Becoming Librarian 2.0

cioran_in_romania

Emil Cioran

In Becoming “Librarian 2.0”, Helen Partridge et al mention that an increasing number of positions in libraries are becoming more and more technologized. As technology is always changing, there is a professional call for librarians to be “nimble” and on their feet in regards to acquiring technological competencies. In other words, to be a 21st century librarian, one must be willing and ready to adapt to change. This requirement forces the LIS professional into a very self-reflexive mode. In past ages, jobs would require a circumscribed set of skills, or a finite amount of knowledge for workforce readiness. But Librarianship is a field in flux, and LIS professionals are constantly reevaluating what they know, and if that knowledge is still relevant. Almost on a daily basis. With the fast pace of technology, it seems that what the LIS professional knows is never good enough, and that a constant reinvention of their professional identity is imperative for success. Indeed, we must be in a state of becoming, willing to trade our old competencies for new ones. In a way, this is very disruptive to the development of a secure sense of self. I am reminded of a quote from the pessimistic philosopher Emil Cioran: “Man starts over again everyday, in spite of all he knows, against all he knows” (A Short History of Decay). Still, this requirement to change is not all bad. For example, technology has reduced the barriers to service that existed between librarians and users. A “social web” has now emerged which facilitates a more participatory culture (Partridge et al, 316).

The Librarian’s 2.0 Manifesto:

One of the wonderful things about this field is that you do not have to be an IT expert to be a successful Web 2.0 librarian, or a “Librarian 2.0” as Partridge et al term it. Indeed, Laura Cohen’s 2006 Manifesto attested to this fact. In her manifesto, there is an emphasis on meeting users and bringing library services to them in new, networked spaces. But there is no need to be a technological guru, as adopters of the Manifesto have focused “more on interpersonal skills and less on technological competencies” (Partridge, 317). At most, the Librarian 2.0 must be able to manipulate and use new media platforms like blogs and social media sites. There are no professional requirements to know how to code or troubleshoot technical problems related to computers, unless these are simple connectivity issues with clientele. Indeed, the technology competencies for librarians only call for “the ability to engage with and use technology to meet client and community needs” (Partridge et al, 318). This is not a very tall order.

Partridge et al attempt to define Librarian 2.0 on their own terms, identifying the skills, knowledge, and personal attributes required. Their focus groups arrived at some thematic conclusions that echo the original Manifesto by Cohen, and the subsequent literature on Library 2.0. The main conclusion from Partridge et al was that, while a fundamental understanding of popular technology is required to be a Librarian 2.0, IT skills are not. Following this consensus, the LIS professional should be expected to stay abreast of Tech trends. Of course, this does not require a computer information degree. It simply requires a readiness to learn.

As for the rest of the requirements, they are pretty boilerplate, I think. The other Librarian 2.0 competencies mentioned by Partridge et al are independent of knowing how to operate technology. These are the liberally-applied skills of Research, Communication, Teamwork, User-Focus, and Business savvy, combined with the right Personal Traits for Librarianship. These last requirements are not reliant on any technological acumen, but are traditional Library school skills which can later be applied to the technological environment. Indeed, the authors even note that their respondents agreed that most of the competencies required to be a successful Librarian 2.0 were not in any way new competencies, or based on greater knowledge of Information Technology. But I disagree with the authors assumption that the Librarian 2.0 is a “guru of the information age,” only because I think the term “guru” connotes a deeper understanding of computer technology. Still, the takeaway is that becoming Librarian 2.0 has “less to do with technology and more about quality transferable skills and interpersonal abilities” (Partridge et al, 332).

Finally, another thing that struck me was that participants in the Partridge et al study noted that the LIS profession was organic, and not artificial or robotic in any automated or “do it yourself” sense. I think this fits well with my interpretation of Frank Webster’s technology argument, of which my opinion was that an information-driven society is more dependent on organic networks (constituents of people) and less on the technology itself.

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