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ALSC Competencies

The following is a revised version based on membership input and ALSC Board and Executive Committee review. The original final revision was submitted to the ALSC Executive Committee by the Education Committee in August, 1997. It was approved by the ALSC Board at Annual Conference 1999.

[Copies of the Competencies are available from the ALSC office at a cost of $3. Volume discounts are available.]


Association For Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association

Effective library service for children entails a broad range of experience and professional skills. The librarian serving children is first of all fully knowledgeable in the theories, practices and emerging trends of librarianship but must also have specialized knowledge of the particular needs of child library users.

In developing both the original and this revised document, the committees preparing the Competencies looked at numerous sets of standards for children's services from state agencies, professional associations and individual libraries and systems. These competencies are broadly categorized into the following areas: knowledge of the client group; administrative and managerial skills; communications skills; materials and collection development; programming skills; advocacy, public relations and networking; and professionalism and professional development.

Although the Competencies seek to define the role of the librarian serving children, they will apply in varying degrees according to the professional responsibilities of each individual job situation. The assignment of responsibilities for planning, managing and delivering library services to children will vary in relation to the size and staffing pattern of the local public library. It is recognized that not all children's librarians in all positions will be involved in all of these activities, nor will they need all of these skills. Some libraries will have only one librarian responsible for providing all service to children, others will have more than one professional children's librarian sharing those responsibilities. In larger libraries with multiple outlets, there may be a coordinator or manager of children's services who oversees the planning, training, design and delivery of service by a number of building level service providers. Because the variety of situations and responsibilities differ so widely, these Competencies seek to be all-inclusive rather than to categorize minimum levels of activities and skills needed to serve children in the public library.

The philosophical underpinning for children's services in all public libraries is that children are entitled to full access to the full range of library materials and services available to any other library customer. Other documents that affirm this service philosophy include the American Library Association's (ALA) Library Bill of Rights, the Freedom to Read and Freedom to View statements of ALA.

It is the policy of this organization that a master's degree from a library/information program from an ALA accredited graduate school is the appropriate professional degree for the librarian serving children in the public library.

The following Competencies make it clear that the children's librarian must do more than simply provide age-appropriate service. Children's librarians must also be advocates for their clientele both within the library and in the larger society, and they must also demonstrate the full range of professional and managerial skills demanded of any other librarians.

Each edition of the Competencies has been arranged in a systematic manner beginning with knowledge of the community and client group. This gives a solid foundation for planning and managing. Communication is always a vital skill to articulate goals and objectives. Collection development provides the resources for services and programs. Finally, the future of service to children depends on advocacy and professional development. As society changes, so does the public library, and so must the public librarian. Professional growth and development is a career-long process.

It is recommended that libraries developing their own competencies or standards for service to children use this document in conjunction with relevant state standards or guidelines.

I. Knowledge of Client Group

  1. Understands theories of infant, child, and adolescent learning and development and their implications for library service.
  2. Recognizes the effects of societal developments on the needs of children.
  3. Assesses the community regularly and systematically to identify community needs, tastes, and resources.
  4. Identifies clients with special needs as a basis for designing and implementing services, following American Disabilities Act (ADA) and state and local regulations where appropriate.
  5. Recognizes the needs of an ethnically diverse community.
  6. Understands and responds to the needs of parents, care givers, and other adults who use the resources of the children's department.
  7. Creates an environment in the children's area, which provides for enjoyable and convenient use of library resources.
  8. Maintains regular communication with other agencies, institutions, and organizations serving children in the community.

II. Administrative and Management Skills

  1. Participates in all aspects of the library's planning process to represent and support children's services.
  2. Sets long-and short-range goals, objectives, and priorities.
  3. Analyzes the costs of library services to children in order to develop, justify, administer/manage, and evaluate a budget.
  4. Writes job descriptions and interviews, trains, encourages continuing education, and evaluates staff who work with children, consulting with other library administrations as indicated in library personnel policy.
  5. Demonstrates problem-solving, decision making, and mediation techniques.
  6. Delegates responsibility appropriately and supervises staff constructively.
  7. Documents and evaluates services.
  8. Identifies outside sources of funding and writes effective grant applications.

III. Communication Skills

  1. Defines and communicates the needs of children so that administrators, other library staff, and members of the larger community understand the basis for children's services.
  2. Demonstrates interpersonal skills in meeting with children, parents, staff, and community.
  3. Adjusts to the varying demands of writing planning documents, procedures, guidelines, press releases, memoranda, reports, grant applications, annotations, and reviews in all formats, including print and electronic.
  4. Speaks effectively when addressing individuals, as well as small and large groups.
  5. Applies active listening skills.
  6. Conducts productive formal and informal reference interviews.
  7. Communicates constructively with "problem patrons."

IV. Materials and Collection Development
A. Knowledge of Materials

  1. Demonstrates a knowledge and appreciation of children's literature, periodicals, audiovisual materials, Websites and other electronic media, and other materials that constitute a diverse, current, and relevant children's collection.
  2. Keeps abreast of new materials and those for retrospective purchase by consulting a wide variety of reviewing sources and publishers' catalogs, including those of small presses; by attending professional meetings; and by reading, viewing, and listening.
  3. Is aware of adult reference materials and other library resources, which may serve the needs of children and their caregivers.

B. Ability to Select Appropriate Materials and Develop a Children's Collection

  1. Evaluates and recommends collection development, selection and weeding policies for children's materials consistent with the mission and policies of the parent library and the ALA Library Bill of Rights, and applies these policies in acquiring and weeding materials for or management of the children's collection.
  2. Acquires materials that reflect the ethnic diversity of the community, as well as the need of children to become familiar with other ethnic groups and cultures.
  3. Understands and applies criteria for evaluating the content and artistic merit of children's materials in all genres and formats.
  4. Keeps abreast of current issues in children's materials collections and formulates a professional philosophy with regard to these issues.
  5. Demonstrates a knowledge of technical services, cataloging and indexing procedures, and practices relating to children's materials.

C. Ability to Provide Customers with Appropriate Materials and Information

  1. Connects children to the wealth of library resources, enabling them to use libraries effectively.
  2. Matches children and their families with materials appropriate to their interest and abilities.
  3. Provides help where needed, respects children's right to browse, and answers questions regardless of their nature or purpose.
  4. Assists and instructs children in information gathering and research skills as appropriate.
  5. Understands and applies search strategies to give children full and equitable access to information from the widest possible range of sources, such as children's and adult reference works, indexes, catalogs, electronic resources, information and referral files, and interlibrary loan networks.
  6. Compiles and maintains information about community resources so that children and adults working with children can be referred to appropriate sources of assistance.
  7. Works with library technical services to guarantee that the children's collection is organized and accessed for the easiest possible use.
  8. Creates bibliographies, booktalks, displays, electronic documents, and other special tools to increase access to library resources and motivate their use.

V. Programming Skills

  1. Designs, promotes, executes, and evaluates programs for children of all ages, based on their developmental needs and interests and the goals of the library.
  2. Presents a variety of programs or brings in skilled resource people to present these programs, including storytelling, booktalking, book discussions, puppet programs, and other appropriate activities.
  3. Provides outreach programs commensurate with community needs and library goals and objectives.
  4. Establishes programs and services for parents, individuals and agencies providing child-care, and other professionals in the community who work with children.

VI. Advocacy, Public Relations, and Networking Skills

  1. Promotes an awareness of and support for meeting children's library and information needs through all media.
  2. Considers the opinions and requests of children in the development and evaluation of library services.
  3. Ensures that children have full access to library materials, resources, and services as prescribed by the Library Bill of Rights.
  4. Acts as liaison with other agencies in the community serving children, including other libraries and library systems.
  5. Develops cooperative programs between the public library, schools, and other community agencies.
  6. Extends library services to children and groups of children presently unserved.
  7. Utilizes effective public relations techniques and media to publicize library activities.
  8. Develops policies and procedures applying to children's services based on federal, state, and local law where appropriate.
  9. Understands library governance and the political process and lobbies on behalf of children's services.

VII. Professionalism and Professional Development

  1. Acknowledges the legacy of children's librarianship, its place in the context of librarianship as a whole, and past contributions to the profession.
  2. Keeps abreast of current trends and emerging technologies, issues, and research in librarianship, child development, education, and allied fields.
  3. Practices self-evaluation.
  4. Conveys a nonjudgmental attitude toward patrons and their requests.
  5. Demonstrates an understanding of and respect for diversity in cultural and ethnic values.
  6. Knows and practices the American Library Association's Code of Ethics.
  7. Preserves confidentiality in interchanges with patrons.
  8. Works with library educators to meet needs of library school students and promote professional association scholarships.
  9. Participates in professional organizations to strengthen skills, interact with fellow professionals, and contribute to the profession.
  10. Understands that professional development and continuing education are activities to be pursued throughout one's career.

Last updated 4/27/99


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