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Thursday, February 02, 2012

What it takes to be a 21st century librarian?

Is there more to the job than stamping due dates for a librarian?  I recalled "Yan Chuin" told me in 1981 that some one did ask her why there is a need to go overseas and do a Post-graduate Diploma in Librarianship since the job of a librarian is that simple.

Well, I think it is hard to unlock that kind of thought as all the library users do not see the full range of works done by librarians at various levels. 

What they see in their daily visits to the library is just the tip of the iceberg.  They harvest the fruits of the labours by librarians and library staff like the way we get rice from supermarket. 

When rice is purchased from the shelf, many kids and adults may not know the hard work of the peasants and workers in planting and milling rice. 

Many library readers borrow books from the library do not really know how books make its way to the library shelf.  When they remove the books from the shelf, they do not need to know how it was returned to the same place in the original order. 

Why library always have some books that they like?  Most readers are of different professions and at different age and continue to grow in their life journey or career path, how could the library facilitates their diverse and changing needs?

Now we have ebooks and Internet, hence, more and more people think that the world may not need a physical library and the service of librarians.

Emma Cragg and Katie Birkwood write "Beyond books: what it takes to be a 21st century librarian" and the article is published in,

Both of them try to clear the mental doubt and explain in details "From connecting with people to keeping up with the latest technologies, there is a whole lot more to the job than stamping due dates"

Full text of the article is available at

Here are some points I extracted to share with the readers here:

* ... many people's experience of librarians is of the frontline, customer service staff. Have you ever considered how the books get on to the shelves and ready for you to borrow? Behind the scenes there are teams of librarians working to make this happen.

* There are librarians who select the books for purchase... process the orders and ... create the bibliographic records that make it possible for you to find the book in the library catalogue and then on the shelves.

* Books are only one aspect... Librarianship is a people profession; a librarian's job is to connect people with the information they are seeking, whatever format that may take.

* ... library jobs have a central purpose: to help people access and use information, for education, for work, or for pleasure.

* ... customer service and communication skills are important. If anyone ever thought they'd become a librarian because they liked books or reading, they would be sorely disappointed if they did not also like people too.

* Libraries of all kinds are keen to demonstrate their value to as wide an audience as possible, and to open up access to culturally significant resources that they hold.

* In the digital age, when information is increasingly becoming available online, there is a propensity to say that libraries and librarians are redundant. This is not the case. Information available online is often of dubious origin and there is still a wealth of information behind paywalls that can only be accessed by those who have paid.

* ... helped many library users ... using search engines for their research ... 

* ... being good communicators with people and active adopters and exploiters of technological developments, librarians need to have detailed specialist subject knowledge to pass on to library users.

* Librarians provide training to show people how to search for information and evaluate what they find.

* These information skills sessions ... include digital literacies ... stay safe online ... social media sites and online collaboration tools.

* There is no standard route into librarianship: librarians have first degrees across the whole spectrum of subjects. To become a professionally qualified librarian you also need a masters qualification in librarianship or information science...

* An introduction to librarianship can be gained through a graduate trainee scheme. These are run by libraries in a variety of sectors... prior to the masters course... 

* More information about the wide range of jobs undertaken by librarians can be found through the Library Day in the Life project...

* If you are interested in finding out about how to embark on a career in librarianship, Ned Potter has summarised the ten things you need to know if you want to work in libraries. Many librarians have also written about their route into the profession through the Library Routes Project.

Some Case studies cited in the article are: 

Kate Smyth, project officer for children and young people, Oldham library and information service

Kate ... run Warhammer, Lego and Yu-Gi-Oh (toy and game) clubs in Oldham's libraries, and also with younger children as the organiser of sessions for young carers and library sleepovers for Scout groups. ... Kate's focus on the personal relationships central to library work continues with her role as administrator for the library's Twitter, Flickr and Facebook accounts, and she is also responsible for the library content on the Go Oldham website.

Emma Cragg, academic support librarian, University of Warwick

Emma acts as the liaison between the university library and the business school at the University of Warwick. Many of the resources used by business students come in digital form, as online journals, databases, or ebooks... She also provides training to help staff and students make the most of the resources available. Her technological skills and interests extend to the use of social media for education and professional development.

Michael Cook, library manager, NHS Bolton library (based at Bolton central library)

The library serves 1,600 local primary care trust (PCT) staff as well as health students, social care staff and the general public. Michael's daily work involves looking after the physical library space and helping readers with the systematic searches of health and medical literature necessary for research and good treatment practice ... and works on collaborative projects with NHS teams and public libraries to improve access to health and mental health resources for the general public.

Katie Birkwood, Hoyle Project associate, St John's College library, University of Cambridge

Kate is cataloguing the papers of 20th-century scientist Sir Fred Hoyle (1915-2001)... focus of her work is organising and running events for the general public. These events open up  the library and display.  It helps to interpret its treasures for people of all educational levels and backgrounds. Kate also works with schools and other special interest groups to supplement and broaden curricula...  her role is like teacher, curator, creative designer and tour guide.

Emma Cragg and Katie Birkwood are academic librarians and participants of the Library Day in the Life project

Please read the full text at

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