Academic journal article Library Technology Reports

Build a Foundation for the List of Competencies

Academic journal article Library Technology Reports

Build a Foundation for the List of Competencies

Article excerpt

Laura Tovey suggests asking four questions before beginning any competency assessment:

1. What is the nature of the organization? Is it structured and hierarchical, operating in a relatively stable industry or is it fast moving and in an industry [that] is "high-tech" related?

2. What is the purpose of competency assessment? Will it serve as a basis for all activities in the management development cycle: selection, assessment, development, and/or succession? Is it required for a specific element described above for a competency-based performance management system?

3. For which levels of the organization do you want to identify competencies? All levels, non-managerial, supervisory/junior management, middle/senior management?

4. How can competencies be defined so that they are meaningful to the organization in question? (1)

Let me try to answer these questions generically on behalf of most libraries. Those at your individual library will want to think about and answer these questions as well.

1. Most libraries are quite structured and hierarchical, though you may be lucky and work in one of the more laterally organized libraries. The industry is fast moving and definitely high-tech.

2. The purposes of a competency assessment are, as outlined in the previous chapter, to create clear expectations from management, save money in the long run, improve the accuracy of job descriptions and classifications, create a culture of learning, redistribute the technology workload fairly, improve customer service, and build a coordinated technology-training program for staff. Most libraries do not have succession planning or "management development cycles." Competency assessment is required to create a competency-based performance management system (e.g., folding competency descriptions into staff reviews and evaluations).

3. Most libraries would like competency descriptions to exist for all staff positions.

4. Ahh ... this one is tricky, and herein lies the purpose of this report: How exactly do you define competencies that are meaningful? In short, by asking the people involved and listening to their answers, by doing your own research into what has worked for other similar organizations, and by doing your best to synthesize the two.

Competency creation is a cycle (see figure 1).


The first thing needed is a little thinking-planning, organizing, making some preliminary basic decisions, and getting some staff input.

Step 1: Create a Competencies Task Force

Some libraries have left the creation of technology competency descriptions to one staff member, either a manager, a technology-support person, or a training coordinator. I highly recommend against this one-person approach for two key reasons. First, that person will be overwhelmed with the amount of work required. Second, the quality of the end product increases when you add more brainpower to it.

Instead, create a small task force composed of representatives from the various departments or staff positions within your institution. The makeup of a task force may look something like this:

* branch manager

* supervisory-level librarian (adult/teen/children services)

* nonsupervisory-level librarian (adult/teen/children services)

* circulation supervisor

* library assistant

* branch aide

* training coordinator

* technology support analyst

Or like this:

* circulation representative from main library

* librarian representative from main library

* circulation representative from large library X

* librarian representative from large library X

* circulation representative from small library Y

* librarian representative from small library Y

* representative from administrative support

* representative from technology support

* representative from training support

Please note that both lists include staff responsible for technology and training. …

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