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What is a librarian?

March 8, 2010
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At a recent faculty meeting here–where the topic of discussion was the new master’s program starting this semester–a colleague referred to “core competencies” for librarians. I chimed in at that point, asking what are exactly such competencies in 2010. I believe that they do, in fact, exist; if they did not, there would be no point in being a librarian nor calling it my profession. In fairness to my colleague, and as an exercise in nailing this down for myself, here are my thoughts on what those competencies are:

  • knowledge and appreciation of the history and development of libraries
  • high awareness of the universal values of the profession; one could describe these in many ways, but for me it boils down to providing as much information to as many people for as little cost (to them) as possible
  • understanding of the various tasks performed in libraries: collection development, presentation of online content, reference service, cataloging, acquisitions, etc.
  • expertise in at least one of those areas, and enough knowledge of the others to speak intelligently with all colleagues
  • way above average skills in finding information, whether in print or online
  • facility with information technology, i.e.- able to use or quickly learn any basic consumer technology and able to grasp at least the architecture of networked systems

This is not a definitive statement, just some thoughts. I realize as well that such a list is like attaching a lightning rod to one’s head in a thunderstorm, and we likely all have our ideas about these things. What is on your list?

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