Who do you think “Librarians of the Future” are? How would they behave and what would they look like? In my imagination they are like a space hero, a Flash Gordon-like figure with almost magical cyber librarian skills nobody ever had heard of. But hold on – many of us practice such skills already. Every time I listen to some of my colleagues from abroad I’m deeply astonished about the diversity of tasks they perform, the services they have invented, and the kind of non genuine library task they manage. (Maybe that’s the reason why every year I’m more content to be a librarian, and I cannot imagine a more powerful and amazing work.) Let me demonstrate some of the tasks and skills that I have come across:
- Authority for tablet computers, e-book readers, and respective apps (medical as well as productive). Handles mass sync and restore of hundreds devices as well as volume purchases of apps with casualness;
- Budgetary expert and fund raiser. The library budget is not set in stone; if you want to develop interesting projects, you have to look for money, write proposals, and know how to take money out of the pockets of your boss;
- Embedded librarian. Show up at the point of care, support doctors and nurses, looking for clinical outreach, being liaisons, and acting at roadshows;
- Impact firefighter. Performing scientometric analyses on the spot. An expert in every kind and database of measuring impact. Know your h-index in sleep;
- Lawyer with a profound knowledge in copyright, plagiarism, and detection tools. Negotiates publication rights with publishers;
- Lecturer for group and personal training to create a positive climate that encourages team building and openness for change;
- Lobbyist and networker at task forces, Faculty Boards, Deans, committees, advisory boards, both inside and outside the organization;
- Marketing manager for user needs assessment, performing SWOT analyses, doing surveys, interviews, focus groups, public and customer relation, stakeholder reporting, and exploring the return of each Euro invested in the library for the organization;
- Master of Medical Education, multimedia, and e-learning. Web sites, magazines and leaflets are an important part of library marketing, so librarians could be journalists, editors, designers. They could be lectures, presenters, and motivators as well. For example, the Cushing Library at Yale has an instructional design librarian employed, who helps faculty with their video lectures (see picture above);
- Program manager of Open Access, technical manager of Open Access repositories, press person for publishing on demand, expert in megajournals and APCs; (1)
- Teaching librarian. Deeply embedded into the curriculum, he teachs each and every customer at each and every occasion; he masters lecturing and is the gate keeper for information literacy at his organization;
- The Visionary develops enthusiastically strategies for the library of the future and experiments like crazy(2).
The demand for such sophisticated tasks is extremely high and often faculty members regard librarians as skillful experts for many of these tasks, as the computer scientist Daniel Lemire noticed:
So I think that librarians should move on to more difficult tasks. For example, we badly need help with what I would call “meta-science”. We need help tracking data sets, their transformation and so on. In effect, I would push librarians into data science. That’s the next frontier. In science, we badly need help from people whose main goal is not to contribute new quanta, but rather keep track of what is happening. Students are awful at managing documents, citing them, finding relevant work, and so on. I think that a lot of librarians already help, but we might need what I would call “teaching librarians”. I have yet to see a librarian on a Ph.D. committee in science, but I think it could be a good idea. (3)
It is my sincere hope that librarians will always be open for such honorable expectations and never fail.
- Frank Norman: Megajournals [http://occamstypewriter.org/trading-knowledge/2012/07/09/megajournals/ accessed] Nov, 11th 2014
- T. Scott Plutchak: Breaking the barriers of time and space: the dawning of the great age of librarians. J Med Libr Assoc. Jan 2012; 100(1): 10–19. [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257492/] accessed Dec, 11th 2014
- Daniel Lemire: Let us be clear. August 29, 2012 [http://scienceblogs.com/confessions/2012/08/28/an-openaccess-thought-experiment/#comment-1920] accessed Nov, 11th 2014
- Brandon A.N. Academic status for medical school librarians. Bull Med Lib Assoc. 1970 Jan;58(1):1–6
Foto: myfuturedotcom 6052488441 at flickr.com
This article will be published in JEAHIL, Issue 4, 2014
I recently came across a citation from Alfred Brandon (4) describing (purely coincidentally of course) exactly the same things I had discovered:
Today the typical medical librarian must be an administrator, educator, researcher, collector, public servant, fund raiser, accountant, architect, psychologist and public relations expert. With this enlightened viewpoint in mind, I object to being classified as the stereotyped librarian of twenty-five years ago. I object to following outmoded policies and procedures. I object to the status quo attitude and lack of experimentation and desire on the part of some for improved methodology for librarianship.