Editorial: Competencies for an unbundled library

The theme of this issue is Nordic library and information science education and library competencies in general. Both formal educational programmes and further education have undergone significant changes in the last 40 years as illustrated in one of the articles. The most significant change is the move from vocational to academic education. This change reflects both the growing scope and complexity of libraries and the need for constant change and development.

The pace of change for libraries is increasing and the response is to focus on having the right competencies to meet the changes. That can mean an increased reliance on further education, collaboration and partnerships or hiring employees with new professional backgrounds. An important driver of changes in the library is the internet and digital media. OCLC strategist Lorcan Dempsey has suggested an interesting perspective on the change in library tasks and competence needs.

A perspective on library change

The suggested perspective is from an article in Harvard Business Review called “unbundling the cooperation” by John Hagel III and Marc Singer. The authors claim that the internet and new technology have a profound effect on most companies and institutions. According to the authors most institutions have three distinct businesses: customer service, product innovation, and company infrastructure. For a public library customer service could be divided into sections for children and adults, product innovation could be responsible for events and projects and company infrastructure could comprise collection management and ict-operations.

The point of the article is that the three businesses require very different competencies and employee cultures. Digital media and the internet make it possible for a library to outsource or collaborate on parts of the three businesses. It becomes strategic decisions, how to balance the three parts of the library, and which competencies the library should emphasise. The library becomes a collection of services.

The role of libraries and competency needs

It is a useful perspective because libraries are asked to be more user-focused. Research libraries need to place the library and its competencies in the workflow of researchers and students. Public libraries are tasked with enhancing informal learning and cultural experiences of all citizens. There is a political expectation that public libraries are for everyone as indicated by the emphasis on e-inclusion. This means more user focused and proactive public libraries. The demand for impact measurement can be seen in this context.

Even though many public libraries demand meta-competencies and employ new professional groups, we also see a demand for classic librarian-ship and information science. The European debate on the need for a digital- or data curation education and the increased focus on linked data are good examples. This issue of SLQ explores how education in library and information science is changing to meet the new demands.

Head of Copenhagen Central Library and Library Technical Department Copenhagen Central Library