Skills for 21st-Century Librarians

Skills for 21st-Century Librarians is a project of the American Library Association (ALA) to develop a programming curriculum for library workers and students.

Working with Knology, a social science research organization, ALA's Skills for 21st-Century Librarians task force developed a set of recommendations for learning objectives within nine core library programming competency areas: Organizational Skills, Knowledge of the Community, Interpersonal Skills, Event Planning, Creativity, Content Knowledge, Outreach and Marketing, Financial Skills and Evaluation.

The need for a library programming curriculum

Skills for 21st-Century Librarians builds on ALA’s National Impact of Library Public Programs Assessment (NILPPA), a research project to understand and document the characteristics, audiences, outcomes, and value of library public programming in the U.S.

Through their programming, libraries identify, address, and reflect community needs; enhance their institutional capacity and services; and contribute to our democratic society.

Libraries are increasingly seen as players in not just access to learning materials but homes for community-building efforts as well. The role of the library is changing and growing, and programming librarians are on the front lines of that change.

However, as the 2019 NILPPA Phase 1 white paper explained, library workers are not being adequately trained for the task. Master’s-level library science programs rarely train the next generation of library professionals for the dynamic and vital work of creating and leading programs. Many library workers receive no formal program training at all; until now, informal and peer learning has been filling the gap.

Task force recommendations

From January to June 2021, ALA convened a task force of 12 leaders in libraries and library education to explore how library programming skills can be taught in library degree programs and professional development trainings. The Skills for 21st-Century Librarians Task Force is a working group of library workers, MLIS instructors and other library leaders exploring the development of a programming curriculum for library students and practitioners. 

The task force's work began with a review of library degree coursework and professional development opportunities.

Read blog posts authored by the task force on ALA’s Programming Librarian website:

From the Blog: When Programming Goes Digital - The Changing Skillset of Programming Librarians   From the Blog: The Lesser-Taught Programming Skills - Evaluation, Financial Skills, and Creativity   From the Blog: Local Networks - The Librarian Skills of Outreach and Marketing   From the Blog: Event Planning ≠ Program Planning - Teaching Event-Planning Skills   From the Blog: 'Knowing Your Community' - What It Really Means for Programming Librarians   From the Blog: ALA Seeks Feedback from the Library Field on Library Programming Learning Objectives

Members of the task force include:

  • Tammy Baggett, Director, Durham County Library, Durham, N.C.
  • Judy Bergeron, Director, Smithville Public Library, Smithville, Texas
  • Nicole Cooke, Augusta Baker Endowed Chair and Associate Professor, University of South Carolina School of Library and Information Science
  • Cindy Fesemyer, Principal, Fesemyer Consulting, LLC
  • Rolf Hapel, Affiliate Instructor, University of Washington Information School
  • Susan Hildreth, Consultant, Susan Hildreth and Associates
  • Tamara King, Community Relations Director, Richland Library, Columbia, S.C.
  • Emily Mross, Business Librarian and Library Outreach Coordinator, Penn State Harrisburg Library, Middletown, Pa.
  • Deb Ripley, Adult Services Librarian, Palos Verdes Library District, Palos Verdes, Calif.
  • Miguel Ruiz, Librarian Supervisor, Arlington Public Library, Va.
  • Dale Savage, Library Development Bureau Director, New Mexico State Library
  • Mimosa Shah, current MS in LIS Student at the University of Illinois, iSchool

Skills for 21st-Century Librarians: Task Force for the Development of a NILPPA- Informed Programming Librarian Curriculum is an initiative of ALA’s Public Programs Office.

The project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services grant number RE-246421-OLS-20.