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Capability Framework [V1]: About

Supporting researcher-facing librarians to successfully deliver inside-out services and support.


A capability framework is a tool to understand the knowledge, skills, abilities, and attributes required to work in complex and changing roles.  

The purpose of the capability framework is to provide guidance to support professional development and address the challenges faced by researcher-facing librarians and their managers grappling to introduce and sustain inside-out services. 

Learn more about the development of the framework by selecting OSF Platform on the side navigation panel.  This will open a new window.

The Purple Squirrel (or why this framework is a guide not a manual)

According to Wikipedia, the term "purple squirrel" comes from employment recruiters and describes "a job candidate with precisely the right education, set of experience, and range of qualifications that perfectly fits a job's requirements."  It is important to emphasise that the intention of the framework is not to support the hiring or training of purple squirrels.  The possibility that any single individual would have every single capability is unrealistic. Instead the framework can be used at different stages throughout the employment lifecycle as a guide for professional development, goal setting, managing team dynamics, and workforce planning.  It is first and foremost a thinking tool to support conversations about the capabilities needed to be successful.  Suggestions on how to use it include:

  • Manager: Look at the spread of capabilities in a research support team. Are there any specific gaps? Plan for filling those gaps through recruitment or professional development.
  • Librarian: Assess your capabilities against the framework.  What professional development opportunities could help grow capabilities?  
  • Trainer: What capabilities does your training session or workshop address?  Could you plan a series of workshops for librarians to build capabilities in a specific area?
  • Manager/Librarian: What are your goals for establishing/developing inside-out services?  What capabilities will be needed to successfully achieve those goals?  Think of ways you can foster and nurture them.


The Inside-out library

Lorcan Dempsey (2016) has coined the term “inside-out” to describe how academic libraries are increasingly supporting the processes of research at their institutions. Traditionally academic libraries have focused on bringing outside scholarship into the University through journal subscriptions, book collections, and providing access to online databases.  However, the inside-out library works to describe and disseminate the scholarship from within the University back out to the world. Libraries are digitizing collections, supporting research data sharing, managing institutional repositories, running journals on Open Journal Systems and so forth.  

Digital scholarship, changes in scholarly communication practices, advancing technology, and the growing use of bibliometrics for research evaluation are fuelling the evolution of library research support services. Researcher-facing librarians are increasingly being required to upskill and engage with the research process at deeper levels.

It should be noted that many teaching and learning activities, including building online resources using software like LibGuides, are not in this framework's scope. Instead, they belong to another service category Lorcan Dempsey calls the “Facilitated Collection”. There are however exceptions, for example Research Data Management education. The goal of this framework is not to minimise the importance of teaching and learning activities. Nor is it to minimise the importance of the work done by librarians who are not researcher-facing. However, the focus of the framework is researcher-facing librarians and “inside-out” activities.



Dempsey, L. (2016). Library collections in the life of the user: Two directions. LIBER Quarterly, 26(4), 338–359.

Researcher-facing librarian

In the context of the framework, researcher-facing librarians work in university libraries on tasks that are primarily focused on interacting with researchers to support their research. They may be hybrid or new roles. Examples include: Subject Librarian, Reference Librarian, Information Research Specialist, Teaching and Research Librarian, Research Services Librarian/Advisor, Outreach Librarian, Liaison Librarian, Research Data Librarian, Digital Initiatives Librarian. Inside-out activities should represent a reasonable proportion of the services they offer but they may have other tasks that fall into other categories.

This first version of the capability framework can be further refined.  The capabilities are currently presented as equals.  Although some are associated with specific inside-out tasks in the "inside-out case studies" there is no systematic mapping between the capabilities and various inside-out services.  Future development will include:

  • Classifying capabilities further in order to better understand if some are more important than others and at what level of expertise.
  • More systematic mapping of capabilities to inside-out services.

To help achieve these goals five survey's have been created, one for each category in the framework. After exploring the capabilities, let us know if you agree that these are the capabilities required by researcher-facing librarians working with inside-out services, and whether some are more important than others:


This framework makes a distinction between competency and capability.  To learn more about how capability is defined visit the project's OSF site:

If you are seeking a competency framework, listed below are examples found during the development of this capability framework.

• ALA's Core Competences of Librarianship

• NASIG Core Competencies for Scholarly Communication Librarians

• LIS professional competency index for the higher education sector in South Africa

• Competencies for bibliometrics

• Librarians' Competencies Profile for Research Data Management

• Librarians' Competencies Profile for Scholarly Communication and Open Access

• Core Competencies for 21st Century CARL Librarians

Also consult the Competency Index for the Library Field compiled by WebJunction

Society for Scholar Publishing: Professional Skills Map

Five broad categories of which one is Library. Maps desirable personal characteristics, essentials for success, and emerging needs for specific roles. 

To add to this list please email

These publications have informed the thinking and/or development of this capability framework.
Auckland, M. (2012). Re­‚Äźskilling for Research. RLUK Research Libraries UK.
Brewerton, A. (2012). Re-Skilling for Research: Investigating the Needs of Researchers and How Library Staff Can Best Support Them. New Review of Academic Librarianship, 18(1), 96-110.
Bronstein, J. (2015). An exploration of the library and information science professional skills and personal competencies: An Israeli perspective. Library & Information Science Research, 37(2), 130-138.
Brown, R. A., Wolski, M., & Richardson, J. (2015). Developing new skills for research support librarians. The Australian Library Journal, 64(3), 224-234.
Burns, T., Brantley, S., & Duffin, K. (2015). Scholarly Communication Coaching: Liaison Librarians' Shifting Roles. In B. Eden (Ed.), The 21st Century Library: Partnerships and New Roles (Vol. 5). Littlefield and Rowman/Scarecrow Publishing.
Catano, V. M., Hackett, R. D., & Wiesner, W. H. (2019). Job analysis and competency models. In Recruitment and selection in Canada (pp. 113-178). Nelson Education.
Chawner, B., & Oliver, G. (2013). A survey of New Zealand academic reference librarians: Current and future skills and competencies. Australian Academic & Research Libraries, 44(1), 29-39.
Chen, H.-l., & Zhang, Y. (2017). Educating Data Management Professionals: A Content Analysis of Job Descriptions. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 43(1), 18-24.
Choi, Y., & Rasmussen, E. (2009). What Qualifications and Skills are Important for Digital Librarian Positions in Academic Libraries? A Job Advertisement Analysis. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 35(5), 457-467.
Cox, A., Gadd, E., Petersohn, S., & Sbaffi, L. (2017). Competencies for bibliometrics. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science.
Dahl, M. (2018). Inside-out Library Services. In Challenging the “Jacks of All Trades but Masters of None” Librarian Syndrome (pp. 15-34). Emerald Insight.
Decker, E. N. (2017). Encouraging continuous learning for librarians and library staff. Library Management, 38(6/7), 286-293.
Dempsey, L. (2016). Library collections in the life of the user: two directions. LIBER Quarterly, 26(4).
Dhakal, K., Grigg, K. S., Lubker, I. M., & TYoung, K. L. (2017). Research skills and competencies necessary for librarians in the digital age. In J. Coghill & R. G. Russell (Eds.), Developing librarian competencies for the digital age (pp. 77-97). Rowman & Littlefield.
Ducas, A., Michaud-Oystryk, N., & Speare, M. (2020). Reinventing ourselves: new and emerging roles of academic librarians in Canadian research-intensive universities. College & Research Libraries, 81(1), 43.
Federer, L. (2018, Jul). Defining data librarianship: a survey of competencies, skills, and training. J Med Libr Assoc, 106(3), 294-303.
Finlay, C., Tsou, A., & Sugimoto, C. (2015). Scholarly Communication as a Core Competency: Prevalence, Activities, and Concepts of Scholarly Communication Librarianship as Shown Through Job Advertisements. Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication, 3(1).
Gerolimos, M., & Konsta, R. (2008). Librarians' skills and qualifications in a modern informational environment. Library Management, 29(8/9), 691-699.
Glusker, A., & Exner, N. (2018). Responding to Change: Reinventing Librarian Identities in the Age of Research Mandates. In Challenging the “Jacks of All Trades but Masters of None” Librarian Syndrome (pp. 91-115). Emerald Insight.
Gonzales, B. M. (2019). Computer Programming for Librarians: A Study of Job Postings for Library Technologists. Journal of Web Librarianship, 1-17.
Haddow, G. (2012). Knowledge, Skills and Attributes for Academic Reference Librarians. Australian Academic & Research Libraries, 43(3), 231-248.
Haycock, K. (2018). Trends and Issues. In K. Haycock & M.-J. Romaniuk (Eds.), The portable MLIS : insights from the experts (pp. 277-290). Libraries Unlimited, an imprint of ABC-CLIO, LLC.
Howard, K. (2010). Programming not required: skills & knowledge for the digital library environment. Australian Academic & Research Libraries, 41(4), 260-275.
Howie, J., & Kara, H. (2020). Research Support in New Zealand University Libraries. New Review of Academic Librarianship, 1-30.
Koltay, T. (2016). Are you ready? Tasks and roles for academic libraries in supporting Research 2.0. New Library World, 117(1/2), 94-104.
Lang, L., Wilson, T., Wilson, K., & Kirkpatrick, A. (2018). Research Support at the Crossroads: Capability, Capacity, and Collaboration. New Review of Academic Librarianship, 1-11.
Maceli, M., & Burke, J. J. (2016). Technology Skills in the Workplace: Information Professionals’ Current Use and Future Aspirations. Information Technology and Libraries, 35(4).
Martin, E. A., & Sheehan, L. A. (2018). The New “Jack of All”: The Evolution of the Functionality and Focus of the Academic Librarian in New Spaces and New Roles. In Challenging the “Jacks of All Trades but Masters of None” Librarian Syndrome.
Moulaison, S. H., Million, A., & Hudson-Vitale, C. (2020). Innovating Support for Research: The Coalescence of Scholarly Communication? College & Research Libraries, 81(2).
Nicholson, J., & Howard, K. (2018). A Study of Core Competencies for Supporting Roles in Engagement and Impact Assessment in Australia. Journal of the Australian Library and Information Association, 67(2), 131-146.
Nkuebe, M. P. A. (2016). Knowledge and skills requirements of National University of Lesotho librarians in meeting information needs of humanities undergraduate students in the digital age [University of Cape Town].
O'Beirne, R. (2017). Academic libraries, open access and digital scholarship–a Delphi study [University of Sheffield].
O'Connell, J., Gardner, G., & Coyer, F. (2014, Dec). Beyond competencies: using a capability framework in developing practice standards for advanced practice nursing. J Adv Nurs, 70(12), 2728-2735.
Orcutt, D., Waller, M., & Warren, S. (2017). What Are Subject Liaisons When “Collections” and “Subjects” Don’t Matter? "Roll With the Times, or the Times Roll Over You", 
Partridge, H., Lee, J., & Munro, C. (2010). Becoming “Librarian 2.0”: The Skills, Knowledge, and Attributes Required by Library and Information Science Professionals in a Web 2.0 World (and Beyond). Library Trends, 59(1/2), 315-335.
Partridge, H., Menzies, V., Lee, J., & Munro, C. (2010). The contemporary librarian: Skills, knowledge and attributes required in a world of emerging technologies. Library & Information Science Research, 32(4), 265-271.
Pradhan, S. (2015). Study of Employability and Needed Skills for LIS Graduates. DESIDOC Journal of Library & Information Technology, 35(2), 106-112.
Raju, J. (2014). Knowledge and skills for the digital era academic library. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 40(2), 163-170.
Raju, J. (2017). Information Professional or IT Professional?: The Knowledge and Skills Required by Academic Librarians in the Digital Library Environment. portal: Libraries and the Academy, 17(4), 739-757.
Raju, J. (2020). Future LIS Education and Evolving Global Competency Requirements for the Digital Information Environment: An Epistemological Overview. Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, 61(3), 342-356.
Saunders, L. (2019). Core and More: Examining Foundational and Specialized Content in Library and Information Science. Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, 60(1), 3-34.
Saunders, L. (2020). Core Knowledge and Specialized Skills in Academic Libraries. College & Research Libraries, 81(2).
Saunders, L., Kurbanoglu, S., Wilkins Jordan, M., Boustany, J., Chawner, B., Filas, M., Hebrang Grgic, I., Haddow, G., Helvoort, J. v., Kakouri, M., Landøy, A., Minch, K., Oliver, G., Polydoratou, P., Repanovici, A., Sanchez Vanderkast, E. J., Todorova, T., Virkus, S., Wolodko, A., & Zivkovic, D. (2013). Culture and Competencies: A Multi-Country Examination of Reference Service Competencies. Libri, 63(1).
Semeler, A. R., Pinto, A. L., & Rozados, H. B. F. (2017). Data science in data librarianship: Core competencies of a data librarian. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 51(3), 771-780.
Shahbazi, R., & Hedayati, A. (2016). Identifying Digital Librarian Competencies According to the Analysis of Newly Emerging IT-based LIS Jobs in 2013. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 42(5), 542-550.
Si, L., Zeng, Y., Guo, S., & Zhuang, X. (2019). Investigation and analysis of research support services in academic libraries. The Electronic Library, 37(2), 281-301.
Skene, E. (2018). Shooting for the moon: an analysis of digital initiatives librarian job advertisements. Digital Library Perspectives, 34(2), 84-90.
Sutton, S., & Davis, S. (2011). Core Competencies for Electronic Resources Librarians. The Serials Librarian, 60(1-4), 147-152.