Public Library Staff Education Program (PLSEP) outcomes

Librarians across the nation are retiring in large numbers.  Based on the 1990 Census, it’s been widely reported that American libraries are projected to lose 58% of their professional librarians to retirement by 2019.  Libraries are concerned about a potential shortage of librarians to fill newly vacated jobs.  In 1998/1999 the California State Library launched a program to help public and county law libraries grow their own librarians.  With the assistance of a committee of public library directors and managers, the Public Library Staff Education Program (PLSEP) was launched.

Funded with Library Services and Technology Act funding, the program provides tuition reimbursement assistance to public and county law library employees seeking their Master’s Degree in library and information studies from an American Library Association accredited program.  A panel of public library directors and managers evaluate and score the applications received for this program each year.  Applicants are ranked according to their review scores, and a grant award is made to the public or county law library employing those students with the highest scores, specifically for the reimbursement of their course fees.  Successful applicants can receive up to $5,000 per year in tuition reimbursement, for up to five years. Because many of the individuals receiving tuition reimbursement under this program are working full time, it often takes recipients three to five years to complete their studies on a part-time basis.

This year one hundred sixty four eligible individuals applied for tuition reimbursement funding. One hundred and eight of those applicants were selected to receive tuition reimbursement in 2007/08.

This program has been effective in meeting its objective.  “Because of this program, not only have we been able to encourage and assist our current staff members move forward in their pursuits of earning a library degree, but from a Human Resources perspective, this program has benefited us greatly in the management of our librarian recruitment costs and efforts by consistently providing us with a diverse, internal pool of well qualified candidates to fill our entry level librarian vacancies,” says Dan Mottola, Human Resources Manager for the San Diego Public Library. “Last interview cycle alone, we were able to promote four PLSEP recipients into the ranks of professional librarianship.”

Today, over 200 public and county law library staff members have become librarians thanks to the Public Library Staff Education Program.  In this past year, twenty three recipients have earned their Master’s degree in library and information studies and have filled a variety of California librarian jobs, ranging from children’s librarians to library branch managers.

For more information about the program and application criteria please visit the PLSEP page on the California State Library’s website, or contact Kathy Low, Library Programs Consultant, at (916) 653-6822 or email at  The application cycle for the 2008/09 program will open in January 2008 and the new applications will be posted on the web.




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