How to Measure the Digital Literacy Capabilities of Library Staff

How to Measure the Digital Literacy Capabilities of Library Staff

It is less complicated than you think.


We know that digital literacy is not the same as digital skills. We know that becoming digitally literate is different for everyone and that it also requires ongoing practice. We also know that Belshaw’s 8 elements of digital literacy can be applied to any library situation and role.

But what does this actually mean?


Like any rubric; measuring or assessing the digital literacy capabilities of all library staff is a three-step process.

  1. Identify the expected digital literacy competencies of library staff.
  2. Create benchmarks to determine varying levels of capability within each competency.
  3. Measure library staff against these benchmarks.

1. Identify Competencies

After looking at LIANZA’s Bodies of Knowledge and the essential global library competencies outlined by OCLC, I have identified 8 fundamental digital literacy competencies that I believe ALL library staff regardless of their position should know and practice:

What Every Library Staff Member Should Know & Practice Belshaw’s Essential Digital Literacy Element In Three Words
Privacy and protection tips Cultural How to behave
Social bookmarking Cognitive How to do
Creative Commons licences Constructive How to use
Communicating online Communicative How to communicate
How to manage your own learning or professional development Confident How to belong
Content curation Creative How to make
How search engines work Critical How to evaluate
Digital rights and responsibilities Civic How to participate

I think these competencies are all learn-able. I think these competencies are extremely valuable for our work in the library profession. And I think they are also very valuable to share with our community members.

2. Create Benchmarks

The next step is to create benchmarks to determine varying levels of digital literacy capability within a particular competency. Let’s take the competency of Content Curation and consider ‘How to create a curated selection of Māori resources’ as a specific example of fulfilling that competency.

Using the digital literacy process of development the benchmarks for this competency could look like this.


As a person progresses up the development pyramid their capability, experience and understanding increases.

  • A person at the Access stage of development, says ‘I have an awareness of online Māori resources’.
  • A person at the Skills stage, says ‘ I can find and select the best online Māori resources to create value for readers’.
  • A person at the Practices stage of development says ‘I do analyse and make sense of Māori resources to create value for readers’.
  • A person at the Identity stage says ‘I am an online content curator’.

3. Measure Staff Capabilities

The last step of the process is to measure staff capabilities against these benchmarks. There are many ways in which this can be done. I have found the most effective way is to keep the measurement process as simple as possible and to measure experience rather than knowledge.

‘How to curate a selection of Māori resources’ can be measured by asking library staff to answer three questions. Each of the four options has an increasing numerical value and the score is tallied to determine the level of digital literacy capability of each library staff member.

  1. How confident do you feel in your knowledge of online Māori resources?
    1. I don’t know anything about them.
    2. Not confident at all.
    3. I feel I have a good understanding of commonly used online Māori resources.
    4. I use online Māori resources all the time and actively seek out new resources.
  1. How do you disseminate content online that creates value for readers?
    1. What?!
    2. I share links using social media sites.
    3. I make content easy for readers to digest by using lists such as libguides, troubleshooting tips or read-alikes.
    4. In addition to c) I also include my unique perspective or commentary so the content becomes more than ‘another list’.
  1. Aside from relevance, how do you usually decide what resources to include/exclude from any lists you might provide for your community?
    1. I don’t provide lists or make the decisions in this area.
    2. I decide based on the date of publication, number of copies, popularity etc.
    3. I decide based on b) plus personal judgment.
    4. I decide based on c) plus the value of sharing each resource and how they fit together to form a bigger picture.

Knowing the digital literacy capabilities of every library staff member makes it easier to assess the whole library’s digital literacy strengths and weaknesses and if necessary, identify specific actions to improve them.

It’s time to take digital literacy out of the ‘too hard’ basket and start doing something about it.

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