Competency M

Demonstrate oral and written communication skills necessary for professional work including collaboration and presentations.

Statement of Competency

LIS professionals with this competency have the communication skills needed to work effectively in a team, speak in public, and compose written material and other printed or web-based work necessary in performing their duties.

Every job requires the candidate to have excellent interpersonal communication skills in order to succeed and library and information professionals are expected to have these abilities, probably even more so because the field deals with knowledge. Communication skills are necessary in any human interaction. Today’s LIS professional needs to learn how to use different communication styles in order to interact with diverse groups of people and maintain amicable professional relationships.

Library Operations

McSween (2015) stated that “librarians need strong communication skills to assist library users, to plan programs, and to train support staff” (Paragraph 2). Libraries and information centers are used by diverse groups of people of all ages, from different countries and cultures. An effective librarian is able to provide service to any person by engaging patrons in conversation and carefully listening to their information needs. Some librarians are also tasked with administrative duties like training staff so being able to direct subordinates and handle problems with diplomacy. They may also be part of departmental meetings so speaking with confidence and authority is also highly desirable. In these meetings, the librarian represents the library and an articulate one speaks well for the library.

Information Literacy

The modern librarian is also responsible for promoting information literacy so being able to speak confidently in public is an asset when teaching classes, especially since library resources have become more complex with the inclusion of electronic databases and other forms of media. It is not enough to teach the Dewey Decimal system. Librarians also need to know “tech speak” to communicate effectively with digital natives and IT support staff.

I used to work as a library assistant and my office is in the far corner of the library (which I called the “dungeon”). I also worked at night so my visibility was pretty low. But during the funeral of a co-worker, I felt no one has really spoken well enough to illustrate his character so I took the podium and spoke of the little acts of kindness he did for the students who visited the library. I was surprised when multiple people remarked on how well I spoke from the heart, including the professor who teaches public speaking. On his recommendation, I became the person who taught library orientation to graduate students. One just never knows when our communication skills will be called upon.

On the other hand, I was also quite successful in teaching the students from the automotive technology school. The secret is adaptation. Being able to communicate at different levels on different topics should be a skill librarians should practice. Nowadays, it takes more than ordinary oral and written communication skills to engage an increasingly diverse audience so good presentation skills are a plus. Being able to adapt and insert current lingo sparingly in presentations helps make a connection with listeners. It also helps dispel the stereotype that librarians are archaic and stodgy.

Community Relations

Part of the success of any library is its relationship with the community. Librarians who can demonstrate the library’s value and impact on the community and build community support are the ones who use their communication skills to advocate for the library. Advocacy is becoming a major part of keeping libraries sustainable. And successful advocacy can only be achieved by using both oral and written communication skills. Having these skills are useful to maintain good public and professional relationships and forming strategic partnerships with decision makers and influencers.

David Lankes said the mission of librarians is “to improve society by facilitating knowledge creation in their communities.” But how can librarians continue this noble endeavor when many public libraries are losing funding and closing their doors? Before LIS students leave graduate school, they need to realize that at some point in their careers, they will be called upon to be an advocate for their library.

In 2002, Schrader & Brundin observed that “the biggest challenge facing the library community is telling its story – going beyond the data in meaningful ways that will resonate with sponsors, policy makers, politicians and library users alike” (Schrader & Brundin, 2002, p. 56). As advocates, librarians need to use communication skills to build connections with people who can enact policies. Advocacy does not begin when there is a threat to the library’s sustainability. It begins over coffee, in the elevator, passing in the hallway, at community events. Ken Haycock (2011), former SJSU School Director, said it with such clarity:

The best advocacy is being ‘at the table’, not when solutions are proposed but when problems are identified…In current parlance, this is becoming a player. This is where we need to be, in our cities and towns, in our universities and colleges, in our schools, and in our larger organizations…This is where the library’s resources and services are leveraged to improve the quality of life and experiences in our communities (Haycock, 2011, Paragraph 7).

Mclure, et al (2007) emphasized that having a relationship with a decision-maker is key to any other success (p. XX). In cultivating relationships with the powers that be, librarians are building trust. Mortensen (2008) wrote “Money is given to those we trust; trust involves knowing you, believing that you have good character, are competent in your job, having confidence in that you will do what you say you will do, that others find you credible and that your objectives are congruent with mine (p. XX) And librarians can achieve this by being able to express themselves confidently and succinctly.

Fundraising

Kwanya, et al (2015) cited Partridge’s (2010) suggestion that librarians should have advocacy, lobbying, negotiation, diplomacy, conflict resolution, marketing and promotion skills. There may be circumstances when it is be necessary to secure funding from other sources and many librarians have become grant writers for their libraries. Grant writing is an intricate process that is both formulaic and creative.

According to MacKellar and Gerding (2010), funders sometimes ask for a letter of intent (or inquiry) which they use to quickly decide if the project is something they would like to fund. The added benefit of contacting the funder is that they become familiar with the librarian’s proposal before submission. This is a good way to establish a communicative partnership which is very important because it builds trust and both grantor and grantee can align their goals. The authors advise meeting in person, if possible, because it builds good relationships (p. 110-112). When writing grants, librarians have to be able to convince funders through persuasive writing, careful presentation of research, and accurate project details. Whether in person or on paper, the grant writer must have the communication skills to generate support for the project.

Career Management

Although most librarians are altruistic by nature, they also need to take care of their careers. Just like any person who is seeking a position, a librarian has to write cover letters and résumés for applications. Partridge, et al (2010) wrote that “librarians should be good at marketing and promotion. He or she must be able to sell their skills and knowledge. Excellent presentation skills are essential” (p. 327-328). And sometimes, collaborations with other librarians or even individuals outside the library is necessary. The authors also noted that collaboration is no longer just an optional extra. The modern librarian does work as an individual anymore but has to build networks with other individuals and groups.

Justification of Evidence

  1. Trello Collaboration Board (LIBR 284 Tools, Services and Methodologies for Digital Curation)

For our group project in our digital curation class, we had to create a presentation on website preservation. Because we are all in different time zones, we had to find a way to collaborate. One of our group members suggested Trello, which he said he had successfully used in other projects. It was a place where we can organize our project, put up a schedule and also add messages. It let us see our project in a single glance. There was no need for sending email back and forth. Trello can be set up to send notifications if anything new is posted to the board. It was actually a fun and efficient way to manage a project. It certainly beats sticky notes. This is a screenshot of a collaboration board our group set up on the site Trello. Unlike Google Docs, it was relatively easy to add images so I really enjoyed using this free online collaboration tool.

  1. Grant Proposal Letter of Inquiry (INFO 282 Grant Writing)

This artifact is from my grant writing class. I wrote a letter of inquiry to a foundation that could be a possible source of funding for the historical society I am writing the grant for. Letter writing is still very much an important method of communication in the business world.  I believe that every person should be able to write a letter with the proper parts. Professionals are held to even more stringent standards when it comes to letter writing. This letter of inquiry is an example of a professional letter where formal language is used. Special care is given to using correct grammar and spelling. Errors in these make a really bad impression. Unfortunately, letter writing is becoming a lost skill.

  1. Canvas Training Session (Learning Management System Assistant Work Sample)

I worked as a student assistant for the iSchool for two years and one of my assignments was as a learning management system assistant. In this position, I had to train faculty on the use of a new learning management system, Canvas.  I have years of teaching experience but never in an online platform so it was a bit daunting, especially since I was going to be teaching faculty members. But I eventually gained confidence after doing it for a few times. I included this Collaborate recording as an artifact for my e-portfolio because it is an example of how technology has changed the educational landscape. As information professionals, we have to keep up with these changes in order to perform our jobs, whether as librarians, teachers, or presenters. In my recent attendance of a professional conference and I witnessed first-hand how information professionals presented in sessions. But communication skills are not just for speaking to crowds. Good rapport is also important in establishing connections in professional and social settings. How we communicate as individuals are one of the first impressions people build their perception of who we are.

Evidence

Trello Collaboration Board

Grant Proposal Letter of Inquiry 

Canvas Training Session

References

Haycock, K. (2011). Advocacy revisited: Newer insights based on research and evidence. Presentation. 7th Follett Lecture, Dominican Graduate School of Library and Information Science, Dominican University, IL. Retrieved from https://web.archive.org/web/20120706113605/httpL://www.worlib.org/vol19no1-2haycockprint_v19n1-2.shtml

Lankes, R.D.(2011). The atlas of new librarianship. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Retrieved from http://www.newlibrarianship.org/wordpress/

McClure, C., Feldman, S. & Ryan, J. (2007). Politics and advocacy: The role of networking in selling the library to your community. Public Library Quarterly, 25, 1-17.

McSween, D. (2015). Good skills to hold as a librarian. Global Post. Retrieved from http://everydaylife.globalpost.com/good-skills-hold-librarian-6026.html

Mortensen, K. (2008). Persuasion IQ. Saranac Lake, NY: AMACOM.

Partridge, H., Lee, J. & Munro, C. (2010). Becoming “Librarian 2.0”: The skills, knowledge, and attributes required by library and information science professionals in a Web 2.0 world (and beyond). Library Trends, 59(1/2), 315-335.

Schrader, A.M. & Brundin, M.R. (2002). National core library statistics program statistical report, 1999: Cultural and economic impact of libraries on Canada. Retrieved from http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/obj/r3/f2/02-e.pdf

Trello. (2015). Home. Retrieved from https://trello.com/home