I’ve received some wonderful and challenging emails offering feedback about my column in “Office Hours” in Library Journal.
A few folks keyed in to the statement I made in the first column:
If the online world is not for you, then neither may be a career in librarianship. The most prevalent LIS jobs in the next few years will probably be ones where you’re not tied to your desk and you communicate well beyond the physical walls of the building.
It’s not just students who should participate in this online world. Librarians must find their niche as well. Five years ago the conversation went on in blogs. Now it flows vibrantly across media platforms, enabling a stronger connection with library users through marketing, outreach, and the human touch.
I keep returning to this idea to reflect further – and a few months later it still holds true for me. I can’t imagine a librarian holding a position in a library in 2011 that would not benefit from participating even to the smallest degree in the professional communications that flow via our niche in the social networks. Kyle Jones, currently pursuing his doctorate at UW Madison, and I just completed a chapter for a forthcoming book edited by Dr. Bill Crowley on defending professionalism in librarianship. We examine the benefits and rewards of what we call the LIS professional commons – but really when the tech falls away, it’s about people talking to each other. This is and will be an invaluable virtual space for continuing development for LIS professionals.
We teach the reference interview, and cover the basics of communication in leadership classes, but a stronger emphasis on how people interact with each other, how to effectively communicate with all sorts of folks in person and electronically, and how to create and encourage strong connections between staff and users should be a primary focus of LIS curriculum in the 21st Century. In that first column, I stated that every library job is or will be touched by technology of some form. The tech discussions of the day still center around social software and mobile connections but – again – it’s really just about people talking to each other.
Librarianship is evolving. Face-to-face interaction, something that has been one of the core skills of our profession, are being joined by the online skills that will be a part of our future. Librarians are becoming more capable professionals, developing new and multi-faceted skill-sets that will allow us to reach all of our users.
It’s no longer reasonable to think that a librarian can leave graduate school and sit at a desk all day talking with patrons. It’s also not reasonable to think that they can sit in a back room chatting on Facebook or Twitter as all they do. In a strong, well-focused LIS program, students are being taught new skills alongside foundational expertise, and they’re learning how to best balance and utilize a combination of the two.