On Digital’n’Data Librarianship

Over the last few weeks and months, I’ve had several opportunities to try and peddle my own peculiar take on the sorts of skills that I think someone – possibly “the librarians” – needs to be developing if we’re going to have the go-to people we need to help us keep tabs on world of digital information, and put some of those digital bits to work effectively; for example: Digital Librarian presentation, Imaginings Around Emerging Infoskills for Digital Librarians, CILIP Talk – Skills of the Future, Time For a Library Shist – Arcadia Brown Bag Lunch presentation, and so on…

Quite by chance, I came across a couple of posts yesterday that illustrate some of the skills that actual librarians need…

First up was Ed Chamberlain’s “Resignation Letter to CILIP” describing his reasons for leaving that professional body. Part of Ed ‘s role is to keep the OPAC ticking over for the Cambridge University Libraries, so his take comes from a technical stance, but many of the issues he raises reach wider than that. For example, on the relevance of the training CILIP provides, Ed writes: “[I]n the near future, a modern information service could involve data curation and storage, online communication services and data manipulation, database design and potentially web application construction on behalf of users. Yet CILIP does not appear to be skilling a workforce to do this.

He also touches on the role of CILIP as an advocate for Libraries, as threats come in from the defection of users to competing online technologies, as well as stresses brought on by financial woes within institutions.

The second post that caught my eye came from @katy_bird, a librarian working for the Guardian newspaper – “Week in the life: Wednesday 25 May 2010“. So what did Katy do over the last week? Daily tasks included corrections and updating the Afghanistan war casualty count, before a handful of Datastore tasks uploading content to the Guardian’s public data spreadsheets. There were also queries from journalists about statistics of one sort or another. I appreciate that these may not be the everyday tasks of an HE Librarian (read the post yourself to see the full range of duties performed), but I wonder what Katy’s week would have looked like 5 years ago compared today? Are there trends there that might indicate a natural path for the evolution of the academic librarian?

Which reminds me… Here’s the OU VC’s take on where the future may lay for librarians, taken from his keynote at the JISC2010 conference:

Sensemaking, that’s what…

PS here’s another related post I came across yesterday: Librarians Have Skills That Pay The Bills. And here’s one that got me thinking about the role public librarians might have to play in opening up and liberating content at a local/civic level: Data scraping using Google Docs spreadsheets (after all, public libraries are one of the places you go to pick up flyers and see posters about what’s going on locally, right?!) Related to this: Programming, Not Coding: Infoskills for Journalists (and Librarians..?!;-) I’m thinking I really need to take a long, long walk to mull over the blurring relationship (as I see it) between the roles of journalists, librarians and academics/educators…

PPS @daveyp pointed out to me there is actually a tradition of librarians blogging about what they get up to, which several others then reiterated;-)

Library day in the life

Find out more here: Library: Day in the Life (I will be…).

PS for what it’s worth, I’d be interested in running “Future Librarian” sessions at other libraries, especially in HE sector, to see how local experiences vary… email me… ;-)

PPS Related, picked up via a tweet from @boycetrus: Libraries and Journalism: Same, Same but Different?; and just now, via @niamhpage: Librarians as Teachers

…and another, this time from @librgoddess/@theUL (“Is your library a library or a book storage facility … ?”): Where do we go from here?

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

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