Professional competencies identify essential professional skills and abilities that can be observed, measured, and taught. Competencies also provide health information professionals a blueprint for gaining both basic and expert knowledge

MLA Competencies for Lifelong Learning and Professional Success

We recommend health information professionals:

  • Plan your professional development education by identifying specific competencies you wish to improve on. 
  • Begin your education journey by taking the free Competencies Self-Assessment
  • Use the results to gauge your professional expertise in key areas.
  • Create your personal professional development plan by searching for courses using competency search criteria.
  • Use Professional Competencies to further your career and demonstrate the value of your skills: brand yourself as an expert in your organization, in those areas you excel in. Feel free to use the terminology in the description to promote your value and the value of your department.
  • Check out the MLA Grants and Scholarship program, which offers funds to assists members with the professional development activities.

We recommend health providers use the competency performance indicators to ensure your institution is delivering service at the highest possible level.

Competency 1: Information Services

A health information professional locates, evaluates, synthesizes, and delivers authoritative information in response to biomedical and health inquiries.

At the core of what we do is find information to answer biomedical and health-related questions at the point of need. We are experts in assessing information needs and delivering information in a format and means of delivery best suited to the individuals and groups making requests.

Information Services Performance Indicators

Assesses information needs.Uses reference interview skills.Uses the language of biomedical science.
Selects information.Locates published information and assesses its authority, accuracy, objectivity, currency, and relevance.Uses unpublished resources and consults with subject experts.
Searches databases and other online resources.Describes steps in conducting a search; identifies relevant resources; formulates search strategies using appropriate search construction techniques, subject descriptors, and natural language and Boolean connectors.Formulates and executes complex search strategies in a variety of information resources; customizes search outputs.
Finds published and unpublished studies for complex reviews.Describes systematic review standards and guidelines; searches relevant subject-specific databases and other sources.Filters results using predefined eligibility criteria; organizes and distributes results; documents search strategies and procedures for publication.
Customizes the organization and delivery of information.Prioritizes information for ease of use; selects appropriate delivery method and technology.Synthesizes results; explains strengths and limitations of sources.
Stays current with developments in bioscience, clinical, and health information.Describes basic terms and trends.Specializes in one or more areas of bioscience, clinical, or health information.

Competency 2: Information Management

A health information professional curates and makes accessible bioscience, clinical, and health information data, information, and knowledge.

Our strength is our ability to develop and organize collections tailored to specific audiences. In cataloging and classifying, including assigning metadata, we impose order to improve access. Traditionally, we have organized information resources into libraries, and personal records and artifacts into archives. Now, our expertise is being applied to organizing research data into collections that can be used electronically across institutions and countries. We know the value of and how to apply standards so that records of collections are universally comprehensible and enduring.

Information Management Performance Indicators

Selects, acquires, manages, evaluates, and disseminates bioscience, clinical, and health information.Describes collection management tools.Uses current evaluation methodologies, including bibliometrics, to develop and implement collection management policies and strategies.
Organizes resources.Organizes resources according to national and international standards.Develops classification and metadata schemes for unique collections.
Adheres to copyright and intellectual property law.Describes copyright and intellectual property law relevant to libraries.Applies knowledge to open access publishing and virtual learning environments; contributes to copyright and intellectual property law discussions on behalf of institutions or associations.
Conserves, preserves, and archives print and digital materials to maintain historical and scholarly records.Adheres to standards in archiving, digital preservation, and records management.Formulates institutional strategies for archiving, digital preservation, and records management; promotes the significance of institutional asset management.
Provides access to resources using appropriate technologies.Describes access, including open access, management systems, and services.Negotiates terms and conditions of licensing contracts; monitors trends in open access publishing; promotes institutional repositories.
Promotes scholarly communication.Describes open access and publishing models, institutional repositories, authors’ rights, and public access policies.Analyzes scholarly communication trends; collaborates on initiatives to promote and advance scholarly communication.
Implements data management plans.Describes the data life cycle; identifies and describes data resources, tools, and repositories; explains data plan requirements of funding agencies.Conducts data curation interviews; develops and implements data management plans and policies; consults on managing data across the data life cycle.

Competency 3: Instruction & Instructional Design

A health information professional educates others in the skills of bioscience, clinical, and health information literacy.

Librarians are educators. We help others, but we also enable people to be self-sufficient. What we teach continues to evolve, from how to use resources, to how to critically appraise research articles, to how to organize data collections. As the world becomes more and more an information space, there will be additional opportunities to teach information management skills. We also share our expertise with one another. Our teaching role requires that we be skilled in pedagogy and the use of technology-enhanced learning.

Instruction and Instructional Design Performance Indicators

Develops curricula using contemporary instructional design principles.Describes principles of instructional design.Develops face-to-face and online learning activities based on instructional design principles.
Uses learner-centered instructional approaches.Describes learner-centered instructional approaches.Uses learner-centered face-to-face and online learning approaches.
Uses innovative instructional and communication methods and technologies.Describes trends in communication and instructional methods and technologies; uses social media and web-based technologies.Evaluates, develops, and implements innovative instructional and communication strategies and technologies.

Competency 4: Leadership and Management

A health information professional manages personnel, time, budget, facilities, and technology and leads others to define and meet institutional goals.

Every health information professional has personal management responsibilities. Institutional management and leadership roles require skills beyond those learned through formal education. Management skills and a leader’s abilities affect the culture and performance of coworkers and the effectiveness of an institution.

Leadership and Management Performance Indicators

Strategically organizes people and resources to serve institutional needs.Identifies goals; initiates, plans, and delegates tasks to meet goals; analyzes and communicates outcomes to relevant stakeholders; fosters a positive team environment; serves as team member role model.Establishes, justifies, and leads large-scale collaborative projects that demonstrate return on investment to stakeholders; provides and models value-based leadership through staff and resource administration.
Creates and implements strategic plans.Describes the strategic planning process.Creates and implements strategic plans.
Inspires and leads others to perform at their highest level.Uses communication and collaboration skills.Articulates a vision, motivates and leads others to contribute to realization of the vision, and guides institutional change.
Integrates multicultural awareness and appreciation of diversity and equality into professional practice.Describes own cultural background and recognizes biases; values cultural norms, experiences of others, and expressions of diverse viewpoints; recognizes power dynamics in relationships.Develops and implements practices that foster diversity and equality; contributes to correcting inequities; participates in external collaborations.
Practices fiscal accountability and stewardship, and follows institutional resource policies.Describes established policies that safeguard assets consistent with institutional objectives and sound business principles.Controls and supervises library resources consistent with institutional objectives and sound business principles; advocates for and secures institutional support to ensure maintenance and growth of the library.
Secures and manages external funding.Describes grant and other external funding processes; identifies funding opportunities.Applies grant-writing principles and strategies; identifies partners and collaborates to develop proposals; executes fundraising strategies; disseminates information about successful strategies and outcomes.
Develops and implements enhancements to the library user experience.Describes the literature on library user experience and user experience assessment.Uses results of formal and informal user experience assessments to propose and implement library user experience enhancements.
Identifies emerging technologies and advocates for their use.Explores and evaluates emerging technologies.Leads initiatives to incorporate new technologies.
Allocates space and facilities.Describes common library functions and associated space; identifies standards for space and facilities allocation.Proposes or leads design of library facilities.
Develops and implements effective advocacy, marketing, and communication strategies.Promotes institutional mission and goals; forms internal partnerships.Designs marketing and public relations strategies and programs; forms external partnerships.

Competency 5: Evidence-Based Practice and Research

A health information professional evaluates research studies, uses research to improve practice, conducts research, and communicates research results.

For many years, we have promoted and taught the skills of evidence-based medicine. Now, we need to apply these skills to our own practice. Not all of us are researchers in the academic sense, but we all have access to a wealth of data from local and published sources. Newer research methodologies—such as community-based action research, outcomes research, and data mining—may be useful in analyzing our activities and impact. As we develop research skills, we can use, create, and share evidence to improve practice.

Evidence-Based Practice and Research Performance Indicators

Finds and evaluates evidence to support decision making.Describes evidence-based practice; formulates questions; develops search strategies; locates relevant, credible, and transferable published evidence.Uses evidence to make and justify decisions.
Evaluates activities, programs, collections, and services using evidence-based methodologies.Gathers data and user input on activities and services.Identifies and develops evaluation methods and metrics for assessing and improving services.
Conducts research.Describes the research process, structure of research papers, and common research methods, including bibliometrics; explains standards of ethical research.Selects and implements appropriate research design; collects, manages, and analyzes data; interprets results; explains threats to validity of conclusions.
Interprets data and presents statistical and data analyses.Describes basic statistical and data analysis concepts and terminology; interprets visual displays of data and bibliometric analyses.Explains rationale for choice of statistical and data analyses; critiques and explains statistical and data analyses in published research; uses advanced data visualization tools.
Communicates research results.Describes how research is disseminated; describes issues related to research dissemination.Communicates research results; writes, edits, and revises manuscripts for publication.

Competency 6: Health Information Professionalism

A health information professional promotes the development of the health information professions and collaborates with other professionals to improve health care and access to health care information.

As members of a profession, we are motivated to contribute to society in ways that highlight our special knowledge and expertise.

Health Information Professionalism Performance Indicators

Collaborates with other health sciences professionals and promotes the contributions of health information professionals.Describes the role of health information professionals in the biosciences, clinical practice, and health care.Collaborates with fellow health information professionals to achieve common goals; advocates the value of health information professionals in improving health care and institutional return on investment.
Provides information and expert advice on current issues in health care information services.Identifies current trends and their impact on information services and practices.Employs expertise to influence programs, services, and policies; collaborates at the national or international level.
Applies knowledge of the health care environment to respond to health care trends.Describes the health care environment and current trends in health care.Assists institutions in meeting accreditation and legal requirements; responds to trends by redirecting resources.
Advocates for health information access.Promotes access to health information; participates in community outreach activities.Employs expertise to influence health information programs, services, policies, and legislation.
Contributes to the profession and shares expertise through publications, teaching, research, and service.Participates in professional organizations by serving on committees, publishing, or presenting; obtains Academy of Health Information (AHIP) membership.Serves in a leadership role in a professional organization or publication; serves as representative to a national or international organization.
Participates in and fosters a culture of lifelong learning.Identifies gaps in knowledge and skills; seeks professional development opportunities and mentors to address gaps.Builds professional skills in advance of emerging trends; mentors others.

About the Competencies

This project was funded in part with federal funds from the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, under contract no. HHS-N-276-2011-00004-C with the University of Maryland–Baltimore.


Task Force to Review MLA’s Competencies for Lifelong Learning and Professional Success

  • Gale G. Hannigan, AHIP, 2016/17 chair and Medical Library Education Section liaison
  • Paula Raimondo, AHIP, 2015/16 chair
  • Christopher Childs, member
  • Martha F. Earl, AHIP, Research Imperative Task Force liaison
  • Kate Kelly, AHIP, member
  • Elizabeth Laera, AHIP, Continuing Education Committee liaison
  • Nadia J. Lalla, member
  • Susan Lessick, AHIP, FMLA, Research Imperative Task Force liaison
  • Terri Ottosen, AHIP, member
  • Jodi L. Philbrick, AHIP, Board of Directors liaison
  • Caitlin Ann Pike, AHIP, Research Imperative Task Force liaison
  • Debra Cavanaugh, MLA coordinator of continuing education
  • Barry Grant, MLA director of education

Previous Competency Documents and Revisions