Meeting Notes: May 5, 2001 – ASERL Summit on Research Libraries Competencies

Summit Objectives

  • To establish sustainable communications & discussion among research libraries & schools of library and information science;
  • To build ongoing relationships among our organizations;
  • To identify potential cooperative initiatives, projects, and activities that focus on
    • Addressing the ASERL competencies in LIS curriculum;
    • Addressing the ASERL competencies with current staff in research libraries.

Overview of Draft Competencies
Project Development Process

ASERL formed its Education Committee in 1999, and drafted the competencies the following year, in response to ongoing problems in recruiting & retaining staff at ASERL libraries and the changing nature of research libraries. ASERL’s competencies drew heavily on SLA competencies. The grant from CLIR was key to implementation; ASERL’s development process may serve as a possible model for other groups around the country.

Small Group Discussion Reports

ASERL Education Committee members led small group discussions to focus on a specific competency group (as detailed below). Each group was asked to discuss:

  • how the competency group is currently being implemented in LIS curriculum;
  • other ways librarians obtain the skills outside LIS coursework;
  • options for LIS schools to modify their curriculum to ensure the competencies are covered;
  • and options for ASERL libraries to collaborate in the process.

Common themes among the discussion groups included:

  1. The importance of understanding the roles of libraries within the university context. This needs to be strengthened to include research process, structure of disciplines, and research methods.
  2. The importance of “core skills” for research librarians. This includes marketing, leadership in providing information services, teamwork, and collection development.
  3. The critical need for improved recruitment into the profession in general, and into research libraries in particular. It was noted that recruiting should focus on meeting long-term needs, not just to alleviate short-term staffing crises, and to find “agile” librarians, i.e., those that can fulfill many different roles within the profession.
  4. The importance of experiential training programs. It was agreed that residencies, internships, practicums, mentoring programs, graduate assistantships, etc. need to be strengthened to ensure they are thoughtful, rigorous and useful. Participants noted that some competencies can best or only be learned “on the job.”
  5. The ongoing need for marketing & outreach. These are needed both to attract people to the profession and to build relationships with other programs on campus and in the community. Marketing & outreach are also critical to the success of fund-raising and government relations efforts.

The Past & Future Evolutions of MLS Curriculum

(Joanne Marshall & Jane Robbins)

Using the KALIPER report as the basis for their presentation, Drs. Marshall & Robbins discussed ongoing trends in the field of library & information science education.


  • LIS curricula are addressing broad-based information environments & information problems in addition to training on library-specific operations;
  • A distinct user-centered “core curriculum” exists based on fundamental goals for librarians (i.e., identifying, acquiring, organizing, providing access to information; along with research components);
  • LIS schools & programs are increasing the investment and infusion of information technology into their curricula;
  • LIS programs are experimenting with ways to teach specialized topics within the curriculum;
  • LIS schools & programs are offering instruction in different formats (e.g., distance education) to provide students with more flexibility;
  • LIS schools & programs are expanding their curricula by offering related degrees at the undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral levels.

Placements: Where Are LIS Students Going After Graduation?

(Joanne Marshall & Jane Robbins)

  • Approximately 4,000 LIS students graduate each year in U.S., not enough to replace the large number of retiring librarians;
  • About 30% of graduates want to work in academic libraries, similar numbers go to public libraries.
  • There is increasing competition for librarians from for-profit information providers (e.g., dot-com companies, software developers, etc.)
  • Impending staffing shortages will likely force libraries to modify job responsibilities/ requirements to include non-librarians, especially for administration and paraprofessional roles.

Options for Attracting & Maintaining Staff at Research Libraries

(Mari Marsh, Wendy Scott, Sharon Sullivan)

An overview of internships, fellowships, and residency programs used by three ASERL libraries to help students pursue and investigate professional choices in academic librarianship.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Carolina Academic Library Assistant (CALA) Program

(Mari Marsh)

  • Began in 2000 to introduce LIS students to academic librarianship and to develop a commitment to academic librarianship prior to graduation;
  • Program offers 22 assistantship annually; turnover 11/year; including 3 designated for existing support staff;
  • CALAs fellows receive full orientation to library, have brownbag lunches with supervisors, other mentoring processes;
  • Training focus is on service to users.

NC State University Fellows Program

(Wendy Scott)

  • NCSU offers this residency program to MLS students in their first year following graduation;
  • Fellows select professional assignments in a home department, where they form collegial relations, get mentoring, are accountable, and develop marketable skills;
  • Fellows select a specific project of strategic importance to the library. This advances the library goals and gives the fellow project management experience and exposure to different working groups within the library;

Library Internships at Duke University

(Sharon Sullivan)

  • Duke offers several ½-time internships focusing on reference services and web development for current LIS students to develop professional experiences and mentoring with practicing librarians and department heads;
  • Duke also offers a fellowship program (funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation) for a recent Ph.D. graduate to become a Latin American Studies librarian. This encourages subject matter experts to consider librarianship as a way of using their expertise;
  • Duke is also developing an undergraduate certificate program in information sciences. This certificate will provide undergrad students in other (non-LIS) fields to develop librarianship skills.

Discussion / Options for Incorporating Competencies Into Curriculum Potential Follow-Up Tasks

  1. Foster development of improved experiential programs (residencies, internships, graduate assistantships) that are thoughtful and rigorous. Possibly develop ASERL-sponsored internships at ASERL libraries?
  2. Document best practices, models of internships, residences, etc. to share with libraries that don’t have them or want to improve them;
  3. Provide training for leadership/management (possibly through SOLINET?) for current library staff to develop future department heads/administrators. Distance education technologies can provide staff opportunities to get theoretical learning while still getting work experience in libraries;
  4. Work with HR librarians to develop “implementation tool kit” with models for integrating the ASERL competencies into job descriptions, performance evaluations, job ads, etc.;
  5. Circulate final ASERL Competencies to accreditation agencies;
  6. Develop presentation for ALISE annual conference (New Orleans, January 2002);
  7. Identify paraprofessional staff at ASERL libraries to become librarians. Investigate options for scholarships for working in Southeast region;
  8. Work with college campus placement offices/career counselors and faculty to encourage work in academic librarianship;
  9. Draft article about ASERL competencies for publication in professional journal (possibly co-authored by ASERL Education Committee and representatives from LIS programs).