ALCTS Educational Policy Statement

Approved by the ALCTS Board of Directors, June 27, 1995


In times of rapid and far-reaching changes, the answer to the question of how one should prepare oneself for the future is like a mirage: visible from a distance but disappearing quickly when approached for a closer look.

As schools of library and information science struggle to stay open, they are revising their curricula, changing their teaching methods, and realigning themselves on their campuses, all the while trying to prepare librarians with an education that will not be outdated by the time they graduate.

Libraries are undergoing the same kinds of stresses. Because libraries are changing in fundamental ways due to electronic information, the planned ubiquity of the "national information infrastructure," and the increasing competition from commercial information enterprises, they need librarians who are innovative, flexible, and willing to take risks.

Librarians, schools of library and information science, and libraries want to know how to prepare themselves, their students, and their staffs for the future. For this reason, among others, attempts have been made to codify the knowledge and skills that librarians should acquire to be successful. Whether this quest results in lists of competencies, skills and abilities, core knowledge, required courses, or syllabi for courses (which will be referred to here collectively as "competencies" for economy), there seems to be no real satisfaction, resulting in a continuing search.

This educational policy statement is ALCTS' offering to assist librarians, schools of library and information science, and libraries--as well as other organizations related to or interested in libraries--in preparing librarians to work in areas on which ALCTS focuses its efforts. This statement presents a broad view of the process of educating librarians that can be used in a variety of settings and for a variety of purposes. It looks to the future and is intended to be reviewed and updated as necessary.

As ALA and ALCTS promulgate educational policy, the responsibility of librarians should be foremost in each facet of that policy. For example, although it is the responsibility of the graduate professional schools to offer instruction that will educate and prepare their students, it is the responsibility of those students to plan programs that are coherent and that, taken as a whole, constitute preparation for the chosen career path. So is it the responsibility of practicing librarians to plan their continuing education by selecting the most appropriate areas and methods of learning to enhance their curricula vitae and to stay abreast of the latest developments in the field. Librarians is the term chosen to describe librarians and other information professionals who work in libraries or other information organizations.

Librarians in a New Milieu

Librarians who perform technical services and collection development work have always striven to provide physical and intellectual access to recorded information and knowledge. This fundamental task has remained unchanged as new media have been introduced, as new modes of communication have been employed, and as new social, political, and commercial institutions have arisen or have replaced outmoded institutions. The values of providing physical and intellectual access to all recorded information for all people endure while the means and methods of doing so change. Schools of library and information science, libraries, library organizations, and other librarians continue to instill these values--which are at the core of librarianship--in new librarians.

The task of all those involved in educating librarians and other information professionals is to teach principles. These principles include the values of the profession and the reasons for their existence. Principles from other disciplines can be applied to librarianship as well.

A fundamental knowledge of the ways in which information is organized, stored, and retrieved is important for librarians in all areas of the library. Intellectual access and information organization provide the structures and patterns of control found in all information-access components of libraries. Increasing amounts of information and the increasing democratization of the ability to publish information on networks such as the Internet will engender a greater need for finding the "right" information from among the trillions of bytes in cyberspace. Providing intellectual access to this material is a bibliographic control function.

Selecting and acquiring information resources to satisfy the demand from library users will be more complex than is currently the case. These activities will require more on-the-spot decisions regarding the best and most efficient way to acquire information--physically or virtually--and will require a broad knowledge of information sources encompassing traditional and nontraditional publishing.

Librarians have a responsibility to provide for the preservation of their library collections. Preserving electronic information presents different, more complex technological challenges for preservation specialists, but the values are the same as for traditional media.

While most technical services and collection development work has been done in libraries, this situation is changing. Using electronic information and electronic networks, it is possible and perhaps desirable to create libraries without walls. And providing these services without walls is a necessary parallel development. Librarians will still perform their work in libraries, of course, but they will also work in computer centers, in not-for-profit or for-profit technical services firms, in commercial software development firms, in commercial information-producing firms, and in other institutions that aid the process of information transfer.

The work of librarians in technical services might increase due to new patterns of information creation and communication. All of the individuals involved in educating librarians for these tasks--providing intellectual access, organizing information, preserving information, and selecting and acquiring information--must be ready to educate and train librarians in new skills, new thought processes, and new career paths while maintaining traditional values of providing intellectual and physical access to information for everyone.

The appendix to this document lists knowledge and skills that librarians should possess to succeed in the information age.



Librarians and other information professionals should accept responsibility for their education throughout their careers. While professional schools are primarily responsible for their curricula, librarians should expect and demand quality preparation for their careers. Librarians should plan their academic careers with their future in mind, whether this means attending a particular school offering an emphasis in a desired area or designing a program composed of classes from different schools on a campus.

Before graduation, librarians, in conjunction with faculty, should design plans for continuing education. Although plans and circumstances will change, the exercise of developing an initial plan is an important building block in the professional career. It is then the librarians' responsibility to review and update their plans for continuing education and to follow through in acquiring the knowledge and abilities needed to perform optimally in all professional arenas as their careers develop.

All librarians should also recognize their responsibilities in professional education by contributing to the continuing education of their peers. This might include mentoring colleagues new to the profession, being active in the professional development programs in their libraries, teaching through schools of library and information science or their professional associations, or taking an active interest in ensuring that the schools, libraries, and associations are doing their parts.

Finally, librarians should help recruit talented indviduals to the profession who can provide leadership in mastering new challenges to managing information.

Schools of Library and Information Science

Schools of library and information science must ensure that their curricula provide a solid foundation for library and information science professionals by teaching basic values of the profession, stressing theory over practice, stressing professional decision making over performance of specific duties, stressing service to the user of the information, and preparing librarians with a plan for continuing education. Curricula must be continuously updated. Schools of library and information science should use this policy document in designing specific courses, broader areas of concentration, and their overall curricula. Joint programs with other schools, colleges, or departments must be developed and encouraged. Student librarians should have the opportunity to specialize in their areas of interest.

Advising students must be a high priority for schools or departments of library and information science. All students entering library education programs should receive a copy of this policy to aid them in their educational, career, and continuing education planning. Advising must address the design of the professional education program, the development of professional attitudes and outlooks, an understanding of the role of and respect for research, the development of a plan for continuing education before the student leaves the school, and the need for and role of the librarian in the process of creating and disseminating knowledge.

Schools or departments of library and information science should cooperate with one another to create a network of institutes for providing cutting-edge, postgraduate continuing education courses and workshops geared to practicing librarians and delivered both on and off campus.


Libraries must accept their responsibility to establish and operate professional development programs to help their librarians to achieve their maximum potential through continuing education. This is in the interest of the librarian, the library, and the profession. Libraries should provide guidance, especially for novice librarians, in continuing education and the training needs of both the librarian and the library, and should provide opportunities for librarians to grow and advance. Libraries should use this policy in their professional development or continuing education programs. This policy should be made available to paraprofessional library staff members so that they can plan their careers to become librarians if they so choose.

Library Associations

Library associations, and the American Library Association in particular, must review their efforts to deliver continuing professional education when and where librarians need it. The associations should take an active role in encouraging major players in educating library and information science professionals (not just the schools and departments) to carry out their responsibilities.

Library associations should develop partnerships with one another in order to establish a network for educational opportunities for library and information science professionals. In addition, library associations should accept the responsibility to relate the various aspects of continuing education if only by acting as clearinghouses for and announcing continuing education activities on a national basis.

The Association for Library Collections & Technical Services should take the lead in encouraging all parties involved in the education and training of librarians to continually reassess their activities so that librarians are well educated for the future.


ALCTS promulgates this policy to its members and to appropriate organizations. ALCTS will use this policy to respond to inquiries from within and without the profession concerning the roles and responsibilities of a librarian performing technical services and collection development functions. ALCTS will update this policy on a regular basis.

ALCTS recommends that the Committee on Accreditation of the American Library Association use this policy in its accreditation process of schools of library and information science.

Acknowledgment : This Educational Policy Statement of the Association for Library Collections & Technical Services is based on the Platform For Change of the Medical Library Association and acknowledges its debt to the Medical Library Association.

Appendix: Knowledge and Skills

Intellectual Access and Information Organization

All librarians must understand the ways in which information is organized for retrieval and be able to communicate this knowledge of organizational structures to the library user. Librarians and other information professionals must also possess a basic knowledge of how databases are created and indexed, and the factors that affect indexing, retrieval, and display of records. Knowledge and skills required for intellectual access and information organization include:

  • knowledge of information-seeking behaviors of user groups;
  • knowledge of the activities that must be performed to provide the products and services users need;
  • knowledge of the theory of information organization and intellectual access including relevant national and international standards;
  • knowledge of the theory and methods for subject analysis, including thesaurus creation, indexing, and classification;
  • knowledge of the theory and methods for describing, identifying, and showing relationships among materials;
  • ability to develop and apply syndetic structure and controlled vocabulary in information retrieval systems;
  • knowledge of the theoretical basis for retrieval and how searching techniques and data structures affect precision and recall;
  • knowledge of bibliographic relationships underlying database design;
  • knowledge of cataloging tools and sources of bibliographic records and how to use them;
  • knowledge of the operations of other parts of the employing organization and how they relate to providing intellectual access to information resources;
  • ability to evaluate information-retrieval systems in relation to user needs and information-seeking behaviors;
  • knowledge of basic database design and database management concepts;
  • knowledge of principles and methods for planning and designing user-driven information retrieval systems; and
  • knowledge of state-of-the art research and practice in this area.

Preserving Access

Access to library collections is an integral part of librarianship. All librarians must possess a conceptual knowledge of the physical and intellectual nature of library materials as well as the factors affecting the life expectancy of library materials. Librarians must understand basic preservation activities for ensuring continued access to information in the most appropriate format. Knowledge and skills required for preservation of information resources include:

  • knowledge and understanding of the interdependent roles that the building, environment, and security and fire protection systems, as well as pest control and housekeeping programs, play in the preservation of collections, and the application of this knowledge for the planning for new buildings and additions to and renovations of existing buildings, including appropriate and nondamaging handling procedures and storage conditions;
  • knowledge of and skills in the application of preventive and remedial treatments to keep materials usable for as long as they are needed;
  • knowledge of and skills in the application of methods used to preserve materials in their original format when appropriate;
  • knowledge to make decisions about the appropriateness of replacing or reformatting deteriorated materials;
  • knowledge of not only preservation methods for paper, books, and other current library materials, but also preservation strategies for new and emerging technologies, including the updating and reformatting of magnetic media to allow continued access and protection against viruses, worms, and unauthorized alteration of data and information in electronic media;
  • skills in initiating and supporting preservation initiatives at all levels, include supporting research into the causes of deterioration and the application of new treatments and technologies;
  • knowledge of the operations of other parts of the organization and how they relate to preserving information resources;
  • skills in communicating the need for increased funding for the preservation of endangered materials to appropriate organizations and federal, state, and local government agencies;
  • skills in educating current and future librarians, library users, and the public about collection care and preservation;
  • skills and initiative to promote the use of permanent and durable media by publishers of information products; and
  • knowledge of state-of-the art research and practice in this area.

Identification, Selection, and Acquisition of Information Resources

All librarians must have basic knowledge and skills pertinent to the development of collections, the management of financial resources, and the dissemination of information in a dynamic and collaborative environment; some librarians must develop this knowledge and these skills on a deeper level:

  • skills to assess user needs and the needs of the larger organization;
  • knowledge of the existing local collection;
  • knowledge of the body and structure of specific areas of knowledge;
  • knowledge of bibliographic sources and selection tools for specific countries or areas of knowledge;
  • knowledge of the theory and the skills to identify, select, and evaluate resources in all formats to meet the information needs of users;
  • knowledge of current research and practice in systems for selection and acquisition of information resources;
  • knowledge of the appropriate means of providing access to needed resources available remotely;
  • knowledge of the methods of acquisition and the ability to select effective and efficient means of acquisition for various types of material;
  • knowledge of general business practices, especially in financial management;
  • knowledge of the publishing industry and of trends in information formatting, production, packaging, and dissemination;
  • knowledge of intellectual property rights;
  • skills and knowledge to participate in cooperative collection development and resource sharing;
  • knowledge of the operations of other parts of the organization and how they relate to selecting and acquiring information resources;
  • knowledge and understanding of economic trends and financial policy and the ability to analyze such trends and policies in order to manage resources;
  • skills and knowledge to develop and apply quantitative measures to analyze collections to assist in managing resources.; and
  • knowledge of state-of-the art research and practice in this area.

Management Skills

General skills and knowledge in the areas of management and personal development empower librarians to be successful in any setting. These more general skills and knowledge include, but are not limited to, communicating in verbal or written mode, planning and implementing plans, working with budgets, evaluating programs, and supervising others. Whether librarians have administrative or nonadministrative posts, these skills are needed to be effective, efficient, and productive professionals. Knowledge and skills in this area include:

  • skills in active listening and effective written and verbal communication;
  • knowledge of management principles and organizational behavior;
  • knowledge of alternative management structures and their implications for the operation of the organization;
  • knowledge of budget processes and skills in interpreting financial data;
  • knowledge of the strategic planning process;
  • skills in formulating organizational or personal goals, objectives, and priorities;
  • skills in providing leadership;
  • skills in problem-solving and decision-making;
  • skills in delegating responsibility, providing constructive supervision and meditating conflict;
  • skills in assessing, analyzing, and evaluating data, processes, procedures, or programs; and
  • knowledge of state-of-the art research and practice in this area.

Skills in Research Analysis and Interpretation

All librarians must understand methods commonly used to gather data for their own analyses and to interpret the data and analyses of others. In varying degrees according to their work, librarians must also possess knowledge of techniques for a logical, scientific approach to solving problems and evaluating services. Knowledge and abilities should include academic grounding in statistics, logic, and critical thinking, specifically:

  • ability to identify problems and create clear problem statements;
  • ability to select proper evaluation methods and criteria;
  • knowledge of and ability to apply statistical description, analysis, interpretation, and presentation;
  • ability to collect, analyze, and interpret data; test hypotheses and inferential thoughts; and predict results;
  • ability to compare observed and predicted results;
  • ability to reach conclusions based on results;
  • ability to translate conclusions and inferences into actions; and
  • knowledge of state-of-the art research and practice in this area.