It’s Bastille Day, and I’m hoping our librarians don’t celebrate it by trying to storm my office. My barricade consists of an Aeron Chair tucked beneath the doorknob, but I don’t think that will hold for long.
Via Infodocket – which I’m really liking despite the fact that the quality content brings a correspondingly low amount of blog fodder – I discovered a paper to be presented at the IFLA conference this August: “Key Skills and Competencies of a New Generation of LIS Professionals.”
Fortunately, I can read it online and avoid that trip to Puerto Rico. Nothing against PR, but I had my sights set on a cooler clime for my August vacation.
Basically, the study just surveys a whole bunch of other studies on the topic and summarizes the results. You gotta love LIS research!
Supposedly, “The findings of the study provide a complete picture of an archetypal set of skills and competencies which build the image of a new generation of LIS professionals.”
That sounds pretty exciting. Who wouldn’t want to find out what skills the new generation of librarians – er, LIS professionals – will possess.
Again, supposedly, “Due to digitization of the knowledge-based society, libraries are faced with many kinds of changes with regard to technological aspects, user and learning behaviors, and social aspects. All have major impacts on the roles, competencies, skills and knowledge of LIS professionals.”
This new digital age. I’m just not sure when I’ll ever adjust to it. One day I’ll even figure out this clunky email thing.
The skills and knowledge are categorized as personal, generic, and discipline-specific. For example, the personal skills:
The personal skills required for a new generation of LIS professionals include being analytical, creative, technical, flexible, reflective, able to deal with a range of users, detective-like, adaptable, responsive to others’ needs, enthusiastic and self-motivated are central to library work.
That’s a pretty big list, and a tall order. I, of course, have all those skills, which is why I’m the most successful librarian of my generation, and every one of those skills would have been useful for previous as well as future generations of librarians.
Whether current and previous generations of librarians have those skills in general, I don’t know. There are librarians who have those skills, but I doubt it’s the majority. The problem for the “new generation” is that it’s not likely to be the majority of them, either. More on that after we look at other skill sets. And now, the generic skills:
The generic skills that are respectively required are as follows: information literacy, communication, critical thinking, teamwork, ethics and social responsibility, problem solving and leadership.
I’m not sure I’d call information literacy a generic skill, but why not for the sake of argument. Presumably, new librarians will become information literate in library school, or at least more so than the people they’ll be helping, which is all that matters.
Unlike information literacy, the other skills have been around for a long time, and were always useful. Communicating, thinking critically, solving problems, providing leadership: these aren’t new skills to libraryland. Librarians have them, just not the majority, which is why it’s easier for some than others to move up in the profession.
When I got to discipline-specific knowledge, I was hoping for a bit more, well, discipline specific.
The discipline-specific knowledge which is required for the new LIS professionals includes metadata, database development and database management system, user needs, digital archiving and preservation, collection development, and content management systems.
The only two things in that list that are specific to librarianship as a discipline are collection development and maybe digital archiving and preservation. Those are standard library functions that usually no one else does.
But all the rest are skills widely used in lots of areas, basically any field that develops content for the Internet. Useful skills to have, but hardly specific to libraries. Those are the skills libraries borrow to do library stuff.
The question I left hanging earlier was whether the majority of any new generation of “LIS professionals” is likely to have this skill set. Those of you who have passed through library school more recently than me can say whether the majority of your peers seemed to possess them.
Presumably, the personal and generic skills are acquired before library school, or at least outside of library school. Is the field really attracting a majority of people with all or most of those generic and personal skills?
Especially since people really possessing all those skills would have a wide range of choices. Look at the list again. How many people are really like this: analytical, creative, technical, flexible, reflective, able to deal with a range of users, detective-like, adaptable, responsive to others’ needs, enthusiastic, self-motivated, information literacy, communication, critical thinking, teamwork, ethics and social responsibility, problem solving and leadership.
Those people can go do something other than save the world one library card at a time.
Admittedly, there are a lot of librarians like that now. Often the librarians you’ve heard of before have those skills, excluding the popular contingent of librarians who seem little more than insubstantial motivational speakers, and even they have most of the skills except for analytical and critical thinking ability.
Then there are the local stars who don’t get out much but who are always an asset to their library.
But in general, most librarians having most of these skills seems like pie in the sky, especially considering how low the standards are for so many library schools.
Instead of key competencies for LIS professionals, these are going to be the key competencies for the small part of the cohort leading the way, which has pretty much been the case for previous generations of library leaders. That’s good news for the leaders, I guess, as they survey their peers and plan for promotion.
What an amazing profession librarianship would be if most librarians had all these skills. I think we’re all safe from being amazed, though.