Library skills of the future

Little by little, libraries are turning into hybrid libraries according to objectives. New types of skills are necessary in libraries, in addition to the previous ones. What types of skills? Studies have attempted to determine this.

Pressure to change

There are many municipalities in Finland, over four hundred, the majority of them very small. The aging of the population is taking up resources and forcing municipalities to make their operations more efficient. Municipality reforms are underway, which aim at increasing efficiency with the help of voluntary consolidations of municipalities and ooperation. Libraries have already been involved in extensive regional cooperation, which may have to be re-planned and reorganized with the joining of municipalities. Uncertainty is growing.

Information management and changes in communications are also posing challenges to libraries. New types of web applications are emerging (Web 2.0) as well as forms of material (mp3) which offer new possibilities. Those three letters in parentheses will most likely be replaced with new ones within a year. This is also breeding uncertainty.

What skills will we need in 2015?

In the Department of Information Studies at the University of Tampere, Kaisa Lammi and Reeta Eloranta carried out a job market analysis in 2006, in which they determined the types of skills experts thought would be needed in libraries in the year 2015. The analysis revealed that the five most common skills needed in the working world will be aptitude for customer-orientation, networking, information acquisition skills, tolerance of uncertainty and problem- solving.

Uncertainty and change management is clearly evident in the required skills. The emphasis on customer orientation reflects the need to stay in the essential squeeze of pressure associated with costs. By networking, it is easier to maintain versatile competence in skills not prevalent in libraries.

Actual work concerning information will involve five central skill areas: information acquisition, information organization, information resource management, customer relations and Internet information searches. The five areas of skill, which will increase most by 2015, are judicial issues pertaining to information, digital transaction management, information management, cultural know-ledge, knowledge of the publishing world and expenses.

The skill areas central to the profession are familiar; they are useful in traditional and hybrid libraries. Not everything is changing. Only information acquisition through the web is clearly reflecting new skills. The increase of judicial issues pertaining to information may be a result of the complicated copyrights of the new forms of publishing. An increase in the interest to learn about the publishing world stems from the appearance of new types of media.

Networking is the key to success

Library workers are specialists. Specialization increases in interactions with different participants. This is why working in networks and cooperation are such important future skills. Leena Aaltonen and Aulikki Holma have described this in their article: Expertise develops in communal dialogue.

Knowledge is processed in organizations homogenously, heterogeneously or hybridically. A homogenous organization is a combination of specialists of a particular field. They have a tendency to be conservative and controlling. Heterogeneous information processing is based on reciprocal and flexible interaction between specialists of different fields in multi-vocational projects. The separating boundaries between the different competences form a favorable basis for growth for innovations and expertise.Many libraries are like this nowadays. Hybrid specialists build conceptual bridges between different skills and networks; they work as interpreters between them. This prevents information and skills from getting buried in separate projects. This type of organization is typically networked in many directions. As a workplace, it is no longer one and the same, but it provides employees with different environments.

Leena Aaltonen, Aulikki Holma. Expertise develops in communal dialogue. Librarian of the future. Librarian’s foundation 2007.

Kaisa Lammi, Reeta Eloranta. Job market analysis.
Department of Information Studies,
University of Tampere. University of Tampere, 2006.

Seppo Verho
Managing Editor, Kirjasto-lehti

verho AT

Translated by Turun Täyskäännös

Managing Editor, Kirjasto-lehti