Top 5 skills for future proofing a librarian’s employment opportunities


Apologies for the clickbait headline, but I am genuinely quoting the question..

Last week, @jmmj asked me via Twitter “What are your top 5 skills for future proofing a librarian’s employment opportunities ? ”
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Yes, I teach new librarians, so I should have some kind of idea.

But, please note, I do not have any kind of personal professional development plan of the type that Alisa and Sam have shared this #blogjune. I’m pretty much in awe of this kind of organisation and professionalism… so do have a look at what they have to say about what they are doing to future proof themselves.

Skill 1 – Know your library stuff inside out – from first principles

Really, to continue to be useful in a library you must, must, must have an idea of basic principles of selection, organisation, preservation, provision, access and social life of information. Full Stop.

Not only that, if you have a good grasp of the WHY we do what we do how we do it, then you can critique what we do, improve on it and understand how to extend it into the future.

Reading something like Matthew Battles’ Library an Unquiet History should make sure you have an idea about the WHY from which all our HOW flows.

Skill 2 – Turn up, do things you say you will on time, wash, be kind and pleasant, don’t piss off your coworkers, boss or clients

I know it sounds basic and obvious, but knowing enough to hand code your own discovery layer will not help you stay employable if you have a history of being difficult to work with.

I am actually serious with this one. I have worked with a few people in the past who had great technical skills but were unreliable or expected other people to carry the boring bits of the job while they did the interesting bits and made a name for themselves professionally.

It’s really about cultivating skills at being a supportive team player and showing humility and consideration.

Skill 3 – Learn and relearn

Alvin Toffler, Future Shock 

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn”

Skill 4 – Look outside the library

Know how to cultivate relationships with useful people within your organisation who do not work in the library. Go to conferences or read literature from other professions like designers, IT professionals, educators, marketers or archivists. Understand their ethics and how they differ from those of our profession. Talk to people in other libraries about how they do things. Look at what is happening in libraries in other countries. Try to cultivate partnerships with people in other organisations, both for your own learning and on behalf of your library.

Skill 5 – Follow your passion and cultivate interest and curiousity.

Go after what floats your boat and try to get a job doing that. Make sure that lots and lots of things float your boat and maybe – if it seems like your interests are so narrow and specialised that you cannot see how to bring them into the workplace – you need to actually cultivate a wider interest and try out more things;  or actively try to like more things.

Being passionately interested in something makes you naturally want to find out more and to share what you know and to help others. These qualities are invaluable in a library.

What would you add to the list?

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