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What skills are required to be a librarian
What Skills are Required to be a Librarian?
By: Veronica C.
There are many skills and abilities that librarians need in order to succeed. These can range from being trained to create or update library websites to working successfully with coworkers and interacting with users. Below are five main skills useful for librarians, accompanied by brief overviews. The five main skills are Education, Technological Knowledge and Training, Organizational and Evaluation Skills, Business Management, and Interpersonal Skills.
Most people who want their future to be in a library or archive get a Masters Degree in Library Science. As the Bureau of Labor Statistics states, “The MLS degree provides general preparation for library work, but some individuals specialize in a particular area, such as reference, technical services, or children's services. A Ph.D. in library and information science is advantageous for a college teaching position or a top administrative job in a college or university library or large public library system” (United States Department of Labor). Education is a key factor in the skills needed to be a librarian. Skills that are taught in classes at those institutes that provide an MLS degree are continuing to be sought after by those hiring library employees at entry-level positions. Creating websites, learning methods of searching and evaluating, and learning the proper methods in a reference interview are only a few of the many subjects that Library and Information Science students study while attaining their degree. Most upper level positions that are available look for some higher education in Library and Information Technology.
Long Island University-Library Science Graduate Program
SUNY Albany-Information Science Graduate Program
Syracuse University-Library Science Graduate Program
Technical Knowledge and Training
In today's Web 2.0 world, the librarian is more and more the key to information in a digital format. To be proficient in technology and computers is essential to being a successful librarian. With computers, librarians must be able to navigate on the machine and access information from the Internet as well as other digital sources. "While librarians do not have to become technicians, do they need computer skills? Penny Beile and Megan Adams's content analysis of library position announcements found that 'as information sources in academic libraries are delivered increasingly via an electronic medium, the degree to which computer skills are sought by libraries becomes an important concern" (Mathews, 2009). Being able to assist users electronically is a big part of a public and academic librarian's day-to-day activity. A knowledge and understanding of the computer is high on the list of skills needed when training to be in a library.
Along with being able to access information off the Internet, comes the ability to promote the library and connect with users as well. Many libraries today are using such Web 2.0 sites as Twitter, Facebook, and Myspace to connect with their patrons and update them on special events, announcements, and library programs. Having accounts on these sites also enable a library to communicate with users on another level. Conversations can be held and questions can be answered, all over the Internet, making it both faster and easier to communicate for both parties. A familiarity with these Web 2.0 sites and their set-ups is a helpful skill to have in a librarian's background.
Libraries (and Librarians!) on the Internet:
The Desmond-Fish Library Homepage
The Mount Kisco Library Twitter Page
Clifton Park Halfmoon Public Library Facebook Page
Librarians today are also being called on to create websites, wikis, and pathfinders in order to better promote the library and increase the access to information. These technology skills are greatly valued and sought for when library positions are open for applications. "Clearly the acquisition of the skills required to access, store, manage, and disseminate media (such as electronic books and journals, print materials, audiovisual materials, and Web sites) in libraries is yet another example from the long history of librarians adapting to and adopting new technologies. Further, we believe that librarians are being called upon not only to manage media itself, but also to acquire, develop, deploy, use, and maintain the suite of information technologies and systems that support them" (Mathews, 2009).
Technical Skills and the Librarian-Blog
Organizational and Evaluation Skills
The ability to multitask and juggle many different jobs is a major part of the reference librarian’s repertoire. Often, librarians are asked to perform many tasks, from assisting in the search for information for a patron, to ordering or discarding library materials, to preparing presentations about the library for the community or a board of directors. “A Reference Librarian must be responsive to the needs of users, think critically and be organized as well as organize or coordinate projects and services for the user” (LIS Wiki). Without organizational skills, a librarian would falter under the amount of, and different types of work they had. They would lose ground in helping users, and themselves.
Along with the ability to multitask and organize within the workings of the library as a whole, comes the organizational and evaluation skills that come with working one on one with a user seeking to answer a specific question. Librarians must be able to separate good and bad information from a database or online search in order to give library users the best answer possible. This can often be difficult today in a world where sites that pop-up on search engines like Google and Yahoo! may not provide the necessary or correct information that the patron needs. This not only holds true for providing information to users, but also to those higher-up in the library food chain. As Mary Ellen Bates writes in her article "The Newly Minted MLS: What Do We Need to Know Today," “We need [LIS] graduates who can evaluate an information source and decide whether it does or does not have value for a given situation. For example, we need people who can go through the results of a search, pull out the most useful material, organize it, write up an executive summary, and polish the final product so that it looks like a report and not a data-dump.” (Bates, 1998).
Librarians Matter-Discovery Skills vs. Evaluation Skills
Though libraries are not businesses in the popular sense of the word, they face the same difficulties and concerns when it comes to managing a business. Often, librarians are under scrutiny from boards or employers to make sure that the library, while helping to assist patrons, also stays fiscally solvent. In order for a library to be successful, a librarian has to be able to market accordingly. “Thinking like an entrepreneur. Regardless of what kind of library or information service we work in, we have to market our services continually. As one librarian put it, ‘The best ideas don't win; the best promoted ideas win” (Bates, 1998). Providing business leadership allows for the library to stay fiscally secure and enables usership to remain at a high level.
Another aspect of business management is marketing your library. This can include calling the local newspaper and inviting them to events a library is having, sending out newsletters to patrons, and having special giveaways and raffles (librarysuccess.org). It could also hearken back to technology training with starting a Facebook or Twitter account. "Having a well managed Twitter feed can be a very effective outlet for getting any organization's message to its customers. Given the prominence of the use of Twitter by the customer base of most organizations, not participating would be a serious omission in a company's media strategy" (Breeding, 2009). Training and awareness of management and marketing skills will allow in increase of informations directed towards users and community members about a library, its goals and its services.
What is Marketing in Libraries?
Though last in this list of necessary skills, it is very important that a librarian be able to communicate with users who come in searching for information, as well as employers and coworkers. As for library patrons, the reference interview is key to any successful interaction between a reference librarian and a user. This interview enables a librarian to glean what the user wants, and in what form they want it. Sometimes, it is only this few minute exchange that the librarian has to find out all they can about how the can assist a user. According to Mary Ellen Bates, “Information professionals are not order-takers in a fast food restaurant ("Do you want fries with that bibliography, sir?"). Rather, we are consultants working with our clients, analyzing their information needs, evaluating the resources available as well as the budget and time that we can spend on this request, and determining how we can most appropriately meet their needs. A negotiation takes place, and this requires specialized skills that even some experienced librarians don't have” (Bates, 1998). The reference interview is key to any interaction with a person coming in and looking for more information.
Along with the reference interview comes good customer service skills. Librarians are subject to the same standards as any retail or customer service provider. This means that an understanding of the nature of what a user wants and why they are using the library is essential. Also necessary is the ability to provide service in a calm and patient manner, despite how one may feel towards a patron. As The Princeton Review website on Reference Librarians states, “A librarian spends more than 60 percent of his or her day working with people, either library patrons or other staffers and back-office workers. Strong interpersonal skills are required for individuals who hope to succeed in this field. 'You’ve got to be polite even when you want to break someone’s neck, which happens Monday morning about 10 and lasts through Saturday at four,' said one 15-year veteran of the St. Louis public library system” (The Princeton Review). Having patience, keeping your head, and maintaing a good relationship with patrons and coworkers provides a healthy library environment and will ensure success.
"Oh, the Things I've Learned! Navigating the Labyrinth of Library Personalities"
Below is a slideshow that gives great information and input about what skills librarians use on a daily basis, and what current librarians wish they were taught while getting their LIS degree. Included are graphs that rate what present-day librarians believe should be part of the LIS curriculum. These subjects include many of the ones mentioned on this page including management, emerging technologies, and customer service.
Bates, M. (1998). The newly minted MLS: what do we need to know today?.
(5), 30-33. Retrieved from CINAHL Plus with Full Text database.
Breeding, M. (2009). Social Networking Strategies for Professionals.
Computers in Libraries
(9), 29-31. Retrieved from Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts database.
Farkas, Meredith. Librarian 2.0. Slideshow.
Mathews, J. and Pardue, H. (2009). The Presence of IT Skill Sets in Librarian Position Announcements. Coll Res Libr 70 No3 May 2009.
The Princeton Review.
United States Department of Labor.
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