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Librarian Futures Part III: The Librarian Skills Landscape

by | Jan 9, 2024 | 0 comments

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By: Matthew Weldon, Library Patron Consultant, Technology from Sage, and Matthew Hayes, Managing Director, Technology from Sage

Librarian Futures Part III – The Librarian Skills Landscape

-Draws on insights from over 2,000 academic library professionals

-Anonymised data from 2,327 library professionals from 72 library organisations on the Skilltype platform

-Global survey data from 289 librarians

Technology from Sage have recently published the third instalment in our Librarian Futures series of reports, a series which explores librarian-patron relationships in the digital age. This edition focuses on the Librarian Skills Landscape. Working collaboratively with Skilltype, we examined data from over 2,000 librarians, combining data from their talent management platform with insights from a global survey of academic librarians. Our analysis has provided a comprehensive overview of the current skills landscape in the academic library, and has revealed the areas in which librarians anticipate further development will be necessary in future. 

This blog post highlights some of the key takeaways from the report – to read our findings in full, please visit librarianfutures.com

The Current Landscape

Within the Skilltype platform, librarians are encouraged to select the skills they have and use each day. We developed a taxonomy of the most popular skills in the academic library, allowing us to examine the skills landscape at a glance.

Possessing a large and diverse set of skills, this data shows that academic libraries are well-equipped to serve the needs of patrons. Our survey data shows that, on the whole, librarians agree. Librarians responded that they are generally confident in their ability to meet both the day-to-day expectations of their patrons and emerging technological challenges. 

We did observe two notable exceptions, however, where librarians tended to lack confidence. Despite feeling able to meet patron expectations, most librarians did not feel confident in advancing their career, which has concerning implications for staff motivation and fulfilment. Library leaders and line managers may therefore wish to pay particular attention to the opportunities and pathways for progression within their institutions. We also found that many librarians feel unprepared to answer questions from patrons concerning AI. Much has been written on how AI will affect the academic library and, though the future remains uncertain, it is clear that there will be an impact. As such, it is important that training and upskilling around AI and the skills needed to use it effectively are made available to all librarians.

Further Findings in Librarian Futures Part III

-Many librarians aren’t benefiting from conversations about upskilling and development with their line managers and senior management, especially staff without postgraduate qualifications or who are hybrid workers

-Training librarians on strategies for “implementing communities of practice” and “pedagogies for effective learning” could increase their confidence in advising staff and lead to a more prominent role in the learning and teaching process

-Librarians tend not to have strong opinions on the mode of training or upskilling delivery, but feel strongly that any such training should lead to a better service for patrons

The full Librarian Futures Part III report looks into data we have gathered on how well supported librarians feel in their institutions, and provides data-led recommendations for library leaders looking to enhance this in their institutions. In addition, the report examines librarian preferences for upskilling, providing useful context when planning future upskilling.

The Future of the Academic Library

Skilltype also allows librarians to indicate the areas they want to learn more about in the future. Analysing this data provides a valuable insight into librarian expectations of the future. Comparing and contrasting these interests with those selected by library leaders also allows us to examine how closely aligned the two are.

10 Most Popular Interests Among Library Professionals10 Most Popular Interests Among Library Directors
SkilltypeStudent Success
DiversityLibGuides
Collection ManagementMicrosoft 365
AnalyticsCustomer Service
Open AccessInterlibrary Loan (ILL)
Student SuccessZoom
Open Educational Resources (OER)Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Online LearningCollection Development
Data ScienceCataloging
Digital ScholarshipInformation Literacy

There are significant synergies evident in this data. Firstly, both library professionals and library leaders demonstrate a strong commitment to diversity and equity, which is encouraging: strong alignment in this regard will ensure that the library is well-placed to make the student experience as fair as possible. Both groups also show a great interest in student success, which concords with data from Ithaka S+R showing that this is the area library leaders are most focused on increasing recruitment in (Hulbert, 2023).

One notable difference between the two, however, is that library leaders seem to be more interested generally in specific products (LibGuides, Microsoft 365, and Zoom each appearing in the top 10 interests selected by directors). This might represent a desire to extract the most value from what are likely to be costly purchases for the university, but library leaders may note that these are unlikely to inspire their teams. Listening to the interests and ambitions of staff and taking these into account when planning an institution’s upskilling strategy will be vital to bring these more in line.

In order to deepen our understanding of which skills librarians see as important to develop in the future, we asked them to choose which they see as crucial in the short, medium, and long term. Librarians continued to indicate that skills relating to AI are important, but indicated an interest in a vast range of other skills, too, suggesting a long-term and holistic view of the academic library and the services it will have to provide. In the full Librarian Futures report, we explore these interests for the future, and suggest strategies that librarians might use to ensure they have the opportunity to develop these skills.

Further Findings in Librarian Futures Part III

-Some librarians feel that their effort to learn new skills goes unappreciated by students

-Though most librarians feel supported to upskill by managers, opinions on the budget and time allocated for upskilling are far more mixed

Learn More

There is much more data in the full Librarian Futures Part III report that we haven’t included here, with valuable insights for frontline library professionals and library leaders alike. Once you have read the full report, please be sure to share your thoughts online, and use #LibrarianFutures to join the conversation.

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