Essential skills of the information professional in a web2.0 world. What are they? I believe, fundamentally, that they are the same skills that are required by any effective educator: the ability to foster connection, collaboration, and community.
CONNECTION – it’s about more than just being able to chat to people. It’s about linking the people we work with to the information they are looking for (Mackenzie, 2007, p120). Simple as that? Well, yes and no. Because firstly, you need to make sure you are aware of what it is the people around you need! What are the teachers looking for to support their teaching and learning? What do the students require to help them reach their school learning goals, and also to support their development as lifelong learners? What does the school executive, and the wider school community, want and need from their school library? Once you know all these things, you can be the information specialist who is armed with the roadmap needed to establish these connections. Sometimes this will require ICT tools. Sometimes it will need a creative application of a traditional tool (Harvey, 2009). Sometimes it will require the willingness to concede that you have absolutely no idea what it requires, and do some research of your own.
And that’s where COLLABORATION comes in. No longer is the librarian the one who holds the keys to all knowledge. The 21st century information specialist knows how to find out what they need to know, and they know how to direct others in their question for information. They collaborate with colleagues. They draw on the strengths of those who have gone before them – someone has curated an excellent diigo which relates to an area of study that a senior History class is researching? They create links between the class and the curator. A university on the other side of the globe is doing wonderful things with Instagram? They collaborate with the account admins, and regram content, giving credit to the original Instagram account. A student comes up with a great idea for a virtual world project which could benefit the school community? They liaise with the relevant stakeholders to create a working party to ensure that the idea doesn’t just languish in the corner, but is given the resources and expertise required to make it a success – and, most importantly, they recognize that this expertise may (and probably WILL) come from someone other than them.
It’s really an extension of the connection idea, I guess. Collaboration is a key indicator of the shift in perception of the information professional. Partridge, Lee and Munro refer to research which reflects this notion that librarians “can’t do everything”, and need to work closely with IT professionals and multidisciplinary teams in order to meet the needs of their clients (2010). No longer are we the gurus, but the guides. We certainly ARE experts, but our expertise is often in the area of finding out who may have the answers and ideas needed, rather than being the storehouse for these ourselves.
Cohen’s Manifesto Statement that as a Librarian 2.0 “”I will be willing to go where users are” really encompasses the idea of COMMUNITY for me. It’s about a recognition that we need to be willing to embrace the spaces, connections and interests of our wider community. If our users are active on social networks, then we need to consider whether engaging with them on those platforms might be something that would be of benefit. We need to be willing, and indeed enthusiastic, about the interactions amongst our community, and what they can contribute to our library service. Social tagging is just one example of ways that our community engagement can enrich our library experience.
So I guess for me, the fundamental defining characteristic of Librarian 2.0 is the willingness to dive into the 21st century information landscape, with all the resources that provides, and to strive to create the absolute best library (Stephens, 2006, p8) they can for, and with, their patrons. We are no longer behind a desk, we are part of a community. And that’s my favourite thing of all about being this new breed of librarian!
Cohen, L (2007) A manifesto for our times. American Libraries Vol. 38, No. 7 (Aug., 2007), pp. 47-49
Harvey, M. (2009) What does it mean to be a Science Librarian 2.0? http://www.istl.org/09-summer/article2.html
Mackenzie, C. (2007). Creating our future: Workforce planning for Library 2.0 and beyond. APLIS, 20(3), 118-124.
Partridge, H., Lee, J., and Munro, C. (2010). Becoming “Librarian 2.0”: The Skills, Knowledge, and Attributes Required by Library and Information Science Professionals in a Web 2.0 World (and Beyond) Library Trends Volume 59 (1-2) http://muse.jhu.edu.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/journals/library_trends/v059/59.1-2.partridge.html
Stephens, M. (2006). Into a new world of librarianship. Next Space, The OCLC Newsletter. http://www.oclc.org/content/dam/oclc/publications/newsletters/nextspace/nextspace_002.pdf