Partridge, Helen, Julie Lee, and Carrie Munro, "Becoming 'Librarian 2.0': The Skills, Knowledge, and Attributes Required by Library and Information Professionals in a Web 2.0 World (and Beyond)." Library Trends 59.1-2 (2010): 315-335.
Read via Project Muse.
The article has some good points, but there is nothing really new here given all that has been written extensively about "librarian 2.0" in the Librarian Blogsville. In fact, I am starting to get the impression that the term "librarian 2.0" may be on the way out in favor of some other new term. I do not know what the new term may be, but if job ads could be an indication, probably something to do with "emerging technologies" or something like that. But I am digressing.
The article starts with the usual literature review. This gives an overview of how the term emerged and where it is as of the article's writing. A lot of the literature conveys that the debate or definition discussion goes back and forth between how much interpersonal skills such a librarian needs and how much technological/technical focus said librarian needs. In theory, both sides should not be mutually exclusive. In practice, they can be very much separate. At least in recent conversations with our instruction librarian, part of the conversation has been about how newer librarians seem to be too focused on the technology and not enough on basic interpersonal skills including things as simple as how to do an adequate reference interview. Basically, the problem we have observed is librarians with a high degree of technolust who want to sit behind a desk, do all their reference online (be it via a social network or a virtual service) and never have to deal with a patron in person; after all, most of the resources are online anyhow (or will soon be there). As I said, this is strictly observation by two librarians who have been in the field for a while observing the folks coming out now of library school. Thus take it as the anecdotal commentary that it is.
The study used 81 Australian individuals in focus groups in order to "identify the current and anticipated skills and knowledge required by successful library and information science (LIS) professionals in the age of Web 2.0 (and beyond)" (319). The method and justification for using focus groups is explained in the article as well. Participant profile is described as well. A series of open-ended questions, listed in the article, were used to stimulate discussion in the focus groups.
Some notes and thoughts from the analysis of the focus groups:
- On technology. There was consensus that while technology (i.e. IT) is important, it is not the dominant issue or skill set. "Successful librarians in the Web 2.0 world (and beyond) need to be aware of, and have some fundamental understanding of, the emerging technology-- what is available and what it can do and how to make it do what is needed-- but they do not need to be IT professionals per se" (326-- emphasis added). The article emphasizes that there is a difference between "IT skills" and "IT appreciation skills."
- On continuing learning for the librarians. "The need for librarian 2.0 to be interested in, and willing to engage in, lifelong learning was highlighted by all focus groups" (326). You need to know how to keep up, be inquisitive, enjoy experimenting and learning. I think these are just traits any librarian should have. In other words, I do not think they are new nor the exclusive purview of librarian 2.0. The part about exploring after the workday is something I do have mixed feelings about. To an extent, when it comes to work, I follow the Winget line of "you pay me to work, and I do the work." My after hours are exactly that: mine. Sure, I may experiment online and try out new tools, but I do that for myself. If it happens to be useful at work, all good. But I do not do unpaid work after I leave because I happen to like things like spending time with the family and just relaxing. You have to learn how to unplug, and I honestly wish our profession did not spread so much the illusion that we are plugged 24-7 and toying around with every widget, site, and online gizmo out there.
- On focusing on the users. See my comment above for some of my thinking. I will add what the authors write on this: "Librarian 2.0 loves working with people, values the diverse experiences of users, looks at things from the users' perspective and seeks to actively use the emerging technologies to provide their users a voice" (328). I know that is a lot of the reason I became a librarian. I do love working with people, students in my case as an academic librarian. Diversity is a big thing I value, and it was something that I experienced quite extensively when I used to work in Houston. A lot of the reason I experiment and try to learn new things is so I know what my students may go through at some point in time. Then again, that is not a revolutionary concept. When I went through the National Writing Project, the idea of writing with your students not only to lead by example, but to see what the students experienced as writers, was a bit lesson that stays with me to this day.
- Other attributes discussed and mentioned include: Evidence Based Practice and Research Skills, Communication, Collaboration and teamwork, and Business savvy.
- And yes, a lot of LIS professionals do need to get over themselves (329). And while I am certainly to experiment and try new things, I often do find the "just do it" mantra to be a bit problematic in the sense that it seems to be "do it, don't ask, just do it, don't worry about the consequences." At times, the result can be a failure that often someone else has to clean up. Some ambiguity and risk taking are fine. Taking the risk for the sake of taking the risk without at least taking some thought is just irresponsible.
- A magnificent question asked by the participants of the study, which is one I may have asked once or twice: "How do you free people up to have the time and the necessary support to actually be able to stay current with everything that's going on and the ability to get out of the day to day detail?" I am still waiting to hear answers that are not wishful thinking, platitudes, or as I heard it once, "tough, suck it up."
- I would consider this a statement of the obvious. However, given all that gets written on "Librarian 2.0," it may not be as obvious. The statement: "Not surprisingly, the study highlighted that librarian 2.0 is less to do with technology and more about the quality transferable skills and interpersonal abilities."