Librarianship Technology Competencies

What technology competencies do librarians and information professionals need? How do technology competencies enable an information organization to do more with their collection and service? While recognizing that it is impossible to stay abreast of all technology trends, policies, and best practices, there are many places a librarian can find guidance on what is needed to be competent in the profession. Competencies can be defined as “the knowledge, skills, and abilities that define and contribute to performance in a particular profession.” (FLICC, 2008, p.2) This post addresses competencies provided by selected professional organizations and summarized in two current articles, and then address how technology competencies enable an information organization to do more with its collections and services. As was stated by the Special Libraries Association in 2003, “practitioners increasingly require advanced knowledge of information technology to realize their full potential.” (p.17) This post is inclusive in its arguments towards all aspects of librarianship. It should be noted at the forefront that the terms librarian, library professional,  and information professional will be used interchangeably.


Professional Organization Competencies for technology

In this section we will examine what four library organizations and a round table have to say regarding professional competencies for technology. The organizations are as follows: The Special Libraries Association, The American Library Association, The Association for Library Services to Children, Young Adult Library Services Association, and the ALA Map and Geography Round Table (MAGERT). The Association for Information Science and Technology was not chosen because the last update for their guidelines was 2001. For more information regarding technology competencies for librarians, the reader can find a guide edited by Susan M. Thompson compiled for the Library and Information Technology Association entitled Core Technology Competencies for Librarians and Library Staff, which is not discussed in this post.

Another publication is Competency Index for the Library Field compiled by Webjunction in 2009 and 2014. These are very comprehensive reports that are valuable for all librarians. There are two sections of the report that are pertinent to our discussion here: “Technology: Core Technology” (absent in the 2014 report) and “Technology: Systems & IT.” Webjunction lists these as some technology competencies for the library profession: E-mail applications, Internet, Web Tools, Hardware, Networking & Security, Technology Policies, and Web Design & Development.


I will briefly compare the differences between the 2003 technology competencies from SLA and the 2016 technology competencies. In 2003, SLA viewed technology as “a critical tool to accomplish goals” for an information professional. (SLA, 2003, p.1) One way in which SLA saw technology being used to aid the information professional was in building “quality filters” that “provide needed information in an actionable form” when faced with “information overload.” (SLA, 2003, p.2) It should be noted that SLA listed as its first core competency in 2003 that “Information professionals contribute to the knowledge base of the profession by sharing best practices and experiences, and continue to learn about information products, services, and management practices throughout the life of his/her career.” (SLA, 2003, p.4) In this statement, SLA addresses the need for continued, and lifelong, learning about information products, including technology, and sharing that with their colleagues in the workforce. In their 2016 report, there is a slightly different tone in that the approach tries to be more “holistic.” As they state:

“Regardless of their job title and professional label, information professionals are connected by their focus on managing and applying the data, information, and knowledge required in their setting. They take a holistic view of the role of information and knowledge in organizations and communities, and they are concerned with information and knowledge through all stages of their life cycle.” (SLA, 2016)

As can be seen in the table below, the thirteen year time differences reveals an expansion in the role of technology upon the information professional. In the 2016 report, it appears that the emphasis is more on how the whole organization can benefit from the use of an holistic technology approach as opposed to the 2003 report which emphasized technology for the professional and the user. Two that stand out to me from the 2016 update are the emphasis on an information professional having knowledge of coding and being able to curate information. Under the 2016 competencies the role of privacy was moved from technology to information ethics, but should still be noted as a role of the information professional that has technological underpinnings. 

SLA identifies these as specific areas where information professionals should be competent:

SLA  2003 Competencies: Applying Information Tools & Technologies

SLA 2016 Competencies: Information and Knowledge Systems and Technology

“Assesses, selects and applies current and emerging information tools and creates information access and delivery solutions” (SLA, 2003, p.11) “Engaging multiple stakeholders to recommend the information architecture needed by the entire organization.” (SLA, 2016)
“Applies expertise in databases, indexing, metadata, and information analysis and synthesis to improve information retrieval and use in the organization” (ibid) “Selecting and implementing information and knowledge systems” (ibid)
“Protects the information privacy of clients and maintains awareness of, and responses to, new challenges to privacy” (ibid) “Selecting and using information management tools, such as library management systems, content management systems, social media platforms, and information retrieval and analysis tools” (ibid)
“Maintains current awareness of emerging technologies that may not be currently relevant but may become relevant tools of future information resources, services or applications” (ibid) “Identifying systems and tools to meet requirements of specific communities” (ibid)
“Designing interfaces for an intuitive user experience” (ibid)
“Coding using appropriate scripting and other tools” (ibid)
“Curating, publishing, and/or packaging information in usable formats” (ibid)
Continuously evaluating information and knowledge systems and technologies” (ibid)


In 2009, the American Library Association adopted a set of core competencies defining “the basic knowledge to be possessed by all persons graduating from an ALA-accredited master’s program in library and information studies.” (p.1) In this five page document the ALA devotes an entire section of its core competencies to “Technological Knowledge and Skills.” (p.3) The ALA finds these crucial to be technologically competent:

ALA Competencies: Technological Knowledge and Skills

“Information, communication, assistive, and related technologies as they affect the resources, service delivery, and uses of libraries and other information agencies.” (ALA, 2009, p.3)
“The application of information, communication, assistive, and related technology and tools consistent with professional ethics and prevailing service norms and applications.” (ibid)
“The methods of assessing and evaluating the specifications, efficacy, and cost efficiency of technology-based products and services.” (ibid)
“The principles and techniques necessary to identify and analyze emerging technologies and innovations in order to recognize and implement relevant technological improvements.”(ibid)


Both the Association for Library Services to Children and the Young Adult Library Services Association are divisions within the ALA. They have been grouped together because of their similarities, relational roles, and their competencies are similar in scope and target audience. ALSC has three competencies that address technology: Programming Skills, Outreach and Advocacy, and Professionalism and Professional Development. YALSA, in comparison, has four competencies that address technology: Knowledge of Client Group, Knowledge of Materials, Access to Information, and Services. Each mention of a competency, from their respective organization, pertaining to technology has been selected for the table below. The table should not be read as a side by side comparison, but rather as an ordered listing of each reference from the organization.



Programming Skills: “Integrates appropriate technology in program design and delivery.” Knowledge of Client Group: “Keep up-to-date with popular culture and technological advances that interest young adults.”
Outreach and Advocacy: “Communicates effectively when addressing or presenting to large or small groups of children and/or adults, writes proficiently and adjusts content, style, and delivery format to accommodate diverse functions and audiences, and possesses technology skills and cultural competencies that enhance communication.” Knowledge of Materials: “Develop a collection of materials from a broad range of selection sources, and for a variety of reading skill levels, that encompasses all appropriate formats, including, but not limited to, media that reflect varied and emerging technologies, and materials in languages other than English.”
Professionalism and Professional Development: “Stays informed of current trends, emerging technologies, issues, and research in librarianship, child development, education, and allied fields.” Access to Information: “Be an active partner in the development and implementation of technology and electronic resources to ensure young adults’ access to knowledge and information. “
Access to Information: “Maintain awareness of ongoing technological advances and how they can improve access to information for young adults.”
Services: “Create an environment that embraces the flexible and changing nature of young adults’ entertainment, technological and informational needs.”



In 2008 members of the MAGERT Education Committee came together to establish a series of core competencies for map, GIS and cataloging/metadata librarians. These are notable to our discussion as they look at three fields of librarianship that deal heavily with technology as functional duties, and synthesizes their niche field within library and information science profession, into a set of manageable competencies. It should be noted that in 2011 MAGERT was renamed MAGIRT.  Selected competencies include:

Selected MAGERT Competencies:

“Oversee[ing] the development of a webpage for the collection.” (MAGERT, 2008, p.6)
“Ability to effectively communicate in person, on the phone, through email, and in a virtual environment,” (ibid, p.8)
“Knowledge of how to use aerial photography and indexes as well as satellite imagery.” (ibid, p.8)
“Knowledge of map scanning and digitization processes for use in GIS”  (ibid, p.12)
“Ability to perform basic hardware maintenance” (ibid, p.13)
“Ability to assist patrons in downloading and utilizing GPS data in a GIS” (ibid, p.13)
“Creation of scripts for batch processing, data ingestion, web services, digital library creation and integration, and other geo-processing applications” (ibid, p.13)
“Working knowledge regarding data organization and data manipulation” (ibid, p.14)
“Learn and apply supportive technologies including macros and similar time-saving techniques, local integrated library system (ILS) cataloging features and functions, and other special technologies as needed” (ibid, p.17)

These competencies reveal a unique examination of what this field of librarianship needs to know, but if we were to look at the competencies more broadly we find that many of the competencies are similar to those of other professional organizations: webpage development, effective communication, image manipulation, digitization, basic hardware maintenance, downloading and utilizing data/information, coding/programming, organization, ILS, and cataloging/metadata.  

Scholars Thoughts

R.L. Henry addresses in his article The Core and More: Improving on Baseline Technology Competencies  “much of the work librarians do…is supported by a technology infrastructure” (p.847) it is important for librarians to see how their knowledge of, and ability to use, technology, as prescribed in numerous professional competencies enable an information organization to do more with its collections and services. Herny even suggests reviewing “core competencies identified in the professional literature” as an approach to “developing technology skills.” (p.847) He identifies  “eight main skill areas that interconnect…as the framework underpinning professional librarianship in a technology-centered work environment.” (p.847)  These are:

metadata the integrated library system data management and curation assessment and analytics
privacy and security copyright and open access accessibility and user experience digital content creation and curation.

Saravani and Haddow, who define competencies as “demonstrated ability and understanding within the information environment,” (p.183) utilized the Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology in their 2011 study of librarians rate of mobile technology adoption. The model has four parts which help determine user acceptance and usage behavior; these are: performance expectancy, effort expectancy, social influence and facilitating conditions. They found that the five most frequently cited competencies were:

Five most frequently cited competencies in Saravani and Haddow study:

“Using different mobile devices.” (Saravani and Haddow, 2011,p.184)
“Willingness to try things out.” (ibid)
“Knowledge of devices students are using.” (ibid)
“Skills to enable library resources/services to be accessible on mobile devices.” (ibid)
Ability to link new technologies with new opportunities. (ibid)

Quick Summary of Competencies

What we can glean from the competencies is that many of these organizations see similar things as making a technologically competent information professional. Key technology competency areas include: access and retrieval, accessibility and user experience, assistive technology, cataloging/metadata, communication technology, content creation & curation, copyright & Open Access, data management & manipulation, digitization, electronic resources, information dissemination, information tools, ILS, maintenance, organization, privacy & security, programming and installation, and technology evaluation & trends/advances.  Now that we have some insight into what professional organizations view as a technological competencies and what two recent articles have reported, let us look and see how these competencies enable an information organization to do more with its collections and services.

Technology competencies enable information organizations to do more with their collections and services.

Information organizations can do more with their collections and services by being technologically competent because they will have the tools and skills necessary to enhance their users information experience. Highlighted below are three of the key technology areas mentioned above to show how a library might use them to do more, and be more engaged with their users.

Accessibility & User Experience

The accessibility and user experience of a library can often times be outside of our control, but a library can develop procedures and use technology to help ease the pain points in their system on behalf of their users by anticipating problems and providing workarounds. As McNeely and Kolah inform us, “user experience refers to the entire psychological and behavioral framework of user interaction, covering everything from ease of use to engagement to visual design and applying to interactions with objects, people, environment and information spaces.” (p.10) Some examples of technology that can aid in accessibility and user experience for those with hearing disabilities include radio frequency, infrared, and Hearing Loops. (Schaeffer, 2014, p.138) Other technologies that can aid in accessibility and user experience falling under ADA guidance include: screen reading technology,magnifying technology, literacy software and hardware, speech recognition software, peripheral devices, such as headsets, speakers, microphones, touchpads, large and small keyboards, and multiple mouse options. (Guder, 2012, p.15) Another, almost primary now, component of user experience is the library website. As the website serves as a 24X7 access point for the library it should strive for simplicity, functionality, and intuitability.  It is important to engage with library users to obtain feedback on their web user experience. This can be done through group discussions, anonymous feedback, and/or website statistics. The website should be seen as a primary point of contact for users, as many of them will access library collections outside of the library. Websites should be responsive in design so as to function on all forms of technology, including mobile.



Cataloging and metadata are nearly identical in terms of their broad concepts. Both seek to make an information item, or items, findable. To provide a definition for metadata, it is “structured information that describes, explains, locates, or otherwise makes it easier to retrieve, use, or manage an information resource” and comes in three types: descriptive, structural, and administrative. (NISO, 2004, p.1) By being thorough in cataloging and metadata descriptions, or tags, the librarian makes their work, and the work of their users, easier and quicker with respect to resource discovery, resource organization, interoperability among platforms, digital identification, and archiving and preservation. New cataloging rules , such as Resource Description and Access (RDA), also have the outcome that they will make information retrievability much easier for users in the future by providing highly detailed and structured information about objects and items.  Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR) help users understand the relationships between works, expressions, manifestations, and items. FRBR has a more “precise vocabulary to help future cataloging rule makers and system designers in meeting user needs.”

Privacy & Security

In an era of data breaches, data hacks, revelations about mismanaged data, and big data, it is just to have concerns over privacy and security. Enserink and Chin go so far as to claim “privacy as we have known it is ending, and we’re only beginning to fathom the consequences.” (p.491) Librarians have traditionally played a staunch role in advocating for user/individual privacy, (Adams, 2010; ALA 2014; Enis et al., 2013; FTRF, 2013; & Zimmer, 2014) and should continue to play that role on behalf of their users. One of the ways libraries can aid their user communities is by being an advocate in the community for privacy related issues, which could take the form of presenting information on what kind of data is collected through various websites and “free” online services such as Baidu, Google, Amazon, and proprietary services like Netflix. One of the ways that libraries have traditionally preserved privacy has been through limiting patron personally identifiable information from being collected, particularly at circulation. With the quick pace of change in the technology sector, this issue will continue to remain prevalent for the foreseeable future, and librarians should be engaged in the discussion as well.  



In this post we have examined selected professional organization competencies for their advice on technological competencies, have looked at two current articles that discuss technological competencies, and summarized our results. We have also addressed how technology competencies enable information organizations to do more with their collections and services through highlighting three technology competencies. The reader should now have a clearer understanding of a wide array of technological skill sets that they should have basic competency in to excel in their information profession.


  1. Adams, H. R. (2010). Choose privacy week: A new ALA initiative. School Library Monthly, 26(8), 48-49
  2. American Library Association (ALA). (2009). Core Competences of Librarianship. Retrieved from
  3. American Library Association (ALA). (2014). Privacy: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights. Retrieved from
  4. Association for Library Services to Children. (2015). Competencies for Librarians Serving Children in Public Libraries. Retrieved from
  5. Association for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T). (2001, November 8). ASIST Educational Guidelines. Retrieved from
  6. Enis, M., McArdle, M., Schwartz, M., & Thornton-Verma, H. (2013). Collaboration, innovation, & the next generation: At ALA annual, record crowds shared enthusiasm for new technology, tools, and team-ups to promote core library values such as privacy and diversity. Library Journal, 138(13), 32.
  7. Enserink, M., & Chin, G. (2015). The end of privacy. Science, 347(6221), 490-491. doi:10.1126/science.347.6221.490
  8. Federal Library and Information Center Committee (FLCC). (2008). Federal Librarian Competencies. Retrieved from
  9. FTRF, ALA join efforts to protect privacy and increase transparency around surveillance. (2013). Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom (Online), 62(5), 175-202.
  10. Guder, C. S. (2012). Making the right decisions about assistive technology in your library. Library Technology Reports, 48(7), 14-21
  11. Henry, R.L. (2015). The Core and More: Improving on Baseline Technology Competencies. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 41(6), 847-849. doi:10.1016/j.acalib.2015.10.002
  12. Map and Geography Round Table (MAGERT). (2008). Map, GIS and Cataloging / Metadata Librarian Core Competencies. Retrieved from
  13. McNeely, G., & Kolah, D. (2012). Information professionals and user experience. Information Outlook, 16(6), 10-12.
  14. National Information Standards Organization (NISO). (2004). Understanding Metadata. Retrieved from
  15. Saravani, S., & Haddow, G. (2011). The Mobile Library and Staff Preparedness: Exploring Staff Competencies Using the Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology Model. Australian Academic & Research Libraries, 42(3), 179-190.
  16. Schaeffer, C. (2014). Using New Technology to Comply with ADA Assistive Listening Requirements. Public Library Quarterly, 33(2), 131-144. doi:10.1080/01616846.2014.910724
  17. Special Libraries Association (SLA). (2003). Competencies for Information Professionals of the 21st Century. Retrieved from
  18. Special Libraries Association (SLA). (2016). Competencies for Information Professionals.  Retrieved from
  19. Tillett, B. (2004). What is FRBR: A Conceptual Model for the Bibliographic Universe. Retrieved from
  20. Thompson, S. M., editor.(2009) Core Technology Competencies for Librarians and Library Staff, a LITA Guide. Neal-Schumann Publishers, Inc, New York. Retrieved from
  21. Webjunction. (2009). Competency Index for the Library Field. OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc.: Dublin, Ohio. Retrieved from
  22. Webjunction. (2014). Competency Index for the Library Field. OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc.: Dublin, Ohio. Retrieved from
  23. Young Adults Library Services Association (YALSA). (2010). YALSA’s Competencies for Librarians Serving Youth: Young Adults Deserve the Best. Retrieved from
  24. Zimmer, M. (2014). Librarians’ Attitudes Regarding Information and Internet Privacy. The Library Quarterly, 84(2), 123-151. doi:10.1086/675329




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