Core Competencies Of Librarianship

Librarianship refers to the field of working in a library in various ways. Whether in a basic librarian position or as an administrator, there are numerous positions within the field and numerous types of libraries that one may find employment in. However, while anyone can earn a degree and enter this field, there are certain people who are more well-suited to the job based on their overall personality and their natural skillset. There are also numerous core competencies that make up the knowledge base of a good librarian. These are usually taught within classes that lead to library science degrees. In all cases, understanding the core competencies of librarianship is a good first step towards success in the field.

Personal Qualities for a Librarian

Before one ever sits in a library science related classroom, there are numerous skills and abilities that help highlight someone as being right for a position in this field. These natural talents and personality traits help one stand out as a good candidate for a position as a librarian. Basic personal traits and skills that are important to have include:

  • A love of knowledge and learning
  • A desire to work around people
  • Love of books
  • Broad overall knowledge of life and the world
  • Strong organizational skills
  • Good with numbers
  • Friendly
  • Ethical
  • Personable
  • Basic affinity for working with large volumes of information
  • Computer skills

Note that these skills and traits aren’t necessarily required to become a professional librarian, but they are important components of thriving in the position and as such it’s important to consider the presence of one or more of them in one’s own personality to determine if librarianship is a good career choice to make.

Basic Librarian Skills and Competencies

While those personal qualities are all important aspects of a career in this field, they only make up the foundation on which to build. Learning various skills through classwork is a must for entering a position as a librarian and there are numerous core competencies worth taking a look at. These basic competencies include:

  • Ability to use technology and to use it to enhance the overall effectiveness of a library, including web based methods of improving technological access to information.
  • Good overall knowledge of archiving and filing information as well as maintaining databases and reference information.
  • Capable of evaluating resources and finding the best ones for addressing different questions or issues.
  • Ability to quickly and professionally search databases, internet resources, and catalogs to find needed information.
  • Ability to communicate well with library staff as well as with all patrons and guests
  • Deep knowledge of books. Good librarians usually read a variety of genres and types of books so that they can help to advise readers as to good books for their reading level and their interests.
  • Ability to promote reading
  • Ability to present information clearly and in an interesting manner
  • Some public speaking skills may be required as well
  • Strong level of customer service skills
  • Ability to adapt to new tools, systems, and situations as they arise – library and information technology is constantly evolving and shifting and librarians must be able to evolve along with it
  • Good overall knowledge of pop culture and current events may not be needed but can help with facilitating patrons’ needs
  • Team player
  • Ability to help overcome issues by focusing on solutions instead of on the problems
  • Organizational skills that are enhanced through regular additional efforts
  • Must maintain a solid overall understanding of different issues that confront libraries of all sizes

Obviously some of these competencies are taught while others are gradually learned and mastered during an education and on the job experience. For example, while classes can help teach one the finer points of organization or statistics, one will have to gradually learn how to hone their communication skills.

Additionally, some of these skills may not be as important as others. The place of employment will have a large impact on exactly what is needed to thrive in a particular position in a particular job and the specific competencies most important in that occupation.


The field of librarianship is a rewarding one to enter, particular for those who love knowledge, learning, and reading. However, while several personal traits and skills will help one be better suited overall for a position in the field, there are also numerous skills and competencies that must be studied and advanced in order to succeed in this field. It takes much more to thrive as a librarian than many people realize, and the above lists should help give you an idea of just what it takes to succeed in this important and constantly evolving field.

With your master’s in library science (MLS), help lead the expanding and dynamic field of librarianship.


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Sarah J

Sarah J is Chief Editor and Founder at, formerly (LSL). Join us today and become a community curator. We can also be found on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook. Learn more about me on Google+