Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

Developing an Instrument for the Validation of Competencies: The Case of Medical Librarians

Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

Developing an Instrument for the Validation of Competencies: The Case of Medical Librarians

Article excerpt


We, the authors of this paper, planned to conduct a study of competencies required for medical librarians. We needed a validated and suitable instrument that could be confidently used in this research. An extensive search through various databases and the published research did not yield one which we could use. We knew that reliable and valid tests / instruments were the foundation of good research and that weak instruments would result in weak research. Our failure in finding a reliable instrument led us to decide to develop a new one. We also understood that the procedure for developing a new test / instrument was a long and a complicated one.

We went through that long and arduous process and developed an instrument which has already been published (Catalano, 2016, p. 109-113). The understanding of the process of designing an instrument is important as it helps in assessing its validity and reliability. This paper describes meticulously the process of developing the instrument that we used for the identification and validation of competencies required by medical librarians. It provides full details of the various steps that were undertaken to develop the instrument. The results of our research were published in 2012 (Ullah & Anwar, 2012). The present paper is being published with the intention of providing a roadmap for those who need to develop a new instrument for their research.

Previous work on competencies

Earlier work on competencies has been ably reviewed by Roper and Mayfield (1993a). The following paragraphs will briefly review some of the previous efforts made for the identification of competencies for medical librarians only.

Bowden, Bierschenk and Olivier (1989) conducted a survey in 1988 of the members of the Association of Academic Health Sciences Library Directors (AAHSLD) in order to determine important professional skills and personal qualities desired by the employers of fresh graduates. The instrument used consisted of nine skills and 13 personal traits using "very important", "important "and "not important" as the choices. It is not known how these skills and traits were identified. Bowden and Olivier (1995) repeated the same survey in 1992. It was found that 'problem solving/analytical skills', 'microcomputer skills', 'bibliographic instruction skills', 'online searching skills', 'reference/information service skills', and 'MEDLINE searching skills' were rated as 'very important'. The following personal qualities were considered as 'very important': 'communication skills', 'enthusiasm', 'self-esteem', 'flexibility', 'service orientation', 'willingness to be a team player', and 'interpersonal skills'.

Roper and Mayfield (1993a) report the results of a survey of knowledge and skills in the health information sciences conducted by the Medical Library Association using a sample of 750 health sciences librarians out of which 375 (50%) returned the questionnaire. The survey instrument listed 63 knowledge-bases categorizing these in seven areas derived from the survey of literature and expert review. The respondents were asked to indicate the importance of each knowledge or skill for effective performance on a 5-point Likert-type scale from 'essential' to 'no importance'. The results are reported in five tables indicating the level of importance of various competencies. They conclude that "If health sciences librarians are not willing to take on the responsibilities which their clientele feel are appropriate, they will be replaced by other professionals who can and will" (p. 38). A fuller version of this report was published in the Bulletin of the Medical Library Association (Roper & Mayfield, 1993b).

Giuse, et al. (1997), using a four-step needs assessment process, designed a survey instrument consisting of 96 competencies divided into 13 categories (the appendix actually lists 98 items). It was administered to 300 respondents (150 librarians and 150 library users) with 131 (77 librarians and 54 users) responding. …

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