‘A New Tool to Help Plan Our Success’

On April 13, the SLA Board of Directors approved a revised version of the Competencies for Information Professionals, replacing the version approved in 2003. In this post, Carolyn Sosnowski, a member of the task force that developed the revised document, explains the purpose and value of the competencies.

Success in our chosen professional roles requires knowledge, continuous learning, and the ability to adapt to changes in our organizations and industries. When information professionals are successful, we are able support the organizations we work for, as well as our profession as a whole. SLA has a new tool we can use to help plan our success and inform our learning throughout our careers.

Comprising core and enabling competencies, the most recent iteration of SLA’s Competencies for Information Professionals serves as a guide for those who consider the understanding, organization, and analysis of data, information, and knowledge integral to their work.

The main part of the document, the six Core Competencies, focuses on services provided by information professionals; technology; resources; information and data retrieval and analysis; organization of assets; and information-related ethics. Briefly—

  • Core Competency 1: Information and Knowledge Services: It is essential for information professionals to understand the information needs, as well as the goals, of their organizations and/or clients to provide on-target services and to foster the sharing of knowledge and insight across the organization.
  • Core Competency 2: Information and Knowledge Systems and Technology: Information professionals not only use technology applications appropriate to their work and communities, but may also develop technology systems to ensure effective transfer of information and knowledge in their organizations.
  • Core Competency 3: Information and Knowledge Resources: Content valued by a community is well understood by information professionals, who expertly evaluate, manage, and deliver materials in a variety of formats.
  • Core Competency 4: Information and Data Retrieval and Analysis: Beyond possessing an understanding of the content needs of their clients, information professionals need to be able to find that content skillfully and efficiently, as well as derive actionable insights from data and information that support client work.
  • Core Competency 5: Organization of Data, Information, and Knowledge Assets: Information professionals develop and enforce policies, standards, and practices to make valuable resources findable, usable, and accessible.
  • Core Competency 6: Information Ethics: Information professionals strive to behave ethically, and promote and support ethical practice related to the use of information. (To explore this topic further, review SLA’s Professional Ethics Guidelines.)

The Enabling Competencies are common to most professions, but have been characterized as central to information work and complement the core competencies outlined above. Here, the focus is on proficiency in areas such as critical thinking, problem solving, influence, networking, leadership, marketing, communication, and initiative, among other attributes.

Putting Competencies to Work

How can we make these competencies valuable in our own experience?

The competencies provide a broad-picture view of our body of knowledge. While we all won’t possess every skill mentioned in the document, it is necessary for us to understand the scope of what information professionals do and how our own work is connected to other types of work in the information sphere. At the same time, the competencies can help us describe the nature and importance of our work to those who want to understand the contributions of information professionals.

The competencies are ideal to serve as a professional development road map for information professionals. Hone your expertise based on the skills outlined in the document. Are you seeking a promotion, or interested in refocusing your career? Reviewing the competencies is a good place to start exploring what you need to know. Use them to evaluate gaps in your training and education, and then seek out opportunities to deepen your knowledge in those areas.

The details described in the competencies can also serve as an outline for performance evaluation in relevant areas, as well as describe specific areas of responsibility for job descriptions and position vacancy announcements. In what other situations can the competencies serve as a template?

Although not every information professional will see their work reflected in each element identified in the document, these competencies tie us together as a profession despite the differences in our titles, everyday responsibilities, and career goals, and the changing nature of our industry and of the profession itself.


Carolyn Sosnowski

Carolyn Sosnowski served on the SLA Competencies Task Force and was a member of the SLA staff from 2003-2015. She is now the content manager for the Grants Managers Network.

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