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  • Back in the 1990s and 2000s, were learning the truth of this statement. And I’m sure those of you who work with Ers know know it to be true. The first advertisement for an ERL position appeared in 1990 for an academic library. Then and now, in academic libraries, ERL has close ties to serials. Serials were some of the first library materials to be indexed and delivered electronically and serials librarians had to figure out how connect patrons with those resources.Nowadays I would say that it’s not just critical for academic libraries but for all libraries because all libraries' patrons expect us “libraries to make use of new technologies to deliver information to them easily, conveniently, and instantly” and “libraries and librarians are sometimes hard pressed to keep pace with these expectations. (Sutton, 2011, p. 3).
  • Back in about 2008 I was working as an serials and electronic resources librarian at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and working my way through the doctoral program at Texas Woman’s University. A colleague of mine who had recently accepted a position as an ERL at another academic libralry called me to ask if I knew of any standard for evaluating the performance of ERLs. The ERL position she had recently accepted was new to her library and in some ways she was making it up as she went along (like many of us were). We both did some digging and found as far as we could tell, none existed. But her question did get me to wondering why there weren’t any.. In the process of digging around, I learned that ALA was gathering feedback on a draft set of core competencies for librarianship. These are generalist competencies that ALA and the COA thought anyone graduating from library school should have under their belt. In early 2009 ALA officially adopted their core competencies of librarianship the COA referred took them up. In both the ALA CCs document and the COA’s standards for accrediting masters programs in LIS, it is made clear that those who wish to specialize will need additional, specialized competencies in addition to the general ones. And that there was the expectation that professional organizations in those specialties should be the ones to develop them. Also about that time I happened to need a dissertation topic. Although, as dissertation topics go, it was a bit on the practical side, I decided that I wanted to find out what qualifications and competencies academic libraries were seeking in ERLs and where ERLs were getting them. I drew my data from ERL job ads published between 1/2005 and 12/2009 and descriptions of both formal masters of LIS classes AND continuing education classes from the same time. What I hoped to accomplish was to identify a set of competencies that a professional organization might chose to build on.
  • Luckily, the folks at NASIG did just that and in the spring of 2011 they formed a task force to write a set of CCs for ERLs and CCs for serials librarians. The task force was charged with developing a statement describing core competencies for electronic resources and serials that would not only provide employers with a basis for describing positions and evaluating performance but would also provide a basis for curriculum development in LIS programs and continuing education.
  • The NASIG TF chose to tackle CCs for ERLS first and took the next 18 months to conduct their own survey of ERL job descriptions. They presented the results of that survey in the form of a draft core competencies document to the NASIG membership in June 2012. The NASIG membership responded positively and with some suggestions for improvements which the TF subsequently made. In July 2013 the NASIG executive board endorsed and adopted the CCfERLs as organization policy.Since then the CCs have been include on the ALA list of specialist competencies. And I’ve just recently learned that the OhioLink Electronic Resources Working Group is in the process of presenting the CCfERLs to OhioLink as a whole for their endorsement.
  • So let’s turn to the competencies themselves for a moment. Here I’ve paraphrased each of the 7 competencies. Notice though the one thing I did quote from directly from the introduction to the competencies. “the competencies required of an ERL will encompass a subset of the following.” That’s important because of what the TF learned from the feedback they received: in only a few situations will one single person be asked to demonstrate ALL of the CCs. It became apparent that there were thousands of combinations of the CCs in library workflows and staff allocation. So many in fact that combined with the many different types and sizes of academic libraries it was impossible to develop any kind of hierarchy among the CCS. Since we wanted the CCs to be as broadly applicable as possible, and given the speed of change in the world of ERLs, we settle for making clear that the competencies for any one ERL would likely some but not all of the competencies.The life cycle of electronic resources is an interesting concept for which I think there are a number of definitions and those definitions are changing so fast that they’re rather difficult to nail down. The current CCs Task Force Chair is working on modeling the life cycle of electronic resources as it exists at his library. Hopefully we’ll see results of that work soon in a presentation or journal article.The second CC is directly related to one of the ALA CCs, most ERLs need a knowledge of the technology used to deliver content to library patrons AND the ability to communicate that knowledge to a wide range of stakeholders with a wide range of experiences….but more on that in a minute.The third CC has to do with the ability to make sense of the huge amount of data that ERs generate using well developed qualitative and quantitative research skills, again often beyond those of a generalist.
  • Here’s what I hinted at a minute ago. Erls are in the unique position of needing to communicate complex ideas to their stakeholders who range from computer scientists with a very high level of technology expertise all the way down to patrons who may have extremely limited technological expertise FOR the purposes that those particular stakeholders have in mind.One of my favorite qualifications from the job ads research was the ability to manage ambiguity and change in a highly complex environment. When I first saw that I thought YES! Not only is that exactly what I have to do but it is what I like most about my job! Now adays statements like that are much more common in librarian job ads and not just ERL job ads. Although I don’t have research to back this up, it’s my educated guess that, at least in the library profession, that kind of qualification in a job ad originated with ERLs.CC number 5 builds on number 4 to some extent. Not only do they need to effectively manage complexity and change, they need to guide co-workers and staff to do the same.
  • CC number 6 reflects that same environmental factor: complexity, ambiguity, change, and rapidly advancing technologies for content delivery make continuing education for ERLs imperative. Library schools usually try, among other things, to develop a desire for lifelong learning in their students. But most of us know that the desire and reality are two different things. We often don’t have time or money for it and neither do our libraries but for an ERL CE is critical to their ability to continue to do their job well.
  • The seventh CC was the one that surprised me the most in my original research. So many of the job ads I studied sought personal characteristics as required or preferred qualifications. Those aren’t things that are typically taught in library school and, while they might be slightly more covered in CE, that’s not the first thing that I, at the time, would have thought about seeking out training on. Nevertheless, it is clear that employers are seeking these qualities. It’s also a slippery sort of competency because these qualities are difficult to demonstrate in a job application.
  • Turning to my more recent examination of who is using the CCfERLs and how are they using them. This time around I did a quick and dirty qualitative examination of conference programs and articles, plus results of an informal and unscientific survey of participants of ERIL-L, NASIG-L, and SERIALST. I restricted my search for articles to 2012 & 2013 since the ERLs have only been around since 2012 and that was in draft form. The conference presentations I reviewed cover 2012 to 2014 because I included those programs that I could find for upcoming conference. The respondents/presenters were overwhelmingly from academic libraries although this could be a result of the sources from which I obtained my data. If anyone knows that ERL is beingdicussed in public and school library forums I’d love to hear more, Should be followed up by a literature review in a couple of years; first presentations were at NASIG 2013 for which the proceedings are not yet published.
  • So, who is using the CCfERLs and how are they using them. What I discovered is that the ways in which libraries are using them generally fall into one of five categories: In order from those I found the most evidence of to those I found the least evidence of: developing and updating workflows and staffing, the idea that one person can’t possibly do all this, curriculum development in both MLIS programs and CE being offered by professional organizations, in the creation of position descriptions and ads. I created the “other” column for those that seemed relevant but were not repetitive.
  • Let’s look at them in a bit more dept. The workflow and staffing category definitely encompassed organizing or re-organizing at both the departmental and library level. I think the need to re-organize (resulting from technologies that have changed both content containers and access platforms and thus our methods for handling them) has existed for some time. The CCfERLs simply have provided a guide for the re-organizing, sort of “oh good, it’s not just us…”U of H Libraries assessed which of the CCfERLs was necessary to accomplishing the work of each library department.  Lawson & Janyk suggested that they be used to identify where in the library cross-training should be conducted. At UT Arlington, ER staff added the draft CCfERLs to a Knowledge, Skills, Abilities, and Passions/Preferences (KSAP) inventory the results of which the library director would use to re-organize the entire library. They also used the CCfERLs to guide their work during the re-organization. “Also, some areas of electronic resources work reflected in the Core Competencies may be divided among staff.  For example, I order journals at our library but our acquisitions librarian pays the invoices.  A different librarian sets up database trials and reviews and submits licenses for our electronic resources.” “what we do or should be doing in our department.” Several expressed that sentiment. Developing local best practices
  • This statement is related to (possibly another reason for) that using them as a basis for a re-org seems to be so popular.  A recurring theme since the CCfERLs were first drafted. And a reason why, the introduction to them includes the statement that “the competencies required of an ERL will encompass a subset of the following:” In a discussion of a draft of the CCfERLs at NASIG in 2012, the NASIG membership made it abundantly clear that how the CCfERLs are used and by whom will vary from library to library.
  • Notes: ERM courses are cropping up in LIS programs at U of Wisconsin – Madison, U of Illinois, St Catherine’s University, University of Indiana, Emporia State. Some of these are using TERMS and other the CCfERLs (and some use both) to identify and develop course content, assignments, lectures, etc. In the abstract for an upcoming ER&L presentation on the inclusion of ERM content in masters programs, Galadriel Chilton claims that “Only 19% of accredited LIS programs appear to have a course on ERM” 19% is about 10 programs so I’ve obviously missed some. I anyone in the audience knows of one I’d love to hear about it. Indeed, in the 2013 NASIG presentation, new ERLS Janyk & Lawson called for “courses in other departments, more courses geared specifically toward e-resources management, licensing, contracts, negotiations and vendor relations, and more collection development courses that were specific to selecting and curating e-resources.” CE and staff development (and here again I am encompassing both professional librarians and paraprofessionals in the term staff, mostly because in many cases I couldn’t tell whether there was a distinction being made in my data sources). At UT-Arlington, Also in this category I learned that at least one library was doing CE and staff development for those who worked with ERs but also “for educating colleagues who are not familiar with serials and electronic resources.” Several presentations have or will also cover the use of the CCfERL as a framework for identifying and creating staff development and training, as a means of advocating for the need for staff training and CE, and as a means for guiding professional development for staff.
  • Here I’ve included a couple of quotes from those librarians who responded to my informal survey. At least seven of the articles, presentations, and survey responses mentioned referring to the CCfERLs when writing new position descriptions and/or re-writing them for existing positionsWhat I find really interesting about these statements is the fact that the research upon which the CCfERLs is based used job ads and job descriptions as primary data sources. It seems to be a sort of chicken and egg process that makes me want to do another round of analysis of job add right now to see how they’re changed since I did my original research on job ads from 2005 to 2009 and before they change as a result of the CCs. Here’s one of the things that was surprising to me about what I found while preparing for this presentation: the CCs are being used by and for not only professionals but also paraprofessionals, at least in terms of the this category of uses and the preceding one.
  • This category differed from the previous two in that way. I found no evidence that they were being used to evaluate the performance of paraprofessionals. I didn’t What’s interesting about this category is that there is evidence that the CCs are being used to develop educational curriculum & staff development which implied that it was for both professionals and paraprofessionals but I didn’t find any evidence that the CCs are being used for for paraprofessional performance review, indeed, one survey respondent went as far as to say “I should be clear: I'm not using the Core Competencies or anything else like this to evaluate my paraprofessional staff.” Another noted the challenge to applying the CCfERLs as a performance review tool in a unionized environment.But this is interesting (and gratifying) because creating a tool for the purpose of professional performance evaluation was the seed from which my dissertation research and the CCfERLs was born.
  • Notes: the NASIG CCs TF is in the process of developing a process and schedule for keeping the CCs up to date, for obvious reasons. Including looking for a connection to TERMS. We (ERLs) need to continue to share our experiences using the CCfERLs at conferences, in articles, and in informal discussions.


  • 1. + Core Competencies for Electronic Resources Librarianship: Update and Discussion Dr. Sarah W. Sutton Emporia State University January 25, 2014, ALA Midwinter Conference
  • 2. + Overview  Background & development: the story of the CCs for ERL  What  The are they being used for? future.
  • 3. + Background ―Electronic resources librarianship ‗has become one of the most critical [positions] in academic libraries over the last decade and a half‘‖ (Downes & Rao, 2008, p.60.  First ERL job ad appeared in 1990.  Technology driven.  Close ties to serials librarianship.
  • 4. + Background ―The design of specialized learning experiences takes into account the statements of knowledge and competencies developed by relevant professional organizations‖ (COA, 2008, p. 8). 2010: Research conducted to identify:  Competencies sought by employers, and  Where those competencies were developed: formal higher education (MLS) or informal continuing education.
  • 5. + Background
  • 6. + Background
  • 7. + Core Competencies for Electronic Resources Librarianship ―The competencies required of an ERL will encompass a subset of the following:‖ 1. Thorough knowledge of the life cycle of electronic resources. 2. Theoretical and practical knowledge of the structures, hardware, and software underlying the provision of access to electronic resources, and their interrelatedness at a greater depth that is required of a generalist. 3. Understands the complex range of data generated by and related to electronic resources. http://www.nasig.org/uploaded_files/92/files/CoreComp/CompetenciesforERLibrarians_ final_ver_2013-7-22.docx
  • 8. + Core Competencies for Electronic Resources Librarianship ―The competencies required of an ERL will encompass a subset of the following:‖ 4. Effective communication skills which allows them to synthesize easy to understand summaries of complex and ambiguous phenomena for a broad range of internal and external audiences. 5. Demonstrates the capability to effectively supervise, train and motivate staff as well as familiarity with technology systems administration. http://www.nasig.org/uploaded_files/92/files/CoreComp/CompetenciesforERLibrarians_ final_ver_2013-7-22.docx
  • 9. + Core Competencies for Electronic Resources Librarianship ―The competencies required of an ERL will encompass a subset of the following:‖ 6. The ERL works with concepts and methods that are very much in flux, and so has an abiding commitment to ongoing professional development through continuing education, attendance at professional conferences, webinars, following related professional literature, blogs and listservs, and other learning venues. http://www.nasig.org/uploaded_files/92/files/CoreComp/CompetenciesforERLibrarians_ final_ver_2013-7-22.docx
  • 10. + Core Competencies for Electronic Resources Librarianship ―The competencies required of an ERL will encompass a subset of the following:‖ The ERL demonstrates the following personal qualities: 7. a. Flexibility, open-mindedness and the ability to function in a dynamic, rapidly changing environment, b. A high tolerance for complexity and ambiguity, c. Unrelenting customer service, d. Skillful time management. http://www.nasig.org/uploaded_files/92/files/CoreComp/CompetenciesforERLibrarians_ final_ver_2013-7-22.docx
  • 11. + Who is using the CCfERLs? And how? Methodology: A qualitative examination of  Conference  Journal programs articles  Responses to an informal survey
  • 12. + Who is using the CCfERLs? And how? Resulting themes:  Workflows  ―One & staffing person can‘t do all this!‖  Education  To create job descriptions & ads  Other
  • 13. + Who is using the CCfERLs? And how? To organize or re-organize staff and/or processes:  Mapping the CCfERLs to the activities of each department within the library.  Competencies from CCfERLs added to a Knowledge, Skills, Abilities, and Passions/Preferences (KSAP) inventory.  Identifying ―what we do or should be doing in our department.‖
  • 14. + Who is using the CCfERLs? And how? One person can‘t possibly do all of this! Image credit: Lateral Action/Mark McGuinness, http://lateralaction.com/articles/multitasking/
  • 15. + Who is using the CCfERLs? And how? As a way to identify and fill gaps in education.  Formal  Staff LIS education , the master‘s degree development  Continuing education
  • 16. + Who is using the CCfERLs? And how? To create job descriptions & ads for both professional and paraprofessional positions. ―to put together a new job description for my position as we were preparing for our SACS accreditation.‖ ―Our library recently conducted a search to fill a newly created position-Electronic Resources.‖ ―I used it when rewriting the job description for my assistant.‖
  • 17. + Who is using the CCfERLs? And how? As a basis for professional performance review: ― I‘ll also be using it again when I prepare my senior faculty review document which I think will be due next year. ―
  • 18. + Who is using the CCfERLs? And how? Other uses to which the CCfERLs are being put include: collection development / policy development ―I like the Research and Assessment section of Core Competencies because it reveals how electronic resources librarians have been thrust into the collection development arena and are contributing directly to policy formation due to data gathering, analysis and usage assessment.‖
  • 19. + Who is using the CCfERLs? And how? Other uses to which the CCfERLs are being put include: educating stakeholders ―It is satisfying to see a description of the many elements involved in our constantly mutating electronic resources work—in particular the mention of ―A high level of tolerance for complexity and ambiguity.‖
  • 20. + Who is using the CCfERLs? And how? Other uses to which the CCfERLs are being put include: to generate new research questions ―Practitioner Perspectives of the Core Competencies for Electronic Resource Librarians: Preliminary Results of a Qualitative Study‖ (Sheri Ross, ER&L 2014) How have job ads for ERLs changed in the four years since the original research was conducted? How might they change in the future? Use of the CCfERLs to measure student learning outcomes in master‘s programs.
  • 21. + The future of the CCfERLs?  Revision  Sharing process experiences  Convincing administrators of the need for CE
  • 22. + The future of the CCfERLs? Your Face Here
  • 23. + References Committee on Accreditation of the American Library Association. (2008). Standards for accreditation of master‘s programs in library and information studies. American Library Association. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/accreditedprograms/sites/ala.org.accreditedprograms/files /content/standards/standards_2008.pdf Downes, K., & Rao, P. (2008). Preferred political, social, and technological characteristics of electronic resources (ER) librarians. Collection Management, 32(1), 3–14. doi:10.1300/J105v32n01_02 NASIG Core Competencies Task Force. (2013). Core competencies for electronic resources librarians. NASIG. Retrieved from http://www.nasig.org/uploaded_files/92/files/CoreComp/CompetenciesforER Librarians_final_ver_2013-7-22.docx Sutton, S. (2011, May). Identifying Core Competencies for Electronic Resources Librarians in the Twenty-First Century Library. Texas Woman‘s University, Denton, TX.