Competencies, Ethics and Values

Last week I wrote about changes to public libraries as a result of changing technology and the changing needs of patrons. The same can be said for all types of libraries; there have been vast changes in the last decade alone. This week I am wondering what these changes mean for the 21st century librarian. What does it mean to be a librarian in 2013 and into the future? Certainly not the same thing that it meant 20 or 30 years ago? What are the competencies and ethical considerations required of the modern day librarian?

ALA Core Competencies: (2009)

  1. Foundations of the profession
  2. Information Resources
  3. Organization of Recorded Knowledge and Information
  4. Technical Knowledge and Skills
  5. Reference and user services
  6. Research
  7. Continuing Education and Lifelong Learning
  8. Administration and Management

Ethical Principals of the ALA: (2008)

  1. Provide the highest levels of service
  2. Uphold principles of intellectual freedom
  3. Protect the user’s right to privacy
  4. Recognise and respect intellectual property rights
  5. Treat colleagues with respect and advocate for good employment conditions
  6. Do not advance private interests over those of the user
  7. Distinguish between personal convictions and professional duties
  8. Strive for excellence in the profession by encouraging professional development, in ourselves and our co-workers.

Clearly some of these issues would not have been the same 20 years ago. For example, information resources would have been a much easier competency to understand and develop before the information explosion that is the internet and the world wide web, databases, access to broadband, google, e-books and the list goes on…………

I agree that we now need technological skills as well as traditional; however, there are some competencies that stand out to me as being vitally important. Personally, I believe that these items are the absolute essentials:

Foundations of the profession: To understand what a librarian is and does. To me, this is about making information available to users. It is balancing freedom of information with the principles of intellectual property. It is about appreciation of all the ethical considerations outlined above while ensuring that people get the information they require, to the best of your ability. It is being respectful and non-judgmental in relation to people’s information needs. It is about understanding libraries (various types) and their patrons, and their patron’s needs. And finally, something which I feel very strongly about, is that we have the understanding that libraries need advocates and who better to advocate for the library than the librarian.

User Services: At the end of the day, the user is king. The library will not function without the user and long gone are the days that a library could be considered a room of books. A library is a service and the librarian must ensure the service is user-orientated.

Continuing Education and Lifelong learning: As far as I am concerned this is now one of the fundamental issues in librarianship. Of course, we must all know the basics that we learn in library school but who knows when what we are learning now will become obsolete. Technology is changing our field; every day there are new bits of information on the web, new ways to get information and new electronic devices to see information. We must be willing to keep up, and I would argue, more than willing but actually interested and engaged and actively seeking information. We must be hungry for information because information is our profession. We must also be willing to teach others about information and help them to develop in this ever-changing world.

These are my thoughts but I would love to know if there is anything I have missed or what other people think about the profession. Please leave a comment as to your understanding of what it means to be a librarian because I would love to learn more about the profession and people’s understanding of it.


One thought on “Competencies, Ethics and Values

  1. Thanks for sharing this. It is very important to always read because we get a lot of information from reading. Our technology now has been advancing so fast. That is why it is also important the we professionals, we should also advance our knowledge by taking up continuing education courses. Our modern day librarian should also have good qualification.

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