Wayne State is seeking to combat a statewide librarian shortage by creating an experimental certificate program that allows educators to become library media specialists.

WSU will admit students into the new program beginning summer 2019.

Students in the program must have a valid Michigan teaching certificate. They will be required to complete 15 credit hours to obtain the Graduate Certificate in Library and Information Sciences. Previously, a master’s degree was required for enrollment, according to a news release by WSU.

Students will continue to be admitted into the program until June 26 — the beginning of the semester. Matthew Fredricks, academic services officer for the School of Information Sciences, said about 20 students have registered thus far.

The program requires fewer credit hours than a full master’s degree, which makes the certificate a lower cost, he said.

“I already have a master’s degree in English education from Eastern Michigan University, so the thought of spending more time and money for a whole new master’s degree just wasn't feasible,” Beth Shaum, a participant in the program, said. Shaum works as an English teacher and librarian at Saint Frances Cabrini Catholic School in Allen Park.

For some, this program opens future employment opportunities. After losing her job as a technology director for a private school, Patti Shayne said she did not have any endorsement other than a traditional teaching degree to work in public schools. Shayne currently works in the library at Avondale High School.

“It was almost dreamlike for me,” Shayne said. “When I learned about the program, I thought that this would be an extremely logical, full-circle road for me since I was very familiar with digital literacy and databases.”

The number of librarians in Michigan schools declined by 54 percent between 2000 and 2010, according to Bridge Magazine. Moreover, only 8 percent of Michigan schools have a full-time, certified library media specialist according to WSU.

Fredericks said government cuts to education budgets are to blame for a lack of library media specialists in schools.

“Schools found that one of the easiest things to cut were school librarian-media positions, so that’s been happening for over ten years,” Fredericks said. “Whereas Michigan used to have a lot more school library media specialists, now there’s a lot less. They just need more funding, basically.”

These librarian cuts can impact students’ education and test scores, he added.

“We’re seeing that at the same time that librarians were cut, there were huge declines in our literacy rates, across the board and across the state,” Amanda Davies, English teacher at Plymouth High School and program participant said. “I believe there’s a correlation there.”

An increased number of certified library media specialists can benefit students and have lifelong impacts, Shaum said.

“Librarians and Media Specialists impact learning and education in so many ways, but the one way that means the most to me is that they remind teachers, administrators and students that reading isn't just to make you ‘college and career ready,’” Shaum said. “I remind my students that I am here for a different reading purpose than their teachers provide for them and that is to help them find what they like, what interests them and what will ultimately help them develop a healthy relationship with reading and learning.”

More information about the program can be found on the School of Information Sciences page. A FAQ for interested students can be found here.