Defining Key Terms

A student participating in a discussion of ALA’s Great Stories Club at Pasadena (Calif.) Public Library at Zion-Benton Township High School in Zion, Illinois

A student participating in a discussion of ALA’s Great Stories Club at Zion-Benton Township High School in Zion, Illinois.

 

The feasibility of the project required that respondents and researchers share a common understanding of key terms that, on one hand, appeared simple, but on the other, required a great deal of discussion and vetting within the field. As part of the current research phase, terms such as program, public, and instruction have undergone testing and refinement to ensure they are commonly understood. One term, competency, already had an effective definition that was affirmed through the testing process.

Working definitions used during the research process were:

Program: A program is an intentional service or event in a group setting developed proactively to meet the needs or interests of an anticipated target audience.

Public: The advisors concluded that, for the purposes of this research, public and public programs refer to the library’s public — the community the library serves or the audiences the library targets with its programs. For example, for a public library, the audience may consist of the whole community or a component of the community, such as older adults. In the case of the academic library, the public may be the student body, a specific department, or a special component of students. This definition underwent considerable review and discussion to clarify the “free choice” nature of the attendees. If attendance is required at a program, it is outside of the definition.

Based on the input from research participants, we arrived at a final definition that combined the terms public and program:

A public program is a service or event in a group setting developed to meet the needs or interests of an anticipated target audience. All libraries, regardless of type, have a public — the audiences the library tailors its programs to and the people the library serves.

Competency: “Professional competencies comprise the knowledge, skills, and abilities which are teachable, measurable, and objective and which define and contribute to performance in librarianship.”4 A competency has two dimensions: (1) knowledge, skill, or ability; (2) the level of mastery of that knowledge, skill, or ability.

Instruction: The public programming definition eliminated programs considered to be a form of formal instruction. For a program to be defined as academic instruction, it must meet specific conditions: the event occurs during a course meeting time or a part of the coursework; the event is restricted to students and instructors affiliated with the specific course; and students are penalized for failing to attend or meet this requirement. This definition helped clarify the nature of “public” programs and refined the focus of the research.


4. Library Leadership and Management Association (LLAMA). (2012). LLAMA Library Leadership and Management Competencies Task Force Final Report.

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