The International Language of Competencies

Betha Gutsche /
eBook Appointment
eBook help; photo by the Moore Memorial Library on Flickr

Following the publication of the original Competency Index for the Library Field in 2009, we heard from many colleagues in the CE field who were adapting and remixing all or parts of the Index to suit a variety of training program needs. It was exciting to see this framework defining the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that are critical to the success of libraries being used as intended—to guide training initiatives and learning opportunities for library staff. Conceived primarily as a foundation for U. S. public libraries, it was even more gratifying to discover that the Index was applicable to global audiences as well.  Through our work with the Global Libraries initiative of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we learned that training program managers from grantee countries around the world found the competencies to have international relevance. The Global Libraries Training Working Group noted the importance of the competencies as a “tool to ensure that library workers across regional or national areas have consistent skills.”

Competencies are not static, especially in a library world of rapid change. Technologies that were only emergent five years ago, like e-books, mobile devices, or cloud computing, have risen to the forefront in libraries. The focus on 21st century skills, accountability, and community engagement in library service has intensified. WebJunction seized a grant opportunity to update the Competency Index this year.

Soon after the 2014 update was published, Juan Carlos Sierra and Catalina Melo from the National Library of Colombia took the initiative to create a Spanish translation of the Index to support their implementation of the Global Libraries program in Colombia. “We consider it is very important to integrate the experience developed by other countries in our own process. …we hope to share this document with the Public Libraries Group of the National Library, so that they can also take advantage of the actions developed by WebJunction.” In the spirit of sharing resources, the Colombian team urged other Spanish-speaking countries to make use of their translation as well. .

The international competency conversation expanded further when Paco Alcaide, Regional Director of Honduras and Guatemala at the Riecken Foundation, offered to share the Community Library Capacity Assessment they had recently developed. The tool is designed to measure critical knowledge, skills, resources, and relationships that the staff of Community Libraries possess. Although the community library model is different from other public library systems in that it relies on community volunteers, training is just as important. The assessment tool offers another valuable resource easily adaptable to public library models of all kinds.  

The circle is full and global.