April 19, 2018

After More Than a Decade of Debate, ALA Approves Core Competencies

By John Berry

  • More than a decade of debate
  • Core competencies emerge from task force
  • Committee on Accreditation to weigh in

After more than a decade of debating what LIS students should have learned after earning a master’s degree at an ALA-Accredited program, the American Library Assocation (ALA) Council, after minor editing, Tuesday approved the Core Competencies (CCs) developed over the past two years by the ALA Presidential Task Force on Library Education. Among them are Foundations of the Profession, Information Resources, Technological Knowledge and Skills, and Reference and User Services.

The task force was appointed by former ALA President Leslie Burger during her term and chaired by former ALA President Michael Gorman, who had made library education reform a theme of his presidency. The Council also sent the CCs on to ALA’s Committee on Accreditation, asking that powerful committee to incorporate them into ALA’s Standards for Accreditation of LIS programs.

Flexibility recommended
Completed at the 2008 Annual Conference, the CCs were sent to the ALA Executive Board which approved them and sent them on to the Council during the Midwinter Meeting in Denver. At a Library Education Forum moderated by Gorman. about 60 ALA members, a third of whom were library educators, discussed the CCs after hearing positive comments about them from Accreditation Committee Chair Richard Rubin (LIS program Kent State University, OH), who urged continuous revision and flexibility for the CCs as the field changes.
Linda Williams, Coordinator of Library Media Services for Anne Arundel County Public Schools, MD applauded the CCs for "embracing all aspects of the work of professional librarians" and hoped that would lead to more consistency between LIS programs and professional library practice. Janet Swan Hill of the University of Colorado, Boulder, spoke on cataloguing as a core competence of librarianship and discussed the CCs in that light. She, like others, stressed the difficulty of articulating the relationships between professional education and library practice.   


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