Competency B

Describe and compare organizational settings in which information professionals practice.

Competency Definition

Information professionals have specialized competencies that help users navigate a progressively dense information-driven world, grown from a strong desire to connect people with information using a strong customer service ethic (Fraser-Arnott, 2015a). The organizations where today’s information professionals work today may not necessarily be the “traditional” settings of libraries or archives. It can be argued that when describing and comparing the organizational settings of information professionals, one must focus on the individual’s skills and competencies in relation to emerging information needs. What unites information professionals then across different organizational settings are their “transferable” skills that build upon traditional Library and Information Science (LIS) skills, which remain applicable and viable in “alternative careers” outside the traditional library organization (Fraser-Arnott, 2015a; Weech & Konieczny, 2007).

Information professionals are now learning to forecast trends and issues, in continuously and creatively adapting to their evolving roles and new technologies to serve users better (Gilman, 2015). In a systematic analysis of job postings from Canadian LIS and Government of Canada job boards, Fraser-Arnott (2013) found desirable and transferable skills common to both LIS and government positions. These skills clustered around research, analysis, organization, and interpersonal communication skills along with various context-dependent technological competencies. Continued, conscious development of these competencies benefits those in LIS jobs, who are influenced by advances in non-LIS industry sectors that affect information use.

Information professionals are also developing cross-disciplinary expertise to expand their role of successfully identifying and connecting researchers to formal and informal sources of information at various stages in the research process (ACRL, 2014). For example, an international task force of research librarians recently released two profiles of competencies for new roles in research data management and open access in scholarly communication. Information professionals have always supported researchers and students in data access, but they are now taking on roles in teaching data literacy (metadata standards, formats, etc.), workflows regarding collection, management, sharing, and assessment, and other tasks related to collaborations with data scientists and research coordinators (Schmidt & Shearer, 2016). In this context, information professionals may handle information technology (IT) related tasks, assisting in the building and maintenance of institutional publishing platforms and digital open access repository services, while providing expertise, consultation, and outreach regarding assessment and copyright implications of those resources (Calarco, Shearer, Schmidt, & Tate, 2016). The competencies involved in these roles include knowledge of publishing workflows, open access policies, current trends in publishing technologies and services, and assessment of resource quality and copyright, among other IT skills that facilitate data management and analysis. These skills are built on information professionals’ traditional LIS foundations of accurately identifying information needs, absorbing information quickly, and asking the right questions to assist others in their research (Fraser-Arnott, 2015a). This new intermediary role of information professionals facilitating exchange between IT personnel and end-users works to address the arising, new information needs at all stages of the research process (Fraser-Arnott, 2015b).

IT, research, and communication skills are important competencies that information professionals develop during their MLIS programs. Yet these are only as good as the “soft skills” that information professionals have beyond their LIS skills and experience, the individual, personal traits that are not always explicitly listed in job descriptions. Thus, adapting core traditional librarianship skills, being flexibility in a changing work environment, and developing new skills in “continuing professional development” are integral to adopting the right means of communication to reach various groups appropriately (Ashcroft, 2004). Other notable skills, such as subject expertise, business savvy, and management skills are crucial in both traditional and non-traditional LIS positions, though the LIS degree does not adequately provide training in these areas (Weech & Konieczny, 2007; Fraser-Arnott, 2015b), leaving it up to the individual’s initiative to develop and adapt these skills to their work processes. This is especially the case for information professionals who are involved in increasingly diverse instruction roles in academia, ranging from one-on-one reference interviews to credit-granting courses (Gilman, 2015). Yet these instruction experiences can benefit information professionals in developing better communication skills from recognition of student and faculty curricular concerns, showing information professionals’ involvement in all aspects of academic life to the wider academic community (Kemp, 2006).

With their demonstrated experience in various academic, bibliographic, and technological competencies, many of which are data and database-driven, information professionals are taking on new responsibilities across non-traditional information organizations (Fraser-Arnott, 2015a). Research, information technology (IT), and communication skills are influenced by the individual information professional’s “soft skills” of a desire for learning and flexibility to adapt to their changing roles (Fraser-Arnott, 2015b). These skills are only as effective as how information professionals communicate that information to others. As an aspiring information professional, I saw many of these principles at work when I reflected on my experiences in INFO 204: Information Professions and my time as a content editor for the iSchool’s double-blind peer reviewed, open access, student-governed LIS journal, the SLIS Student Research Journal.

Discussion of Competency Supporting Evidence

Evidence 1: INFO 204 Culminating Synthesis Reflection Blog

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In the iSchool core course INFO 204: Information Professions, students critically examine the various organizations and environments in which information professionals practice, across different specializations and career paths, professional communities, networks and community-based resources, as well as discuss the ethical and legal frameworks involved. INFO 204 also introduces leadership and management theories and concepts in these information environments. During the semester, I explored these concepts through discussion posts, an exploratory essay on LIS transferable skills and competencies, developing a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis and a strategic plan for a real information organization in a group project, and generated a professional synthesis using an alternate format to reflect on the concepts and experiences that I have learned. The professional synthesis I generated for the purposes of this course, the WordPress blog “The Information Professional’s Swiss Army Knife,” contains my conceptualization of an information professional’s skillset and my reflections on what I learned throughout the course.

Using the analogy of a Swiss-army knife, I systematically described and reflected throughout the blog about what I learned and hoped to bring from the course into my future work situations. As I discussed in the introduction to the blog, Swiss-army knives are multi-tool and multi-purpose. They are used by soldiers, outdoors people, and everyday people alike to accomplish many tasks – so too is the information professional, if she or he is to function in today’s information-rich world, compete in the global information economy, and serve patrons well. As there are numerous possible tools that can be part of a Swiss-army knife, there are numerous skills that the information professional possesses and can continue to develop across a wide variety of contexts. Additionally, like a Swiss-army knife that is compact and versatile, holding many tools together to address various situations that may arise, the tools and skills that I mentioned in this project are skills that I have seen, gained, and want to continue developing as an aspiring, versatile information professional. The blog also integrates my perspective working at the registrar’s office of a private arts university while I was taking this course.

The following list summarizes briefly the tools that I used to discuss my skills and course reflections:

  • Implicit lessons: The file [Reducing the excess in prioritizing and being concise in my words and thoughts.]

  • Transferable skills: The multipurpose tool [Transferring what I learned here at the iSchool and will continue to learn beyond completion of my MLIS across work situations, as I saw firsthand in my position working at the registrar’s office.]

  • Leadership: The large blade [Knowing where to cut and make critical decisions that can affect the group, as I saw firsthand as “lead organizer” for my semester-long group project.]

  • Mission statements: The screwdriver [Securing the future with goals that motivate workers in the present, as I reflected on what my group wrote in our proposal for an external organization’s mission, vision, and values statements.]

  • Tech applications: The USB drive [Reflecting on how information professionals can take insights from non-LIS contexts, especially in regards to technology to implement in their information organizations.]

  • My future goals: The saw [Discussing how I need to continue developing my versatility and creativity in relation to my future goals.]

CCO Public Domain Image, retrieved from Pixabay.

I found this experience very integral in helping me develop my perspective on the state of the profession today. This culminating experience illustrating how I got to that point in my iSchool career and how I want to keep pursuing my research aims as a “career academic” was a necessary reflection moment in how I was to pursue the rest of my MLIS coursework, as well as a time to see how I can develop my transferable LIS competencies and communication skills further using alternative communication media to reflect and convey my thoughts in a unique manner.

Evidence 2: SRJ Content Editor Experience Narrative

The SLIS Student Research Journal (SRJ, ISSN: 2160-7753), is SJSU iSchool’s double-blind peer reviewed, open access, student-governed LIS journal. SRJ publishes high quality graduate student scholarship in LIS, archival studies, records management, and other related fields. To quote from the introduction from the most recent issue, Vol.7, Issue 1, as an open access journal, “SRJ is distinct as the only student governed, double-blind peer reviewed MLIS journal in North America publishing graduate student scholarship” (Hockin, 2017). Over its 7 years of existence, it has put forth over 50 refereed articles and has quite a global readership at 85,562 total downloads and counting (see front page of the website for the most current statistics on the global download ticker).

From January 2017, I joined the SRJ editorial team as a content editor. Taken from the formal role description, as a content editor, I critically read and reviewed incoming manuscripts assigned to me by the Managing Editor (ME), meeting the two week review deadline as set by the ME and the electronic journal management system (bepress). I worked in a wider editorial structure alongside one other content editor and a copy editor, who reviewed for APA style and formatting per incoming manuscript. I read through assigned manuscripts, offered constructive criticism using a guiding rubric, and submitted my recommendation for publication to the ME, who then put together a Compiled Referee Report (CRR) to send to the Editor-in-Chief (EIC), who then passed the CRR along with a publication decision to the author.

I also participated in mandatory end-of-month meetings led by the EIC and ME, took part in training sessions hosted by our faculty advisor Dr. Anthony Bernier, and contributed to the development of the journal through various special projects. What was required of this position when applying was a familiarity with scholarly writing, research methodologies, in particular APA Style, advanced written communication skills, and advanced critical reading competency. The “soft skills” involved include strong time management skills, ability to complete work within established deadlines, the ability to work collaboratively and professionally in an online, team environment, and the desire to develop stronger scholarly writing and collaborating skills even further.

Taken from SLIS Student Research Journal Editor Training Package.

On a monthly basis, I typically reviewed two to three incoming manuscripts, with a two week turnaround time to offer my publishing recommendation and supporting comments via the completion of an internal rubric. This rubric is structured under three main criteria: conceptualization, execution, and value. I focused on finding the paper’s core question in relation to the whole work. I also made a value judgment about the worth of the content in academic discourse, based on content and presentation. Whenever I read a paper, I always asked myself: Has the author crafted a strong synthesis and made an original, scholarly contribution to the literature? Does the author write with a strong scholarly voice? I always strived to see the potential of what a paper could be while balancing with what I see in front of me, to ensure that I gave my best effort in providing fair and constructive feedback for authors to continue refining their work towards potential submission.

In support of journal development, I also worked on special projects. During the Spring 2017 semester, I generated two short screencasts that showcased tips for authors to consider when attempting to publish their work in academic journals like SRJ. More notably, during the Fall 2017 semester, I had the privilege to present a webinar on how interested authors can develop their academic writing voice, with discussion of my “behind-the-scenes” perspective of how a content editor thinks and reviews manuscripts. [You can find the iSchool news item here.] I generated this webinar from best practices in my own writing and reviewing experiences in APA style, as well as on common themes in feedback such as critiques on manuscripts’ lack of a clearly stated thesis statement and the observations that the writing throughout the treatment of the authors’ well-researched and cited sources is at the level of rote description, not synthesis and analysis as required of an academic journal article.

I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed and learned a great deal in developing a critical eye for reading and reviewing scholarly work. This has been one of the most valuable experiences that I had while at the iSchool, and I know that I can further translate and refine my ever-developing LIS skillset with this experience to guide me. I do appreciate how my work here in collaborating with other editors (albeit indirectly at times due to the nature of double blind peer review) was acknowledged by the EIC who accepted me into the SRJ Editorial Team in the Spring semester, in how I contributed to maintaining the high academic standards of SRJ as a unique and premier avenue for LIS students to publish their work. [The screenshot of her unsolicited LinkedIn recommendation linked in-text above is taken from my LinkedIn profile.]

Future Directions

The role of the information professional is evolving, towards becoming the “multifunction, jack-of-all-trades” information professional (Saunders, 2012). Information professionals must redefine who they are and collaborate with others to respond to the ever-developing technologies and equally-shifting information needs of library users and their institutions at large (Kemp, 2006), and even for their users in non-traditional information organizations. This image of the “jack-of-all-trades” has inspired my own analogy of the information professional with the reliable tools of a Swiss-army knife, as well as spurred personal reflection on how I have developed my transferable LIS skills and where I would like to go in the future. In a similar vein, as an aspiring researcher, I found my tenure as content editor for SRJ invaluable. I know that my work reviewing manuscripts contributes to the learning experience that student authors receive through their publication decision letters and CRRs. I am proud of being a part of this process as I develop my communication skills as a budding information professional aiming to impart strong research practices. I also see myself open to working for an academic journal someday as well.

There is a very real chance that I may not be in a librarian-related position right after graduation, especially since I have little actual experience working in a library. So I have to be open to taking my LIS skills anywhere. I must always take the opportunity as an aspiring information professional to highlight my “soft skills” of a desire for learning and flexibility to adapt to their changing roles when applying for non-traditional positions (Fraser-Arnott, 2015b). This commitment to lifelong learning in professional and personal development, along with a spirit of communication and collaboration, is a mindset that I believe is essential for information professionals to thrive across all organizations.


ACRL Research Planning and Review Committee. (2014). Top trends in academic libraries: A review of the trends and issues affecting academic libraries in higher education. College & Research Libraries News, 75(6), 294-302.

Ashcroft, L. (2004). Developing competencies, critical analysis and personal transferable skills in future information professionals. Library Review, 53(2), 82-88. doi:10.1108/00242530410522569

Calarco, P., Shearer, K., Schmidt, B., & Tate, D. (June 2016). Librarians' competencies profile for scholarly communication and open access. Joint Task Force on Librarians’ Competencies in Support of E¬Research and Scholarly Communication. Retrieved from

Fraser-Arnott, M. (2013). Library and information science (LIS) transferable competencies. Partnership: The Canadian Journal of Library & Information Practice & Research, 8(2), 1-32. doi:10.21083/partnership.v8i2.2595

Fraser-Arnott, M. (2015a). Expanding the horizon of the MLIS. In S. Hirsh (Ed.), Information services today: An introduction. [Kindle version] (pp. 106-116). Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Fraser-Arnott, M. (2015b). Librarians outside of libraries: The experiences of library and information science graduates working outside of libraries. Libri: International Journal of Libraries & Information Services, 65(4), 301-307. doi:10.1515/libri-2015-0099

Gilman, T. (2015). The learning and research institution academic libraries. In S. Hirsh (Ed.), Information services today: An introduction. [Kindle version] (pp. 62-69). Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Hockin, T. (2017). Structure and significance. SLIS Student Research Journal, 7(1). Retrieved from

Kemp, J. (2006). Isn't being a librarian enough? College & Undergraduate Libraries, 13(3), 3-23. doi:10.1300/J106v13n03_02

Saunders, L. (2012). The reality of reference: Responsibilities and competencies for current reference librarians. Public Services Quarterly, 8(2), 114-135. doi:10.1080/15228959.2012.662074

Schmidt, B., & Shearer, K. (June 2016). Librarians' competencies profile for research data management. Joint Task Force on Librarians’ Competencies in Support of E¬Research and Scholarly Communication. Retrieved from

Weech, T. L., & Konieczny, A. M. (2007). Alternative careers for graduates of LIS schools: The north american perspective - an analysis of the literature. Journal of Librarianship & Information Science, 39(2), 67-78. doi:10.1177/0961000607077574