Academic journal article Journal of the Medical Library Association

How Do Early Career Health Sciences Information Professionals Gain Competencies?

Academic journal article Journal of the Medical Library Association

How Do Early Career Health Sciences Information Professionals Gain Competencies?

Article excerpt

Librarians have spent decades discussing the role of formal library education in preparing entry-level librarians. Some contend that library and information studies (LIS) education is failing to provide practical, competitive skills for a professional career, while others hold that LIS education provides a necessary theoretical foundation in the academic discipline of information science that might not be emphasized in a vocationally oriented program [1-3]. Both perspectives conclude that library school is not a standalone, comprehensive method of preparing librarians for the realities of the library and information services work environment. This has resulted in a gap between the requirements of entrylevel positions and the abilities of new graduates. If these new graduates did not gain entry-level competencies via their degree programs, they must bridge this gap in other ways to develop the skills they need to succeed in their jobs.

This gap becomes especially significant in the health sciences environment. New health sciences information professionals are expected to support a wide variety of disciplines and specialties in biomedical education, research, and health care delivery, in increasingly complex academic and clinical contexts. Many health sciences librarians (including the authors) enter the field without a health sciences background. Thus, gaps in library knowledge are compounded by gaps in health sciences subject knowledge, which may affect early career information professionals' preparedness and confidence in their abilities to perform their new job duties.

There is no uniform set of skills needed to succeed as a new health sciences information professional, because position requirements can vary wildly among different roles at different types of institutions. However, the Medical Library Association (MLA) has identified some common areas of knowledge for health sciences librarians in their seven Competencies for Lifelong Learning and Professional Success [4]:

* ''Health Sciences and Health Care Environment and Information Policies''

* ''Leadership and Management Theory and Techniques''

* ''Health Sciences Information Services'' n ''Health Sciences Information Resource

Management''

* ''Information Systems and Technology''

* ''Curricular Design and Instruction''

* ''Research, Analysis, and Interpretation''

While entry-level librarians are not expected to have mastered all seven competencies and mastery is considered a lifelong, ongoing process, the competencies nevertheless represent foundational areas of knowledge that are flexible enough to apply to many health sciences information positions.

There is little recent research published on the ways in which entry-level health sciences information professionals acquire professional competencies. This study sought to describe early career health sciences professionals' competency development by assessing participants' sense of preparedness for their jobs and their perspectives on formal and informal education and training through the framework of the seven competencies.

METHOD

The survey comprised a total of fifty questions. The first thirteen questions were demographic in nature. Participants were asked about degree attainment, employment status, type of employer, and length of employment. To define an ''early career'' participant demographic, the authors used the same criteria set by the Academy of Health Information Professionals (AHIP) for provisional status. Academy provisional status is designed for health information professionals with less than five years of professional experience [5]. Only candidates who reported less than five years of professional experience were advanced to the competencies section of the survey. Participants who did not meet the predetermined demographic criteria were directed to the end of the survey and thanked for their participation.

The authors used MLA's published Competencies for Lifelong Learning and Professional Success [4] to investigate the self-perceived career preparedness of participants who advanced to the competencies section of the survey. …

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