Use of Professional Competencies and Standards Documents for Curriculum Planning in Schools of Library and Information Studies Education

Article excerpt

Use of information professional association competency statements by schools of library and information studies (LIS) indicates the influence of practice on education and is encouraged by the Standards for Accreditation of Master's Programs in Library & Information Studies. Content analysis of program presentation documents submitted to the American Library Association (ALA) Committee on Accreditation and a survey of U.S. and Canadian LIS schools reveal that such statements are used in curriculum development, although specific use is not always documented in detail in accreditation submissions. In comparison, surveys of public library directors assessing use of such statements in hiring or in professional development and of state library development officers assessing use in developing standards of practice, certification requirements, and programs for training and professional education indicate that these areas of practice use such statements considerably less than LIS schools and rate the utility of such statements lower.

Introduction

In conjunction with the process of accreditation of master's programs in library and information studies, a number of information professional associations have developed statements of competencies that set forth their expectations for the preparation of entrants to their segment of the information field. These statements complement and supplement the American Library Association's (ALA) Standards for Accreditation of Master's Programs in Library & Information Studies,1 as suggested by their identification as educational policy statements at the ALA Office for Accreditation web site, which provides links to the statements listed. Wording in two standards of the ALA Standards for Accreditation of Master's Programs in Library & Information Studies indicates that competency statements or educational policy statements should be taken into consideration by LIS schools in their program planning and curriculum development. Standard I. Mission, Goals, and Objectives states:

Program objectives are stated in terms of educational results to be achieved and reflect . . .

. . . appropriate principles of specialization identified in applicable policy statements and documents of relevant professional organizations. . .

That requirement of consultation of professional organization statements is echoed in a similar phrase in Standard II. Curriculum:

The design of specialized learning experiences takes into account the statements of knowledge and competencies developed by relevant professional organizations.3

The use by schools of library and information studies of these competencies documents is an indication of the strength of the ties between education and practice, as these documents express the perspective of practitioners as formulated at the national level. On the other hand, use of the documents by local and state practitioners can be considered an indication of the degree of influence exercised by national level expectations for competencies of library professionals on local and state level hiring practices and staff development. Hence the extent of use by practitioners at local and state levels provides an indication of the strength of connection between professional formulations and actual practice in the field.

In addition to the specific statements targeted to particular venues or areas of practice, a generalized statement of core competencies has been drafted by the American Library Association.4 Programs accredited by ALA have been examined to determine whether the competencies (in the 2005 version of the draft) are included in their curricula, with 94.6 percent found to include all of them.3 Attention to core competency statements in various aspects of the field continues at national and state levels: for example, in 2006,

* the Library and Information Technology Association featured a program on core competencies in library technology at the 2006 ALA Annual Meeting;

* Outstanding Library Service to Children: Putting the Core Competencies to Work was published;6

* a statement of core competencies for Massachusetts librarians was issued in April by participants in the Library Leadership Massachusetts Institute;7

* The Art Libraries Society of North America published Core Competencies & Core Curricula for the Art Library and Visual Resources Professions. …