Top Skills for Tomorrow’s Librarians

The Library Journal recently released a list of 11 ‘top skills’ that librarians will need in the next 20 years, according to US academic/public library directors and other US thought leaders.

I thoroughly agree with the 11 skills listed in the article.

Advocacy is listed as number 1 – and this is a topic that has consistently come up during the short time I have been a librarian. Irrespective of the field of librarianship you may be in, it seems we are continually required to justify our value to those who provide our funding. As well as explaining to the layman that no, you cannot just Google everything! And this ties in with skill number 6 – data analysis. Librarians need to collect more data than ever to provide the evidence of our worth, as well as to show how and why we are making certain decisions. Data is a great support to show that resources are being used, that patrons are gaining benefits and that new initiatives are working.

There is a lot of discussion on ‘Evidence Based Practice‘ in Librarianship, and the use of data/evidence to make decisions within the field. Unfortunately, there seems to me to be a lack of research done by librarians and so limited information to draw from. However I digress, the debate of the librarian as a practitioner-researcher is another post entirely!

Many of the other listed skills are quite broad and really are useful for any successful professional – things like leadership, communication, critical thinking, innovation, flexibility and project management. But as a new librarian these are good skills to keep in  mind as I develop within my role at the university.

Two other skills listed I think are worth a brief discussion.Technological skills are an obvious need for our profession, and one I thoroughly enjoy building upon. These skills are further expounded upon by CILIP’s article ‘5 Technical Skills Information Professions Should Learn‘ (i.e. social media, the cloud, makerspace technologies, mobile apps and data). I think it is important to also note that, for those who have been in the profession for many years, one cannot simply rely on the new librarians to be the technical expert. Rather than always delegating technical tasks to younger librarians, it is important to work on developing knowledge in new programs and technology. I am glad that in my work, my supervisor is very knowledgeable when it comes to technology and we can work together to create great eLearning lessons and utilise new technologies.

Collaboration also stands out, because it can be meant in multiple ways, and I believe it is very important. This skill does not simply encompass collaborating with other library staff, but with other staff in the organisation who can utilise and support the library. As well as external groups and other libraries. I have recently read about a number of Library consortia and the value that these types of relationships can provide is really astounding. Especially with the advent of eBooks in the library world, the sharing of costs is possible as no physical boundaries apply to the resources. And this brings me to the one point I think has not been specifically mentioned in The Library Journal’s list. A global perspective. This collaboration needs to occur more broadly than just the local community, and spread across the entire world. The internet provides the capability to work with any librarian regardless of geography and we need to strengthen these networks – there is so much we can learn from our international counterparts. I have been a part of the International Librarians Network for a few years now and I cannot recommend it more highly. The ever growing group has members from almost every country in the world, and enables discussion and growth for all its members (and it’s free to join!)

So what do you think of these 11 skills? Do you think there are other skills worth listing?

UPDATE: a recent study has also explored these future skills and found that the overarching most important skill is a “passion for and understanding of the sector”. This article is particularly interesting as it is based on empirical evidence.



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