When conducting our research for our latest report Librarian Futures Part III, we asked librarians and library leaders about their visions of the future: which skills do they see as essential to develop in the short, medium, and long-term? We had a range of responses, but a few points really stuck out to us:
- Librarians see digital literacy and critical thinking skills being far more relevant in the long term than library leaders do – possibly reflecting differences in perceptions of AI’s impact on higher education.
- The majority of library leaders see marketing strategies as an important skill for librarians to develop within the next two years, though a minority of librarians share this view. Library leaders might therefore have to reflect on how they communicate their vision and priorities to their library colleagues to ensure teams work towards a common goal.
- There is a similar disconnect between library leaders and librarians on the topic of pedagogy knowledge. Librarians consistently place a higher importance of this over time than library leaders do – seemingly indicating that they view the role of the academic library very differently.
With the end of 2023 fast approaching, it’s a good time to look to the future. We asked colleagues from universities around the world to reflect on the information in Librarian Futures Part III, and tell us where they see exciting opportunities and emerging challenges for 2024, and what their upskilling resolutions are for the year ahead.
If you haven’t yet read our latest report, Librarian Futures Part III: The Librarian Skills Landscape, download your copy below:
Library Director, Lancaster University
It would be remiss of me not to mention AI as a starter – the shift it will bring to all parts of society is akin to the changes wrought by the industrial revolution.”Andrew Barker, Library Director, Lancaster University
“Looking from the vantage point of December 2023, to meet the challenges that 2024 will bring, I have reflected on the skills, or the understanding, I will need to ensure 2024 (and beyond) is a success and that the library I lead at Lancaster continues to be at the vanguard of sustainable innovation.
It would be remiss of me not to mention AI as a starter – the shift it will bring to all parts of society is akin to the changes wrought by the industrial revolution, and I need to begin to better improve my understanding of the opportunities and challenges (in that order) it is bringing.
It will have far-reaching consequences to libraries and librarians as we once again reframe our old skills to meet new opportunities, it will bring lots of opportunities, but we need to better understand the skills it will require from us – and for us to keep an open mind about the changes it will bring. It will change education, but once again our skills as librarians will ensure we prosper.
Secondly, I want to dive deeper into understanding the connectivity between being part of a university committed to sustainability and the resources we license and purchase – understanding that will ensure we are then able to drive change in the sector to think of new ways of delivering digital to our users without further dam aging the planet. Both big things to deal with to think about and upskill – but it is in the big changes where we will bring meaningful change. Bring it on!”
Hector R. Perez-Gilbe
Research Librarian for the College of Health Sciences, University of California
Skills never thought to be part of a librarian’s position description are now the norm. It hasn’t stopped and it doesn’t look like it is going to stop anytime soon.”Hector R. Perez-Gilbe, Research Librarian for the College of Health Sciences, University of California
Librarians have been facing drastic changes in their professional world for the last couple of decades and I feel confident in saying that the most drastic changes within academic professions. Technology has impacted libraries in ways that revolutionized the librarian profession into challenges that are constantly changing. Skills never thought to be part of a librarian’s position description are now the norm. It hasn’t stopped and it doesn’t look like it is going to stop anytime soon. The new set of skills and knowledge required to keep up with current trends in information and information-seeking behaviors have taken us to places we never imagined.
When I was in library school, I never thought I would be involved in learning programming coding, or statistical understanding. As a medical librarian, I was always trying to stay ahead or neck and neck with the changes. Tough proposition at the time, so I enrolled in an epidemiology program and got my MPH. Data, analysis, and programming are the main topics in medical librarianship if you want to get elbow-to-elbow with the big leagues of medical information and clinical research.
Our role has shifted from reference desk to team members in clinical research and systematic review studies. Far from the librarian of 20 years ago. Librarians in all disciplines have to keep up with trends in their areas of expertise and the only way to do so is to go out of our comfort zone and learn new skills. One big accomplishment, non-librarian colleagues see us as an asset and team member to help achieve their professional goals. Let’s see where the next chapter will take us.
Director of Library and Information Services, Longwood Gardens
That is the beauty of this profession – our skills, ideas, and visions are transferrable across a wide range of settings.”Hannah Rutledge, Director of Library and Information Services, Longwood Gardens
When Librarian Futures Part III was in the research phase, I was at the University of Pennsylvania Libraries as director of their biomedical library. Now, reading the published report, I’m the Director of Library and Information Services at Longwood Gardens, immersed in the world of botanical and horticultural librarianship. That is the beauty of this profession – our skills, ideas, and visions are transferrable across a wide range of settings. Naturally, I feel somewhat removed from the academic library world, yet there are numerous parallels, many of which are clearly outlined in Librarian Futures Part III report, allowing me to feel inspired and right at home.
If I may be honest, the report left me with more questions. I was intrigued but not fully surprised by the different perspectives of library leaders and frontline librarians. This shows not only difference of priorities (which is expected), but it may also show the opportunity for a gap in communication or understanding. Are they communicating these priorities to each other? Does this impact the availability of or support for professional development? Furthermore, I’m curious as to the breakdown of “library leaders,” as there are various levels of library leaders with different priorities in the same institution (i.e. medical library director vs dean of libraries). Now that the librarian skills landscape has been identified, what is the next step? How can we help librarians advocate for the training and development they need? What additional work is needed to accurately identify those interests, needs, and opportunities?
To run off to the gardens now…At Longwood Gardens we have horticultural students and interns (domestic and international), executive leadership fellows, as well as staff and researchers seeking information from various fields ranging from landscape architecture to garden design to sculpture, from turf care to orchids to woody plants. The teams under my purview include the library, archives, digital asset management, plant information and mapping, and docents.
My own primary goals for the new year:
- To Learn: First, to learn about my staff – their work and expertise, their professional goals, visions, challenges, and concerns; ultimately, to learn how I can best support and advocate for them. How do they want to grow – individual and as a team? Second, to learn about our Longwood colleagues – their information needs and priorities, and to ensure we have the proper resources and services for their future needs. Third, to learn about the larger organization – its culture, history, strategic priorities, and future planning – so that we can best inform and align our initiatives, resources, and communications.
- To Cultivate Innovation: Longwood Gardens is undergoing a $250 million Longwood Reimagined Project, which includes a new library as well as new spaces for archives, digital asset management, and plant records. My priority is to not only ensure a smooth move for our collections and technologies, but to also empower my team to think differently about processes, policies, and workflows; to be comfortable trying new ideas and failing and learning; to experiment with new ways to work and new ways to engage and serve our users.
- To Research: What is already known in the realm of botanical and horticultural librarianship? What are the top journals? What topics are my fellow librarians exploring? Who are the vendors, the book dealers, the collaborators? Just like learning the way around a new city, I must learn this area of librarianship. Additionally, I’ll explore my own budding interests in the field: the history of women in gardens, the science of camellias, and the possibility of new research outlets for botanical and horticultural librarians.
These are vague goals, lacking any actionable tasks, outcomes, or timelines. At this point, they serve more as a guide. With Librarian Futures Part III in tow (as well as the previous two), I intend to utilize the data and insights to help create a better library, archives, and information services – for our users, for the success of the organization, and most importantly, for my staff.
Chief Operating Officer, Skilltype
Librarians play a large role in connecting their communities as bridges between people and organizations. Information is the tip of the iceberg.”Christine Quirion, Chief Operating Officer, Skilltype
The Librarian Futures III report findings show high representation of information science skills across the community, suggesting a comfort zone. Librarians play a large role in connecting their communities as bridges between people and organizations. Information is the tip of the iceberg. The libraries Skilltype works with encourage re-skilling in areas such as AI, online learning, and data literacies so the library can be a full partner in teaching and research. Based on the report’s findings, Skilltype will highlight skills that help information professionals increase their impact and curate their careers in 2024. Skills that I expect to see more of include community outreach, instructional design, project management, assessment, design thinking, marketing, and user experience. These are essential skills to uncover community needs, communicate effectively with stakeholders, and maximize the library’s impact.
Across my academic library career, my skill range extended organically every few years. I started as a digitization supervisor and grew into leadership, UX, and digital development. Now, I’m part of a startup for libraries. Each time I extended my range, my network grew to include colleagues from campus IT, student services, or teaching & learning. New people and perspectives can also be catalysts for growth.
Product Manager, OpenAthens
Our research has found that in today’s academic world, the roles of IT and librarians are converging more than ever.”Richard French, Product Manager, OpenAthens
Our research has found that in today’s academic world, the roles of IT and librarians are converging more than ever. Embracing technology has become pivotal for librarians, forming an integral part of their responsibilities. At OpenAthens, our focus for the next year is on simplifying our products and empowering librarians with user-friendly tools, enabling them to adeptly navigate the increasing significance of technology within their roles.
Thank you to Andrew Barker, Hector R. Perez-Gilbe, Hannah Rutledge, Christine Quirion and Richard French for their contributions to this blog post.