Competency Evaluation Results: Technology
Details of the evaluation results are in the attached PDF.
Summary and Analysis
The Competency Index compiled by WebJunction is a representative set of competencies for technology in libraries, covering the territory from the minimum set of Core skills that all staff need to the range of technologies involved in library Systems & IT. We asked librarians and library staff across the field to rate their level of competency with technology, choosing one of two evaluation paths—either the Core skills or the System & IT skills. 78.5% of respondents chose the Core path for evaluation.
Within each path, we limited the evaluation to a selection of topics in order to streamline the process for respondents.
- Core Technology competencies topics:
- Core Hardware & Operating Systems
- Core Software Applications
- Core Internet
- Systems & IT competencies topics:
- Hardware and Operating Systems
- Networking & Security
- Public Access Computing
We collected over 1000 responses from the US, Canada, and 35 other countries (half of those from Australia). There was a fairly even distribution between libraries serving very small populations (under 5,000) to those serving very large populations (over 100,000). Over 66% of respondents were from public libraries, with academic libraries in second place at 22%.
Respondents were asked to rate themselves on a number of skills or knowledge questions using the following scale:
- Strong skill: demonstrates knowledge or performs tasks confidently and needs no further training
- Moderate skill: demonstrates knowledge or performs tasks adequately but could use more training or mentoring in certain aspects
- Minimal skill: demonstrates lack of confidence in knowledge and task performance; needs more training
- No skill: not at all familiar with the knowledge or skills
- Does not apply: these competencies are not applicable to your skill set
Results from this self-selected, self-evaluating group do not constitute a scientific and objective data set, but the findings are still of interest for determining areas for improvement through learning opportunities.
Results for Core Technology Path
It’s interesting that so many respondents chose to evaluate themselves on the core technology competencies. Does this reflect a level of insecurity about their basic competence when dealing with technology? If so, they should be encouraged by the results, which show a predominance of strong skills on most questions, with percentiles as high as 93% (for word processing basics). Keep in mind that respondents are self-selected; staff who may need the most improvement in core technology skills are the ones least likely to take a survey like this.
Some minor weaknesses surfaced amid the strong results:
- Understanding the setup and use of data projectors and other AV equipment dropped to moderate or minimal skill levels.
- Downloading ebooks and audiobooks was strong, but 17% (142 people) had minimal or no skill.
- Strong percentages wavered a bit in the area of skill with common security protocols related to Internet use.
A sampling of comments reveals the tension that exists in today’s libraries around technology comfort levels:
“This was pretty basic stuff--how can one be a public librarian and not know all that stuff?” (from a very large public library in Virginia)
“It seems a bit too simple. Even non-techies should have a deeper skill set than is represented here.” (from a library student in a very small library in New York)
“Good basic test of the variety of skills and levels of computer usage.” (from a very small public library in British Columbia)
“It helped me realize that I need to work on my skills.” (from small to mid-size public library in Georgia)
“I reviewed both sets of questions and I'm either very strong here or minimal in systems.” (from an LIS student in British Columbia)
Results for Systems & IT Path
Predictably, the results for the Systems & IT evaluation path show more of a mix of strong, moderate, and some standout minimal skill levels. It is a significant leap from using computer hardware and software to being the one responsible for the administration of it all. It’s likely that those who chose this path had higher initial confidence in their knowledge and abilities, and there are several questions that yielded a majority of strong responses to support that confidence.
A handful of weak areas include:
|Understanding and executing the process of imaging PCs||
|Installing and configuring the wireless components||24.1% minimal,
17.9 % no skill
|Applying effective security protocols for all wireless networks||30.2% minimal,
18.5% no skill
|Developing a plan for regular and automated security maintenance tasks||29.0% minimal,
16.0% no skill
When asked to select from the 12 topics covered in the Systems & IT portion of the Competency Index, 52% chose Web Design & Development as the topic in which they were most interested in improving skills and knowledge; Networking & Security was the runner-up with 46%.
Open-ended comments from the survey reinforce the reality that acquiring technology skills is a lifelong learning process:
“What I need is training on Linux.” (from a University Research Centre ("Special Academic") in British Columbia)
“I'm also hoping to learn more about digital copyright and Internet security for patrons.” (from a small to mid-size public library in British Columbia)
“It is a rapidly changing field and I feel that it's difficult to keep up, much less, be more than just competent in using technology.” (from a small to mid-size public library in Michigan)
“what about social technologies?” (from a very large public library in Virginia)
“most of the questions were beyond me and I have no tech support. this was a depressing exercise!” (from a very small public library in Alaska)
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