Putting Competencies to Work for Information Professionals

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In June 2003 SLA published Competencies for Information Professionals of the 21st Century, Revised Edition. I had the great honor of authoring that document along with my co-creators: Eileen Abels, Rebecca Jones, John Latham, and Joanne Gard Marshall. The document defines an information professional, an information organization, and provides two core competencies before turning to professional, then personal competencies. Information professionals and organizations can use this document to create development plans, position descriptions and service portfolios.

The 2003 edition was an update to the original document and now, in 2015, the competencies are once again under revision. Our profession continues to evolve, and the skills and characteristics necessary to succeed as an information professional must keep pace. Other library and information associations and groups have created competencies to serve their own members, and I have begun a Competencies Pinterest board to track these documents.

All of the competency documents break down skills into groups or clusters, and the FLICC document for U.S. Federal librarians provides levels and descriptions of competencies. The Medical Library Association document has an action document that includes recommendations for health information professionals, the Medical Library Association, employers and library & information science educators.

While each set of competencies provides important career material, none of the documents has, as of this writing, taken the step to turn skills into actionable development tools. For this purpose, I have assembled a team at the Los Alamos National Laboratory Research Library. The purpose of the team is to create a custom set of competencies that map to the Lab’s and the Research Library’s mission and goals, together with tools to leverage those competencies. Skill levels are important so that staff members can gain depth in individual competencies. A grid is being created. To gain depth a person will work horizontally across the grid, and to learn a new competency a person will work vertically down the grid. Lab courses along with association and online learning opportunities will be mapped to competencies and levels. This particular tool will allow staff to create individual development plans. We will also create a competency database. When new teams are formed, the database can be utilized to find the skills needed to execute team goals.  Our project goals are ambitious, but promise to yield powerful personal and team development tools. Team members include myself, Helen Boorman, Michelle Mittrach and Adrian Romero.

Competencies provide important career coordinates. Tools and resources are needed to create the rich development mosaic each of us requires to move our careers in new directions.

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