CILIP Professional Knowledge and Skills Base (PKSB) for Health

It’s useful sometimes to reflect on what you actually do at work each day.   What you do after you switch the computer on in the morning. How much activity is just the day today process of being at work? How much is exercising the skills that separate you from the punters? Familiarity does breed contempt. Do things often and long enough and you stop seeing them as special or distinctive.

If you need refreshing on professional skills, what they are and do you have them, you could do worse than review the CILIP’s Professional Knowledge and Skills Base (PKSB). I completed this as evidence for LQAF 3.1c, the one about the skills mix. Turns out on a dark night with the light behind me I could pass for a super one person library service with enough of the right knowledge and skills to run a healthcare library service. Sadly, working alone in a large organisation I was never going to make the ratios add up. Nul points on that one. Now there is Professional Knowledge and Skills Base (PKSB) for Health, from Knowledge for Healthcare, which offers a healthcare specific perspective, and yes I have tried that one too. So here is what I learned.

… first the science bit

The PKSB is a summary of the possible knowledge and skills that define the domain of the library and information profession. Using the PKSB marking sheet helps you identify which skills you have now, and which you would like to improve or acquire in the future. Some you won’t need, depending on your job description.

You can use the PKSB for Health as a stand alone .pdf or login to the CILIP website and use it in conjunction with the online version of the PBSK. Although the wording is different there is a direct correspondence in the questions between the two, PSKB and the PKSB for Health. The online version gives you a .pdf file of your answers and comments plus one for areas for improvement or development.

This is going to take some time

You won’t knock this off in one sitting. It takes time to read through each criteria, assess your response and score you current level of knowledge / skill from 1 to 4 as well as your desired level of knowledge / skill. Scoring fatigue sets in quickly. However, this isn’t a Facebook quiz! It’s much more important than that. Seriously. Take your time and allocate four or more slots to go through it.

It probably won’t tell you anything you didn’t already know

I already know where my weak spots or development opportunities are. Knowledge Management would be one. Some management skills. Possibly not demonstrative enough, possibly … . Clearly areas for development will be reflected in how you respond to the questions in the PKSB for Health. Unless a lack of self awareness is one of your weaknesses, nothing you discover should surprise you. What it will do is help you articulate specific areas that you can pick up with CPD or further personal development.

Some stuff you just don’t need

No one can have everything. Some stuff you just don’t need. You have to filter your answers though the lens of what you might reasonably need for your job, or to get the next one. Only the self deluded would claim 4 in every area. The extensive scope of the PKSB for Health may surprise you though, but some criteria are just of passing interest.

Some stuff is of historic interest but may be useful

I can do a bit of cat and class of course. There are some parts of AACR 2 and DDC 19 that are like old friends. Well, there you have it. DDC 19. That dates me a bit. Over the course of a career you pick up skills that you can store away for when you might need them again. I can’t see cat and class being anything I need in the near future, but it does illustrate the scope of the skills a jobbing librarian might pick up. These may still be useful to show your employer – as suggested – the extent of your knowledge.

Make notes, it does save time

The temptation is to skip typing / writing notes. The problems come when you want to pick up those criteria that you scored for improvement and can’t quite remember why or what you wanted to do about it. Making notes is a useful aide memoire to avoid having to revisit things again.

How is it for you …

In the mind of this blogger anyway there is a golden thread that links the PKSB for Health (what we personally aspire to achieve), the Learning Zone (how we might get there), LQAF (what we do now) and Knowledge for Healthcare (where healthcare librarianship aspires to be in the future). Being realistic about the amount of free time and energy there is in any workplace I have chosen to be instrumental in my approach to the PKSB for Health and focus on things that serve all of them. That certainly reflects my job, being a one person band all be it in a network of wonderful regional colleagues and LQAF. There are other personas that you might approach the PKSB for Health with. Early career librarian, aspiring manager and so on. Without being prescriptive it means more, as they say, if you know where you are coming from.


Day, A., 2016. Roll the drums and sound the trumpets the Professional Knowledge and Skills Base for Health has arrived. Available from: [Accessed 14 August 2016].

Learning Zone

PKSB for Health brochure PKSB for Health – Requires CILIP Login

PKSB for Health – NHS Library & Knowledge Services – Requires Login

Matt Holland, @NWASLibrary NWAS LKS Librarian, NWAS LKS is supported by HCLU North.

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2 Responses to CILIP Professional Knowledge and Skills Base (PKSB) for Health

  1. Dion Lindsay says:

    I love that you see a golden thread through the PKSB for Health, the Learning Zone and Knowledge for Healthcare. You make the process of learning sound very attractive and rational – here’s to CILIP members and their CPD work in every sector!

  2. Pingback: Professional Knowledge Skills Base for Health – a reminder | Knowledge for Healthcare

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