How to Become a Librarian in Washington

Washington Librarian Education

The Washington Library Association’s (WLA) journal, Alki, published a study in 2021 that noted many library workers were leaving the profession due to low morale. Workplace stressors, like understaffing, relying on part-time employees, and high turnover, was seen to be degrading the quality or availability of library services. Library workers in Washington and elsewhere have felt that they are stretched too thin and burn out quickly, noting frustration due to book challenges, budget cuts, and the uncertainty of socioeconomic factors. 

The WLA and the American Library Association (ALA) work for librarians and library workers across the country and in Washington. One of the things they are doing to support library workers is pushing legislation to garner millions of dollars each year for libraries nationwide. The ALA-Allied Professional Association (ALA-APA) also works on evaluation of library workers’ salaries and working conditions to help library workers make the most of their career potential. 

Becoming a Washington librarian can be a fulfilling and rewarding job, even if it is challenging at times. To discover what you must do in order to be a Washington librarian, please read on. 

What Does a Washington Librarian Do?

Many varieties of librarians work throughout the state of Washington. They include public librarians, school librarians, archivists, museum librarians, medical and science librarians, law librarians, and more. These jobs all have diverse duties. There are some responsibilities that are common to most librarian positions in Washington, such as:

  • Performing daily library services and operations such as serials, materials processing, outreach and ongoing library services
  • Organizing, implementing and maintaining all phases of the interlibrary loan process
  • Managing automated circulation system, registering new patrons, entering bibliographic data
  • Establishing guidelines for appropriate behavior of library patrons
  • Enforcing library rules
  • Ordering and maintaining library and office supplies
  • Compiling statistical and periodical reports
  • Planning, monitoring and evaluating service delivery
  • Collection management, choosing formats of library materials to meet patrons’ needs
  • Periodic weeding and inventory of library collections
  • Providing technical support to patrons as needed
  • Selecting material to fulfill information requests and assisting patrons with bibliographic tools

What Education is Necessary to Become a Librarian in Washington?

Washington has strict rules for professional librarians, dictating that they must have a Master of Library Science (MLS) or Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree. This degree must be from a college or university program accredited by the ALA.  You may select an ALA-accredited program from any state or online. As of 2022, there is only one such accredited degree program in Washington: the University of Washington Master of Library and Information Science degree, housed at the Information School in Seattle. This highly-ranked program offers studies in online or in-person formats. Concentrations available within the degree include Law Librarianship and School Library Media Endorsement. A bachelor’s degree is typically required in order to be admitted into any MLIS program, although that bachelor’s degree need not necessarily be in library and information science. 

What Certification is Necessary for Washington Librarians?

Washington State Library requires certification of all professional librarians before they may legally work in the state. This requires completion of an ALA-accredited MLIS/MLS degree, submitting the Application for Librarian’s Certification along with a $20 check, and having transcripts sent directly from your school to Washington State Library, Attn: Librarian Certification Program, P.O. Box 42460, Olympia, WA 98504. Washington does not recognize librarian certification from other states, but may accept foreign degrees on a case-by-case basis. 

If you want to work as a school librarian in Washington, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) handles this process. You must complete a state-approved teacher preparation program (listed here). In addition to having a MLIS/MLS degree, you must pass the Washington Educator Skills Test-Basic (WEST-B) to receive teaching certification and an endorsement in Library Media. 

Where Do Librarians Work in Washington?

Washington state has 60 public libraries statewide as of 2019, per the ALA. Professional public librarians may work here. There are also branches of the Washington State Library within the Department of Corrections in nine correctional facilities; within the Department of Social and Health Services in two state hospitals; within the Department of Children, Youth and Families in a children’s center; and within Washington State Agency libraries. Job opportunities are posted on the WLA Job Site as well as at

School librarian positions are available within the state’s public and private schools. Additional professional library positions throughout Washington are advertised at the ALAJobsList site.

What Do Librarians Earn in Washington?

Washington’s librarians earn the second-highest salary of all professional librarians nationwide. They make $41.20 hourly and $85,690 annually. Salaries may vary depending upon the area in Washington in which a professional librarian works, as you can see in the data below:

AreaHourly mean wageAnnual mean wage
Spokane/Spokane Valley$35.06$72,930
Eastern nonmetro area$32.69$68,000
Western nonmetro area$30.91$64,280

Job Prospects for Washington Librarians 

Educated, certified librarians should have no problems finding employment in Washington. For example, recent job postings in the state include:

  • Branch Librarian- Washington State Library, Office of the Secretary of State, Aberdeen
    • Salary: $45,504 to $61,224 per year
    • MLS or MLIS required
    • Must have one year of professional library experience
    • Must have a current Washington driver’s license
  • Librarian- Children and Family Justice Center, King County Library System, Seattle
    • Salary: $37.92 to $45.51 per hour
    • MLS or MLIS required
    • Must have training or experience in a relevant area such as juvenile justice
    • Must have current Washington State Librarian certificate
    • Must have current COVID-19 vaccination
    • Must be pass background check, fingerprinting, and Prison Rape Elimination Act training
  • Corporate Librarian/Information Resources Manager – Shannon & Wilson, Inc., Seattle
    • Salary: $93,200 to $118,000 per year
    • MLS or MLIS required
    • Must have at least 10 years of experience, preferably in a corporate or engineering/architecture library
  • Special Collection Librarian – University of Washington, Seattle
    • Salary: $52,000 to $65,800 per year
    • MLS or MLIS required
    • Need two to three years of relevant experience
    • (Will consider candidates with bachelor’s degree and four to five years of relevant experience)
  • Teacher-Librarian/Technology Integration Specialist – Eatonville School District, Eatonville
    • Salary: $58,466 to $111,072 per year
    • Must have a bachelor’s degree, MLS or MLIS preferred
    • Must have a valid Washington State Teaching Certificate with Library Media or Learning Resources endorsement
    • Must pass criminal background check/fingerprint clearance