Competency-Based Career Planning for Reference and User Services Professionals

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Reference and user services librarians need to be in charge of their own careers. And when it comes to their own professional development, that means being proactive. This resource will enable professionals at every stage of their careers to honestly assess their skills and knowledge. Utilizing the RUSA (Reference and User Services Association) Professional Competencies as a framework for reflecting on strengths as well as gaps in expertise, it guides readers through developing strategies to enhance their professional standing and potential, thereby leading to a more satisfying career. In this book former RUSA president Whitlatch, who chaired the initial committee establishing the Competencies, teams up with expert trainer Woodard to

  • introduce the seven categories of the RUSA Professional Competencies, explaining the ways in which each is important to both practitioner and institution;
  • demonstrate how to create a personal development plan that focuses on development priorities;
  • discuss the Association for Talent Development (ATD) Competency Development Model and other action plans;
  • offer guidance for setting goals and measuring progress;
  • share information on a variety of development activities that readers can undertake to maintain and enhance professional competencies, including formal training opportunities, on-the-job experiences, and self-directed initiatives; and
  • provide recommended self-evaluation techniques such as writing up notes from group discussions, exercises, short verbal and written reports, crafting presentations on a topic, and sharing concrete examples of how skills were applied in the workplace.  

This book not only authoritatively tells practitioners, managers, students and educators what is expected of reference and user services librarians, but also points the way towards achieving those competencies.

Examination copies are available for instructors who are interested in adopting this title for course use.

List of Figures
Foreword, by M. Kathleen Kern
Introduction: Introducing the RUSA “Professional Competencies”

Chapter One: Access
Chapter Two: Sources
Chapter Three: Collaboration
Chapter Four    : Information Literacy
Chapter Five: Marketing and Advocacy
Chapter Six: Assessment
Chapter Seven: Future Services

Appendix: RUSA “Professional Competencies for Reference and User Services Librarians”

Jo Bell Whitlatch

Jo Bell Whitlatch has worked in three academic libraries in many areas, including collection management, acquisitions, cataloging, circulation, reference, interlibrary loan, and library management. She has also taught at San Jose State University’s Graduate School of Library and Information Science, and she is a past president of the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA). Her research interests and areas of special competence are information-seeking needs and behavior, user studies in libraries, the evaluation of service organizations, and the management of academic libraries. Her publications include two books, The Role of the Academic Reference Librarian (1990) and Evaluating Reference Services (2000), and articles in Reference & User Services Quarterly, College & Research Libraries, Journal of Academic Librarianship, and The Reference Librarian. She has a Ph.D. in library and information studies and an M.A. in Asian studies from the University of California at Berkeley.

Beth S. Woodard

Beth S. Woodard has been an academic reference librarian for her whole career but developed deep interests in staff development and training and teaching when she coordinated a separate information desk staffed by graduate assistants. From training a dozen graduate assistants to coordinating an orientation program for 75 graduate assistants at the University of Illinois Library at Urbana-Champaign, she developed staff training programs, retreats, and wellness activities for the entire library—for librarians, academic professionals, and support staff in addition to graduate and undergraduate students. She is currently teaching reference and library management at the iSchool at UIUC.

"Whitlatch and Woodward are clearly knowledgeable about all facets of reference work and it's hard to imagine how the book could more comprehensively cover that topic ... For librarians looking to bolster every aspect of their reference game (and to become more desirable candidates for career opportunities in the process), this book will be a valuable resource."

"The authors' expertise helps them to emphasize developing the reference librarian as a person rather than focusing solely on reference questions. Both authors primarily have an academic background, but they also address reference and user services as they relate to public library settings. School media specialists and reference librarians, while these fields are not directly addressed, could also adapt many of the methods put forward in the book. Additionally, even though the development and assessment methods best serve those already established in their career, up-and-coming librarians can use the book to identify gaps in their formal education or training and prepare for forthcoming employment.”
— Technical  Services Quarterly

”This work helps reference and user services librarians take charge of their own careers ... Every library should have this work on its shelf for staff training and development."
— Journal of Hospital Librarianship