Foreign, Comparative and International Law (FCIL) Librarianship Core Competencies

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Compared to other sessions held during the Annual Meeting, this past Sunday’s FCIL Librarianship Core Competencies session (coordinated by Neel Kant Agrawal, Michael G. Moore, Lyonette Louis-Jacques and Mary Rumsey) was unusual in that it had two purposes: in addition to educating the attendees on the topic discussed, this session was a collaborative effort to begin the creation of a resource to be shared with the rest of the profession.

 The session began with the attendees breaking up into eight moderated breakout groups, each discussing one of eight aspects of FCIL librarianship:

  1. Researching Foreign and Comparative Law
  2. Researching International Law
  3. Reference
  4. Teaching
  5. Technical Services
  6. Collection Development
  7. Skills
  8. Information Management and Trends

Each group discussed its designated topic for about half an hour, working together to draft a list of core competencies for each specialized aspect of FCIL librarianship; afterwards, the groups disbanded and the participants repeated the process by discussing a new topic in a different group.  The session concluded with the moderators summarizing the conclusions reached by the two groups discussing each topic, and then sharing these summaries with all of the attendees.

 I found myself appreciating the group discussion format as the session progressed.  Participating in two groups left me with two very different experiences; I not only had the opportunity to learn about widely different issues, but also gained an appreciation for how varied FCIL librarianship can be.  This format also took advantage of the experience of the more senior attendees; the topic groups brought specialists together with the newer librarians interested in their areas of expertise, giving newcomers like me the opportunity to learn by listening to the experts discuss their work.

 Hearing the summarized result of each group’s discussions was definitely food for thought.  Each aspect of FCIL librarianship had unique core competencies, but many core competencies were common to several aspects: subject matter knowledge, familiarity with available resources, a flexible approach to patron services and a working knowledge of foreign languages apparently came up in many of the group discussions.  By far the most widely suggested core competency, however, was the ability to network and form collaborative relationships among libraries.  While hardly a shocking result, given that the discussion groups were composed entirely of librarians attending a professional conference, this conclusion was supported by the fact that the sheer range of what is involved in FCIL librarianship (and the resulting value of specialization and cooperation) were well established by the end of both of the group discussions I was able to join.

 I definitely enjoyed attending this session, and I am looking forward with interest to seeing how future FCIL Special Interest Section events or publications might build on the results of this session’s discussions.

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