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Competencies for Professional Success: Introduction

In 1991 when the Medical Library Association (MLA) created Platform for Change, its first educational policy statement, libraries and information practice were entering a new era of rapid change and turbulence. Exponential growth in biomedical knowledge, new information technologies, and upheaval in the health care environment were all driving transformation in the work and setting of information professionals. The American Library Association (ALA) had requested educational policy statements from all specialty branches of the profession. In addition, the Council on Library Resources [1] urged librarians to describe the future of the profession, and MLA responded by conducting a national study that established a clear picture of the knowledge and skills its members would require to thrive in a time of great challenge.

Now, fifteen years after first defining the competencies its members would need to pursue, the association has revisited its policy statement. Besides updating the description of essential areas of knowledge and skills, this document contains revised recommendations for major stakeholders. In keeping with the futureoriented approach of Platform for Change, the revised policy statement breaks new ground by describing its relationship to the whole of MLA's professional development programs and services. It sets forth the context in which information professionals work and the formal and informal expertise required by the health care environment. It interrelates to the association's working bodies, educational offerings, career planning and program, and other fundamentals of the unique niche of professional information practice focused on the health sciences. Under the general framework of MLA’s Center for Research and Education (CORE), the research and education policy statements provide a foundation and conceptual base from which many association programs flow.

As was true for the earlier version, Platform for Lifelong Learning and Professional Success speaks to many audiences, including but not limited to MLA members, providers and consumers of educational programs, organizations and individuals interested in health care issues, and leaders at all levels. It reinforces the requisite knowledgebase and skills, the personal attributes, and the linkage among association programs that will ensure the continued achievement of excellence by health information specialists and the profession as a whole.

Throughout the document the reader will generally find the terms "health information professional" and "health sciences librarian" used to encompass work that takes places in a broad spectrum of settings and across a range of biosciences and health-related disciplines.

1. Council on Library Resources. Information studies: a new CLR professional education program. Annual report of Council on Library Resources. Washington, DC: The Council, 1989.

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