by the Committee on Education and the ALA-APA Board. This includes:

    • Additional evidence or supporting documentation not included in the application

    • Completed ALA-APA required documentation. Such documentation could include names of division level sponsoring individuals or contacts, possible content providers, an implementation plan supplementing the original proposal [to be worked out by ALA-APA].

  5. The division board submits the proposal to the ALA Committee on Education.

    Committee on Education Review of Proposal

  6. COE receives and acknowledges the application, and may

    • establish a timeline for dealing with the application in a timely manner;

    • assign a Committee member as a liaison to the proposers;

    • task individuals to evaluate the application;

    • track the certification program proposal on the master schedule starting with pre-approval review and running through evaluation of the certification program.

    • establish a liaison with the ALA Office if none has been designated by this point.

  7. In evaluating the proposal, COE reviews the complete proposal paying special attention to Association-wide and extra-Association issues. COE in particular will note the following decisions recorded in the ALA-APA Status and Background Summary: March 8, 2002 document:

    • Continuing education programs and some ancillary products may be provided by ALA and its divisions and/or by other organizations (e.g., ALA Chapters, AASL Affiliates, LIS programs, other university programs, independent trainers or other organizations).

    • A candidate for first-time certification must have a minimum of three years experience. (The CPLA program requires three-years supervisory experience.)

    • Initial certification will be based on (a) demonstrated commitment to ongoing professional development and (b) successful completion of a professionally-validated examination covering the particular specialization. The examination process will be available in geographically dispersed locations.

    • Certification will be for a three-year period, with re-certification based on demonstrated continuing professional development (e.g., continuing education courses, portfolio), not re-examination.

    • All applications for certification and re-certification will be made to the ALA-APA.

    • Both ALA members and non-members may participate in the certification program; membership in ALA (or any other organization) may not be required for certification. Differential fees may be charged to members and non-members for courses and ancillary materials.

    • Statistics will be gathered by the ALA-APA as part of the application and certification process and used in program assessment.

    • The ALA Committee on Education, working with ALA’s eleven divisions, has a continuing role to:

      1. ensure that proposals for new certification programs include a consistent and adequate articulation of specialized competencies and requirements and that ALA members are informed about new standards for professional practice (e.g. knowledge base, experience);

      2. work with ALA staff to ensure that new standards for professional practice become accessible to the ALA-APA for adoption as standard competencies for certification; and,

      3. report to the ALA Council on development of standards for professional practice.

    • Coursework and some ancillary products may be marketed by ALA and its divisions. Such marketing may indicate that the coursework and ancillary products are designed to provide the knowledge necessary to be certified by the ALA-APA in that specialization (e.g., the CPLA program). The certification program itself and study guides for the certification exam must be marketed by the ALA-APA—which may also market the coursework and ancillary products through appropriate arrangement with ALA and its divisions—or other organizations offering related coursework and ancillary products.

  8. COE may send the proposal back to the division for additional work, reject the proposal (incompleteness, redundancy, etc.) or recommend approval of the program to the ALA-APA Board. The approval recommendation may include:

    • Additional evidence or supporting documentation not included in the application

    • Completed ALA-APA required documentation. Such documentation could include names of COE level sponsoring individuals or contacts, in addition to the Chair, additional recommendations on possible content providers, and additions to the schedule and implementation plan supplementing the original proposal [to be worked out by ALA-APA].

    • Additional material to expedite implementation of the program. Such material could include advertising copy announcing the program and soliciting content providers, a certification program Web page, and recommendations for teaching-learning-technology dissemination of the program.

    ALA-APA Board Review

  9. The ALA-APA Board receives and acknowledges receipt of the proposal and deliberates its approval. Upon approval of the certification program, the ALA-APA Board establishes a Certification Review Committee for that specific certification program.

    The Certification Review Committee will be appointed according to the following guidelines:

    • “The Board may establish committees and prescribe their purpose and composition. Committees may include persons not on the Board of the ALA-APA. A majority of members of any committee must be members of the American Library Association. The Board will establish a Certification Review Committee, of three to seven members, for each proposed certification specialty program. Each Certification Review Committee will include active practitioners and LIS educators. The primary purposes of a Certification Review Committee will be to oversee development and administration of a validated testing instrument, based on the subject standards for professional practice, licensed from the American Library Association and to approve providers of continuing education targeted to that certification area. Appointments to a Certification Review Committee will be for four years, non-renewable. Initial appointments will be staggered. The Certification Review Committee will report to the ALA-APA Board of Directors.”

    It is expected that the Committee would include some individuals from the sponsoring Division(s).

    Certification Review Committee

  10. The Certification Review Committee oversees the development of the certification exam, using professional psychometricians to validate the instrument. The Certification Review Committee writes and publicizes specifications and requirements to be fulfilled by providers. The Committee receives applications from those individuals, institutions, and organizations who wish to offer coursework leading to certification. All applicants must abide by established ground rules for workshops. Commissioned developers and approved applicants must enter into a contract with ALA for the delivery of the coursework.

    Ground Rules for ALA Certification Approved Providers

    1. All workshops must be ADA accessible.

    2. All workshops must use *credentialed trainers.

    3. All workshops must go through a sunset review every five years.

    4. All workshop sponsors must financially support the initial development, start-up costs, and costs that are not recovered by fees.

    * Credentialed trainers are those with a demonstrated record of success in providing training and/or who are graduates of one or more train-the-trainer educational experiences. Potential providers will complete the following application and submit to the Certification Review Committee:

    Application to Deliver Coursework for Individual Certification

    Institution / Individual Name:


    If Institution, Contact Person:


    Address: _________________________________________



    Phone: __________________________________________

    Fax: ____________________________________________

    E-Mail: __________________________________________

    Website: ________________________________________

    Certification Program:


    ALA Division(s):


    For each course, include the following information:

    • Name of course

    • Instructor

    • Detailed outline<

    • Learner outcomes / Assessment products

    • Text(s) / Resources to be used

    • Method and schedule of delivery

    Please include a resume for each instructor.

    Attach a signed statement attesting that the coursework fulfills the guidelines established for this certification program.

    Send completed application to:





  11. The initial implementation strategy is aimed at (a) minimizing the startup time and cost, (b) acquiring technical expertise gained from working on other professional certification programs, and (c) preserving the broadest range of future options based on evaluation of the initial five-year period of operation.

    Outsourcing of most of the technical aspects of certification by the ALA-APA is proposed to minimize startup time and cost. Technical aspects would include candidate record maintenance (enrollment, review, certification, re-certification), test administration (including scheduling, training of examination administrators), and marketing. This does not preclude the ALA-APA from developing such capacity internally should that be programmatically and/or economically desirable. If technical aspects are outsourced, day-to-day oversight should be maintained by ALA-APA staff.

    Certification Exams / Appeals

  12. Certification exams will be offered throughout the country through officially designated sites. High standards will be maintained in the integrity of the testing situation. All exams will be sent to the ALA-APA office or an official off-site designee for scoring. Results will be distributed to the participants by the ALA-APA office.

    If a participant has a complaint that cannot be resolved by the delivery institution, the participant may forward the complaint to the certification committee. If the participant is still not satisfied, an appeal may be sent to the appropriate division executive committee and then, if necessary, to ALA-APA’s Executive Committee.

    Program Review

  13. The ALA-APA Board will review the program each year at Annual conference, in order to determine the overall effectiveness and possible need for modifications of the program. Information provided by staff, under the auspices of the Committee on Education, should include, but is not limited to, the following elements:

    • Number of participants

    • Number of organizations/individuals offering coursework

    • Coursework completed by all participants

    • Quality of learner assessment products

    • Evaluation of each delivery institution or individual

    • Participant evaluations

    The Committee on Education should summarize the strengths and highlight any concerns in an annual report to the ALA-APA Board.