Levels of qualification should be considered global and accumulative. As such, any information professional can situate him/herself, at a particular moment of his/her career, at a certain level of qualification that is determined by applying the rules described below, and by using the nomenclature defined in the Euroguide.
What is meant here by qualification is the “possession, at a certain level, of the necessary expertise to perform a job.” And, according to the Afnor standard X50-750, the level of qualification is “a person’s place in reference to a scale of qualifications which separates the knowledge and know-how of an occupation (or a group of similar occupations) into different functions. The level of qualification takes into account the individual’s competence (especially technical), the complexity of different responsibilities undertaken as well as his/her degree of autonomy, decisiveness and foresight.” (Cf. vol. 1, p. 64: glossary, “Level of qualification”)
The way that the last sentence of this definition is formulated demonstrates clearly the particular nature of this notion and the difficulty in determining the precise point in the scale where each individual should be placed. The three apparently heterogeneous elements mentioned must, therefore, be “taken into account”:
competency: technical, relatively objective and observable, and so measurable;
complexity of different responsibilities undertaken: one might think at first that this is a kind of neutral,
physical reality which has neither a positive nor a negative value for an individual. But, if there are “responsibilities undertaken”, then there is, most likely, someone who ordered their completion. Thus, this proves that this person has a certain confidence in him/her. Or, at least, it is the indication of a positive judgement made by a third party;
the three qualities mentioned at the end (autonomy, decisiveness, foresight) are aptitudes and by nature,
difficult to measure. It is rare to find these three aptitudes associated with competencies, as was done here to specifically define professional qualifications.
As any group, that of professionals of information is divided into several levels in such a way that the diversity of situations makes their definition slightly arbitrary. Indeed, there is no clear border that imposes an indisputable rupture between each element of what the observer first sees as a series of ever more proficient qualities. However, observation of the most frequent concrete situations in the practice of this profession has led to the distinction between each of the four levels of qualification.
In addition, this number corresponds to the four professional categories recognised by diverse authorities which manage situations such as those of information professionals.
For example, the British system of National Vocational Qualifications identifies four classes in this sector of activity (the lowest level, which would be the fifth, is not used in professions such as these which are instead based on intellectual pursuits).
The criteria which allow us to distinguish between the four levels and to classify them in a hierarchy are outlined below:
The more or less great degree of freedom that an individual benefits from in relation to methods, rules and
knowledge on which the profession relies, from the person who must keep to the rules without understanding why, to the person who is capable of adopting, modifying and rewriting them;
The more or less great degree of autonomy that an individual has in the information management system;
The more or less complex character of operations that he or she undertakes.
The characteristics of the people at one of the four levels, named “assistant”, “technician”, “manager” or “expert” – words stemming from an agreement between professional information associations in Europe – are the following:
Preliminary requisite conditions for any level
An information professional who wants to have his or her qualifications recognised must, in general:
have reached a particular level of culture and intellectual education, in general attested by the possession of a
general, professional or university degree ;
have acquired at least the basic knowledge (terminology, code of practice) in the different fields of information
services, and that this knowledge has been acquired through education or professional experience over a