World Libraries, Vol. 10, No. 1 & 2, Spring/Fall 2000
Professional Competencies Among Librarians and
Information Professionals in the Knowledge Era
Abstract: The paper justifies that information professionals will be better off to discharge their role as effective knowledge managers in today's knowledge era, provided they are equipped with professional competencies. Illustrating with suitable examples, the paper highlights a set of professional competencies that need to be developed by information professionals in their various areas of operation and service such as, knowledge capture, knowledge processing (and dissemination) and knowledge application.
Past is an indication of future. Present connects the two. Given this, the 21 st century is all set to be a 'knowledge century' where it will neither be the 'labour' (as in the agricultural era) nor the 'capital' (as in the industrial era) but 'knowledge' and 'information' that will act as a critical resource for socio-economic development of a nation. This being so, generation (creation), processing and use/application of knowledge will be the hallmark of the new century. Professionals engaged in all these three primary tasks of the 'knowledge cycle' will be required to play a more pro-active role (rather than passive one) as equal partners/collaborators with the scholars. A closer understanding of the available skills/competencies of the professionals engaged in the information sector reveals that they have miles to go if they have to discharge their roles as expected of them. Course curricula imparted at all levels in the discipline of Library & Information Science need to undergo a sea change to incorporate newer approaches/concepts. Existing professionals need to be provided with state-of-the-art exposure in art and science of the profession through various in-service (continuing education) programmes. All, existing as well as upcoming professionals, will need to be groomed to take on the role of 'knowledge managers'.
2. Competencies of LIPs
To take up such a role, Library and Information Professionals (LIPs) will be better off, if they pay serious attention towards developing and enhancing their core competencies. Core competencies in the case of LIPs are: (i) Personal; and (ii) Professional.
Competencies have been defined as the interplay of knowledge, understanding skills and attitudes required to do a job effectively from the point of view of both the performer and the observer. The unique competencies of the librarian include in-depth knowledge of print and electronic information resources in management of information services that meet the strategic information needs of the individual or group being served. 
At the dawn of the 21 st century, LIPs are experiencing the consequences of three major paradigm shifts. These are :
Given this backdrop, LIPs can enhance the productivity of those engaged in knowledge creation and its dissemination by playing a more "proactive" role rather than "passive" one. In this changed dimension, LIPs will have to assume the role of analyzers, synthesizers and interpreters of knowledge/information, rather than be content with acquiring, organising and providing information when asked for. Further, the role of traditional librarianship is changing into cybrarianship to include the tasks of scanning, filtering, selecting, organizing and packaging the flood of information. In keeping with their changing role from 'gatekeepers' to gateways to 'information,' LIPs should be performing such tasks as information audits, training in information, literacy, information of best practices/competencies and helping their users to navigate through the world of information, more meaningfully.
2.1 Collection Development Skills
Collection development is a highly challenging task for information professionals. The situation demands that professionals entrusted with this task respond to this situation in such a manner that collections developed by them not only meet the current needs of their clients but also the future ones. To do so, LIPs must be groomed on the following lines to devise ways and means to constantly update the collections:
2.2 Collection Processing Skills
Results of 'Knowledge Capture' will be effective if post capture steps are carried out as follows:
2.2.1 Knowledge Analyses
LIPs require information skills for analysing the quality of information. These skills comprise filtering out noise and focusing on special needs. Hence, LIPs should be able to:
2.2.2 Knowledge Synthesis
Having selected and acquired the material, the next task is to organise and synthesize it and make it accessible for the users. The recent developments in the Internet and World Wide Web have brought new challenges to information professionals and consequently a number of researchers are now engaged in organising web-based information. Machine readable (on-line as well as off-line) public access catalogue has totally eliminated the tedious task of making 5-10 cards per document, being too much concerned with punctuation marks and other such parameters, and so on. Although the availability of large catalogue databases on-line and several classification schemes on CDs has provided much needed relief to the professionals, yet to accommodate local requirements, systematic recording of all local additions/updates/variations etc, for use by others in the system will be in order. Here also, constant interaction with the users of the system helps the professional concerned to develop a rich (and practical) knowledge base on the users' information seeking behaviour. LIPs should be able to organise, synthesize, integrate and apply the information in the following ways:
2.2.3 Knowledge Repackaging
Consolidators were filters who will make sense of the world for managers. Few managers have enough time to spend gathering, processing and interpreting all the information they need. The system has become more sophisticated, enabling people to process greater amounts of information. But the very process of development that enables the systems to become more sophisticated also has the effect of increasing the volume and complexity of the information available. For these reasons there will always be scope for division of labour and the creation of posts for information professionals to reduce the burden on managers. They should be very vibrant at collecting information by way of searching databases and other secondary sources. Further consolidators should be able to see the patterns and make the connections in the information they process. They should be able to interpret the information in the light of the circumstances faced by the organisation for which they work.  Also they should be able to develop specialised information products for use inside or outside the organisation or by individual clients.
Hence, to locate and retrieve relevant sources in a variety of formats from the global information environment; the consolidator should be able to:
2.2.4 Knowledge Retrieval
Retrieval support means assisting users in the proper use of information technology to access the available knowledge. Examples of tasks covered in this area of responsibility include the following:
2.3 Collection Service skills
LIPs have been delivering a wide range of information products and services to meet the needs of their varying clientele. These range from simple issue/return services to most complex and value added information products and services, in both, on-line as well as off-line manner. What goes on in the planning and launch of these services is:
LIPs aim to provide the right information to the right user at the right time and at the right cost. Documenting each and every step in the planning as well as launch/implementation of each and every information product/service will go a long way towards not only standardizing and further improving upon these services, but preparing others concerned to shoulder such assignments, should an opportunity come their way. Hence, to deliver efficient, innovative and just-in-time services, LIPs will have to keep themselves updated in Internet and information technology skills.
2.4 User-education Skills
User education aims to equip users with the needed skills to enable them to make use of libraries and their resources in a use-friendly manner. User education often includes library orientation, induction and information skills training. Hence LIPs should:
3. Education and Training of LIPs
Clearly, an aspiring professional in LIS needs to know the basics of IT, particularly in the area of computer, communication and networking technologies. The professional also needs to know the principles and techniques of how one structures and organizes information and knowledge so that the right information can be retrieved and so routed at the right time. This would include all the traditional core skills of library and information science, specifically indexing, cataloguing and authority control, and the creation of synthetic structures to reach the information. 
The Internet, in particular, as an information service/system will have a multiple impact on several areas of LIS as an educational program. Hence present curricula of LIS should specifically be updated with:
From the above, it may be summed-up that LIPs equipped with the competencies as outlined in this paper will be fully geared to discharge their role, not only as gatekeepers of knowledge, but managers of the same. Thorough revision of course curricula as suggested will no doubt be instrumental in creating a breed of professionals with a positive mind-set in so far as their role in the knowledge cycle is concerned. To take care of existing (in-service) professionals, a need is felt to expose them to newer concepts/dimensions/approaches through the organisation of multi-tier short-term/continuing education, teaching and training programmes. Examples of such program can be found in plenty in India. In particular, present as well as prospective professionals need to be given thorough exposure to various information literacy skills. Need-based and tailor-made short-term training programs need to be developed for existing professionals, for honing their skills and developing their expertise.
1. "Competencies for Special Librarians of the 21 st Century:" Report Submitted to SLA Board of Directors by the special committee on Competencies for Special Librarians. Joanne Marshall, Chair; Bill Fisher; Lynda Moulton; and Roberta Piccoli: May 1996.
3. Information Literacy Competencies and Criteria for Academic Libraries in Wisconsin. http://www.wla.lib.wi.us/waal/infolit/ilcc.html
About the Author
Anjali Gulati is Lecturer, Department of Library & Information Science, Isabella
Thoburn College, Lucknow, India.
Roshan Lal Raina is Professor, Communications, Indian Institute of Management, Lucknow, India.
Gulati, Anjali and Roshan Lal Raina. "Professional Competencies Among Librarians and Information Professionals in the Knowledge Era." World Libraries, Vol. 1., No. 1 & 2, Spring/Fall 2000
© 2000 Anjali Gulati & Roshan Lal Raina
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