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Core Competencies: Core Competencies

A list of the library core competencies, instructions and guidelines for use, and modules available

Core Competencies

Core Competencies Image

Core Competencies

It’s a dark and stormy night, or maybe it’s a cool evening with a slight breeze. But, it’s 3:00 am and you awaken to the smell of smoke. After you quell the initial panic you develop a plan which probably includes calling the fire department. Why the fire department? Because, the core competency of the fire department is to extinguish fires.

Library staff core competencies are a unique set of skills that allows a library to fill its exclusive role in the community. In every community, it is the responsibility of the library to gather, share and store knowledge. Patrons should be able to confidently walk into any library in Tennessee and find staff capable of locating information on almost any subject.

To fulfill this objective requires that every library staff member perfect a skill set that is daunting! To keep up you need training - training that has been offered in multiple formats for several years. But, without the time to train, the training itself is worthless. To help you gain the time you need to study, the 2018 Tennessee Library Standards calls for a specified amount of annual training time. Specifying an explicit amount of time sends a message by pointing out that the very best libraries, those libraries that are the award-winning, that serve their communities at the highest level possible, carve out time for their staff to prepare for and perfect the tasks they face daily. Think of the training standard as a gift that allows you to stop and prepare to be a greater you!

The attached list represents 25 areas of library competence. Each competency represents a proficiency that the majority of your patrons expect. We think you’ll be surprised as you work through the list. You possess a vast amount of knowledge on a myriad of subjects and shift easily from one to another as you move through your day. Take pride in your abilities! But be honest with yourself. Some of the competencies will make you groan internally. Those are the skills that need attention.

Enjoy the learning! Sometimes it’s hard to put in the time, and sometimes it’s hard to measure progress. But, watch for those elusive moments when you realize that you gave a better answer, handled a situation better, or worked through a problem a little faster. Pat yourself on the back and give yourself a high five – even if no one else is watching.

How do we get started?

  1. Review the list, the accompanying modules, and resources
  2. Identify those skills that you and your library director consider areas of personal excellence. Check those off your list.
  3. Look at the list again. Together, you and your library director should identify those competencies that you feel leave the most room for improvement.
  4. Begin with an area that makes you the most uncomfortable. Review the resources and discuss what you’ve learned with others in the library profession. You may find things you’d like to change about your performance, or you may identify processes in your library that need to be reconsidered. Either way, you’ll know when you’ve taken advantage of the opportunity to improve and turned a weakness into an area of strength.
  5. Tackle the next topic in your list!

The standard gives you the gift of time. The competencies are intended to help you focus and use that time to its greatest advantage.

We should note that this initial list will develop based on your suggestions and experience. As a librarian you understand that this list is not all-inclusive, and that what you need to know is both unique to your community and continually changing. The competencies will, therefore, evolve. As always, we remind you to check with your regional libraries for the most relevant continuing education opportunities.


List of Competencies

For a full list of the core competencies, download the Excel sheet below.


Each competency has a corresponding module. The module consist of a competency description and resources to help brush up your skills. Please contact us if you have any suggestions for improvement, new resources, or a competency we missed.

CE Coordinator

Lauri Thompson's picture
Lauri Thompson
403 7th Avenue North
Nashville, TN 37243