A blog from the Southern Ontario Library Service

Putting the SOLS Public Service Competencies to Work

This is the first post in a series on competencies based professional development.

When the SOLS Public Service Competencies were issued, a task group at the library breathed a sigh of relief. We had been developing our own list of competencies for the Pickering Public Library because existing documentation was out of date. In a competitive world, competencies are one more method to forge the knowledgeable, customer friendly, work force that every Library needs. In Pickering, the competencies are a reminder to existing staff that we need to keep our skills honed and for new hires, it is a core training tool. Our competency task force was made up of two professional librarians and two managers and we would like to share our experience.

Using the SOLS Public Service Competencies, we identified the competencies that every front-line information service staff member should know. Then, we edited these competencies to make sure that they fit our Library. We attached a rating system and sent out the list of competencies so staff could rate themselves – zero for “No Experience” up to four “I’m an Expert”. The ratings enable us to identify training needs and who could act as trainers. Staff also used their results to create an individual learning plan which they shared with their manager. A post-survey which will be done in the near future will enable us to see if the training has been effective. Staff responses appeared to be honest. There were also clusters of staff who required training on specific lines within a broad competency.

Then the training began. From September 2014 to December 2015, we let staff know each month what competency we are focusing on and added articles to the Sharepoint server that support individual learning. (We had hoped to complete our training by June 2015 but staff changes and shortages delayed the process.) We do a learning activity or presentation each month that focuses on the areas where multiple staff identified a weakness and we invite staff to participate. Where possible, the training activity or presentation is posted to the Sharepoint server to be used again in the future. We assume that staff are self-motivated and will either read posted articles or join in a training opportunity. Ultimately, they are accountable for their own individual learning plan with their manager. We have not done out post-survey yet so I do not have definitive proof that staff are learning. But ongoing participation in the training and positive comments lead us to think that are on the right track.    

To view some useful tips from the Pickering Public Library’s public service competency task group check out our brief video: