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Desperately Seeking the Adaptive Librarian: On the 2.0 Job Description (Part 3)

Submitted by Michael Stephens on December 29, 2006 - 8:19pm

One theme I've been happy to write about and use as a talking point in my classes this past year is that of the newer types of jobs and job descriptions we've seen posted in Libraryland. In fact, more than a few bibliobloggers linked to and discussed various job descriptions that included a 2.0 slant. I wrote about those jobs here and then again here, with an eye toward LIS education.

Now I wind up the year with one more look at how some library jobs have morphed via the impact of technology, social networks, and the shift to our culture of participation.

Jeff Trzeciak, University Librarians, McMaster University Library

Jeff Trzeciak, author of the Wayne State University library job, commented on the original post. He outlined his thinking, noting it wasn't only about technology but also about skills for creating instructional environments. “More than the technology itself I'm concerned that librarians develop instructional design skills so that they are able to design resources and services that are effective AND that they are able to evaluate those resources and services," he stated.

I followed up with him a while later, after he had changed jobs and moved to McMaster University Library in Ontario, Canada, to ask about his goal for the 2.0 job description. Trzeciak replied:

  • I was thinking the following: (a) our students are already using these 2.0 tools, how do we incorporate them into our resources and services? How do we capitalize on them? (b) I was also thinking: While we certainly have people capable of doing these things—and, in fact, some already ARE doing it—we don't have a "point person" who can wake up thinking "what next"? We need someone to help monitor and then provide information and training necessary to making it an integral part of what we do. Finally, I was also thinking that this is a great way of attracting new librarians to our institution and an interesting way of generating a dialogue.

Trendspotting and training, then, are both useful skills for this type of position. I'm reminded of a trend exercise I did with one of my classes this fall: I distributed copies of Wired, Fast Company, and Business 2.0 and asked my students to choose articles and ads and then discuss the impact they would have on libraries. You can do this too in your staff meetings or emerging technology sessions. Try it!



Trzeciak recently posted at the university library blog his plea for "a gaming librarian," who would gain the learner's attention, inform learners of objectives, stimulate recall of prior learning, present the content, and provide learning guidance. As Jenny Levine's issue of Library Technology Reports, "Gaming and Libraries: Intersection of Services," demonstrates, libraries that embrace gaming and that utilize and encourage librarians who game and reach out to gamers on their own turf are building useful, engaging services for the future. I like Trzeciak's thinking ("Are librarians paying attention to that?" he asks about the popularity of the World of Warcraft game). I encourage you to read his gaming post as well as his recent "Getting Out of the Cataloging Business," in which he details some more changes to job titles at McMaster:

  • Digital Strategies Librarian
  • E-Resource Librarian
  • Training and Development Librarian
  • User Experience Librarian

Read the comments as well for lively debate and commentary.

What about some of the other job descriptions we've covered?

I decided to pose the same question to Christopher Harris as well, who wrote a similar job description for his system in New York State, and who recently facilitated the School Library 2.0 panel at the School Library Journal Leadership Summit. Chris answered:

  • Looking to the future, the job description is clearly defined by a need to consider some of the ideas that make up Library 2.0 and School Library 2.0. If we are going to facilitate the digital re-shifting of libraries, we need someone who is as comfortable teaching about the possibilities as she or he is hacking at the code that makes this possible. As others have pointed out in the ongoing conversation, libraries need coders…but libraries also need teachers. We need the focus for this position to be on the possibilities for student success that arise from the use of the tools, as opposed to an obsession with the tools themselves.

Social tools are just that—tools. And again we see the need for instruction and for training. But not the trainer I grew up with in my library career, but big picture, learning to learn training. Those keywords you hear attached to these discussions—play, experience, immersion—describe how instructors and learners should go about interacting with new tools and new environments. Again, I'm reminded of the gamer's sensibility!

Kingston Frontenac Public Library job ad posted in spring 2006 (PDF).

I also spoke with Barbara Love, Manager of Adult Services at the Kingston Frontenac Public Library in Kingston, Ontario, who offered an intriguing bit of information about the Librarian 2.0 job the library posted this spring:

  • We had originally posted an ad for an “electronic resources” librarian and were disappointed by application letters that sounded fairly traditional, stressing a love of people and books. Not that we don't want to hire people who love people and books but we hoped to hear a little more about familiarity with transformative technologies. After attending this year's [Ontario Library Association] conference and hearing the 2.0 buzz, we decided to rewrite the posting, stressing that we wanted someone with awareness of new technologies.

Fascinating! When we spoke a few months ago, Love was still in the process of interviewing, but she also noted that LIS education needs to shift a bit of focus as well: "the most valuable concept a library school education could impart would be the idea of staying current, being creative, adaptable, and connected."

Finally, I wanted to hear from someone on the other side—someone who had applied for a 2.0 job and how it had played out. Remember that job at Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library? David Lee King, blog author, video-blogger, and conference speaker, interviewed and got the job this summer! The job description included these duties that really excited King:

  • bringing ideas to the table with a high "wow, cool, nobody else is doing this!" factor
  • will lead...staff in using new technologies to translate traditional library services into a virtual, Library 2.0 format
  • a sense of humor and a positive and enthusiastic approach to public service

David Lee King"During my interview, I found out that they were serious about that job ad wording I was originally attracted to," King told me via e-mail. "They said 'physically, we can't grow anymore but we CAN expand digitally.'"

King also noted that it was a good fit for the skills and duties listed. He had the experience. He's played with the technology.

  • I blog, play with videoblogging, like to take pictures and post them to Flickr, and like to figure out how all these emerging web services can work in a library setting. That's the type of person they were looking for—someone who understood web 2.0 and who understood what a library could do with those tools. More than one person came up to me during the interview and said, "I read your blog." I won't say I was hired because I blog... but I WILL say that all my blogging, speaking, and writing got me noticed by the right people at the right time.

So what does this mean for us? It reinforces some ideas in my mind that I hope many TechSource readers take to heart. In the 21st century, library professionals will encounter a world where playing around with a new tool (toy?), experiencing new things without fear of failure (or success!), and spending time trendspotting, dreaming, and keeping an eye on emergent technologies will be built into our jobs. We'll be expected to play. We'll be expected to be connected. We'll be expected to collaborate with each other and our users. To be successful, we'll need to understand how social networks and gaming impact our libraries and our profession.

If you haven't re-evaluated your library job descriptions, maybe it's time... for a 2.0 librarian... for a videoblogger librarian... for a gaming librarian. Well, really for a librarian that can adapt and use whatever new methods—for reaching out to users—come along. On the 2.0 Job Description:


Technorati tags: librarians, libraries, Library, library information science, library job descriptions, library-20, library2.0, library 2.0, web2.0, web 2.0


Comments (3)

I love all the

I love all the 'trendspotting, dreaming, and keeping an eye on emergent technologies' but lets not forget about all the geeks that actually make all this stuff happen. Like Chris said, 'libraries need coders', we can dream all we want, but without programmers & sysadmins nothing happens. Job Listings

Good point, Blake. Another

Good point, Blake. Another idea, though, would be encouraging librarians to 'geek out'-- that is, to at least learn the structure and terminology of the geeks who, as you put it, make all of this possible. That way, not only can we teach this new technology to our patrons, we can better explain what we need to our programmer and developer friends, who actually put these things together.

I love all the

I love all the 'trendspotting, dreaming, and keeping an eye on emergent technologies' but lets not forget about all the geeks that actually make all this stuff happen. Like Chris said, 'libraries need coders', we can dream all we want, but without programmers & sysadmins nothing happens.