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Who Can Take the Librarians' Licensure Exam?

The Philippine Librarianship Act of 2003—also known as Republic Act No. 9246 (or RA 9246)—was signed into law while I was still in library school. When I first read its provisions, the thought that I could already take the licensure exam even though I had not finished my degree entered my mind. This was based on my erroneous reading of the law and gossip among equally clueless classmates. I was, of course, wrong.

Another rumor that has been going around is that after five years, those with master's degrees in library and information science (or MLIS) will not be allowed to take the exam anymore. Not true. Only those with master's degrees other than MLIS (e.g., MA Library Science) will be prevented from taking the exam by 2009.

But don't take my word for it. Read "The Professional Librarian: Who and How" by V.V.M. Aguirre (ILIS Newsletter [pdf], July-December 2005), a reader-friendly article about the provisions of RA 9246 that have generated the most speculation among those who want to take the exam. Aguirre, a lawyer-librarian, is also my colleague at the Institute of Library and Information Science.

For those who can't or don't know how to download files, the article is reprinted in full—with the author's permission—below.

The Professional Librarian: Who and How

by Prof. V.V.M. Aguirre, M.L.S., LL.M.

In the course of my teaching and lecturing in various fora for librarians and would-be librarians, I have been asked many questions about the implementation of Republic Act No. 9246, otherwise known as the Philippine Librarianship Act of 2003. No question has come up with more frequency than the question of who and how one may be included in the roster of professional librarians.

Let us walk through the relevant provisions of RA 9246.

According to Sec.3, par. (a), a Librarian is “a bona fide holder of a Certificate of Registration and Professional Identification Card issued by the Professional Regulatory Board for Librarians and by the Professional Regulation Commission in accordance with this Act.” [Emphasis supplied.] The import of this definition is that one becomes a librarian not through performance of functions generally attributed to librarians but only through official recognition granted by the state through the agency of the Professional Regulatory Board for Librarians who must give the recognition in accordance with the provisions of RA 9246.

Among the powers and functions of the Board for Librarians is the authority to “promulgate and administer rules and regulations necessary to carry out the provisions of this Act.” These rules and regulations acquire the force of law only if they are not incompatible with the basic law passed by Congress.

What does RA 9246 say about the qualifications of applicants to the profession? The law provides for two (2) ways by which one may be admitted to the profession: with examination, and without examination. Let us first deal with the latter: registration without examination. To quote Sec.19:

Upon application and payment of the required fees, the Board shall issue a Certificate of Registration and Professional Identification Card to an applicant who, on the date of effectivity of Republic Act No. 6966, is: [emphasis supplied]
(a) a practicing librarian who has completed at least a bachelor’s degree and a librarian or supervising librarian eligible;
(b) a practicing librarian who has completed at least a bachelor’s degree, eighteen (18) units in Library Science, five (5) years experience in librarianship, and a first grade eligible or its equivalent;
(c) a practicing librarian who has completed a masteral degree in Library Science or Library and Information Science, and a first grade eligible or its equivalent; or
(d) a practicing librarian who has completed at least a bachelor’s degree, eighteen (18) units in Library Science, and seven (7) years experience in librarianship
Any practicing librarian, therefore, whose qualifications fall under any of the above enumerations shall be qualified to become a registered professional librarian without examination. The use of the word “shall” in the law does not make this discretionary upon the Board. Note, however, that the qualifications for exemption must be possessed by the candidate for licensure on the date of effectivity of RA 6966, that is, in September 1990, on the day RA 6966 was published in a newspaper of general circulation, and not after.

RA 9246 further states that “those who qualify under this Section shall be given three (3) years within which to apply for registration upon the effectivity of this Act.” Since the Act was approved on February 19, 2004, practicing librarians considered exempt by the provisions of sec.19 may apply until February of 2007. The exact date depends on the publication date of the law.

After February 2007, practicing librarians who possess the qualifications enumerated in Sec.19 can no longer be exempt. The question is, can they opt to take the licensure examination without complying with the provisions of Sec.15. The answer is no. The law is clear on the qualifications of those who may take the licensure examination. Under Sec. 15, the applicant must
(a) be a citizen of the Philippines or a foreign citizen whose country has reciprocity with the Philippines as regards the practice of librarianship;
(b) have good health and good moral character; and
(c) a graduate of Bachelor’s degree in Library Science and Information Science (BLIS) [or] a holder of a master’s degree in Library and Information Science (MLIS).
Nevertheless, within five years from the effectivity of RA 9246, or until February 2009, holders of the following degrees may be allowed to take the licensure examination:
(a) Bachelor of Science in Education or Elementary Education; or Bachelor of Arts with a major or specialization in Library Science;
(b) Master of Arts in Library Science or Library and Information Science; or
(c) Any masteral degree with concentration in Library Science
This difference in the treatment of BLIS/MLIS from a BSE/BSEE/MA Library Science and Information Science is justified by the difference in the curriculum content. The former (BLIS/MLIS) are professional degrees proper to librarianship while the latter are mere majors or specializations.

It is hoped that the foregoing has somehow clarified these rather confusing provisions of the law.

Category: Licensed Librarians

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