How to Become a Librarian in Wisconsin

As of December 2021, Wisconsin houses 482 public libraries statewide. They are organized into systems by counties, including:

Wisconsin Librarian Education
  • Northern Waters Library Service 
  • IFLS Library System
  • Wisconsin Valley Library Service
  • Nicolet Federated Library System
  • Winding Rivers Library System
  • Outagamie Waupaca Library System
  • Winnefox Library System
  • Manitowoc-Calumet Library Systems
  • South Central Library System
  • Southwest Wisconsin Library System
  • Monarch Library System
  • Bridges Library System
  • Milwaukee County Federated Library System
  • Arrowhead Library System
  • Lakeshores Library System
  • Kenosha County Library System

The largest public library within Wisconsin is the Milwaukee Central Library. This library, which also serves as the administrative headquarters for the Milwaukee Public Library System and the Milwaukee County Federated Library System, was designated a Milwaukee landmark in 1969 and is famous for its Renaissance architecture and sheer size, covering an entire city block. 

In addition to public libraries, Wisconsin is also home to school libraries within its 2176 public schools, academic libraries within its 85 colleges, and many other specialty libraries existing within legal, medical, scientific, and other venues. Becoming a Wisconsin librarian can be an exciting, challenging proposition. Do you wish to learn how to embark upon this quest?  Read on.

What Does a Wisconsin Librarian Do?

Just as Wisconsin has diverse libraries, the job of a Wisconsin librarian is unique and highly dependent upon the setting in which they work. Some job duties that are common to most Wisconsin librarians include:

  • Planning, implementing and managing programs and outreach to members of the community
  • Helping to develop library collections
  • Organizing and maintaining library collections
  • Providing reference and reader’s advisory services to library patrons
  • Working in customer service at a library’s circulation desk
  • Facilitating library social media marketing 
  • Providing assistance to patrons in using technology within the library, as well as accessing online services outside of the library

What Education is Necessary to Become a Librarian in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin librarians need a Master of Library Science (MLS) or Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree from a school accredited by the American Library Association (ALA). As of 2023, Wisconsin has two such programs:

  • Master of Arts in Library and Information Studies – University of Wisconsin-Madison, available in online and on-campus formats. Available concentrations within this degree include:
    • Librarianship
    • Archives in a digital age
    • Data/information management and analytics
    • Information technology & UX
    • Information organization
    • Double degree programs are also possible
  • Master of Library and Information Science – University of Wisconsin-Madison, offering online and in-person classes. Available concentrations within this degree include:
    • Archival studies
    • Information organization
    • Public library
    • Information technology
    • School library media/librarianship for teachers
    • School library media/librarianship for non-teachers

What Certification is Necessary for Wisconsin Librarians?

In Wisconsin, public library directors must be certified. Certification is based upon education and experience. Types of certification include:

  • Regular certification – This certification is issued for five years and is renewable as long as a librarian completes 100 hours of continuing education requirements during that period. Grades of certification under regular include:
    • Grade I – administrators who work for a library with a population of 6000 or more are required to hold this certification. It requires an ALA-accredited MLIS/MLS
    • Grade II- administrators of libraries serving a population of 3000 to 5999 are required to hold this certification. Requirements are a bachelor’s degree including or added by 12 credits in library administration, organization and management of collections, and public and community services, or a bachelor’s degree in library science
    • Grade III- administrators of libraries serving populations under 3000 must have this certification, which requires 54 college credits, with half in the liberal arts and sciences, and 12 credits in library administration, organization and management of collections, and public and community services

Temporary and provisional certifications are also available.

Wisconsin school librarians must become certified Library Media Specialists. This involves completing a School Library Media Program, such as the ones offered in the MLS or MLIS programs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Where Do Librarians Work in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin librarians may work in public libraries, school libraries, university or college libraries, archives, and many other types of libraries. Jobs for librarians in Wisconsin are posted at the Wisconsin Library Association’s Library Jobs Board and in online classified job forums.

What Do Librarians Earn in Wisconsin?

Librarians and media collections specialists working in Wisconsin earn an hourly mean wage of $28.36 and an annual mean wage of $59,000 as of May 2021, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Those working in various parts of the state make higher, or lower, wages than this, as the table below indicates:

AreaHourly mean wageAnnual mean wage
Milwaukee/Waukesha/West Allis$30.31$63,050
Green Bay$28.44$59,150
Fond du Lac$27.33$56,840
La Crosse/Onalaska$27.23$56,630
Eau Claire$27.19$56,560
Northeastern nonmetro area$25.79$53,650
Northwestern nonmetro area$25.45$52,930
South Central nonmetro area$25.22$52,450
Western nonmetro area$23.52$48,920

Job Prospects for Wisconsin Librarians 

Job opportunities for Wisconsin librarians are advertised when they become available. Some examples of jobs posted in January 2023 include:

  • Library Manager – Kress Family and Wrightstown Branches, Brown County, De Pere
    • Wages: $53,412 yearly
    • Requires MLIS/MLS and two years of professional library experience, or bachelor’s degree and five years of professional library experience
    • Requires Wisconsin driver’s license 
  • Programming & Outreach Librarian – Wisconsin Valley Library Service, Baraboo
    • Wages: $45,905 to $56,562 yearly
    • Requires MLIS/MLS
    • Requires two years of professional library experience 
  • Business Librarian – University Library, University of Wisconsin System, Whitewater
    • Wages: $47,200 to $59,800 yearly
    • Requires MLIS/MLS
    • Requires information literacy instruction or other teaching experience
    • Requires experience or education in business-related fields
    • Preference given to candidates who are bilingual (Spanish)
  • Library Director – City of Neenah, Neenah
    • Wages: $92,954 to $112,671 yearly
    • Must hold Grade I WDPI Library Science Certification
    • Must have three years of high-level supervisory library experience 
  • Reference Librarian – Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
    • Wages: $52,900 to $67,000 yearly
    • Requires MLIS/MLS
    • Requires two years of academic health services library experience, in a reference capacity
    • Prefer candidates with experience in advanced database searching