I was pretty excited when Nelinet released the topic of the 2006 IT Conference – Social Networking – Plugging New England Libraries into Web 2.0 several weeks ago. This is a topic in which I am extremely interested – and think that hearing people discuss how they have integrated social applications into their libraries will be inspirational (I hope so). I was even more excited when Casey Bisson announced that he has submitted a proposal on a new library deployment of WPopac to Nelinet for the conference. I have read all of his postings about WPopac and think it a great OPAC option, but haven’t been able to attend any conferences or workshops where he has presented. And of course, I’m hooked on the saga. Just who is the mystery library?
I just finished reading Meredith Farkas’ post on Skills for the 21st Century Librarian over at Information Wants to Be Free. Wow!! This is a great post that is really worth several readings – especially by library students (and those who teach library students). Meredith breaks her list of skills down into two categories: Basic Tech Competencies and Higher Level Competencies. I’m glad that she moved away from specific tech skills and focused on more “big picture” topics that really suggest that students need to understand that technology is an integral part of librarianship and also suggest that critical thinking is a necessity. Certainly, it is important that someone in the library has knowledge of more technically oriented subjects like PHP, MySQL, HTML, CSS and network administration, but those are skills that depend highly upon the technological infrastructure of any given institution. And, there are many specialized classes that offer this type of training.
Technologies will come and go. Change is inevitable. But if librarians can adapt to and embrace change, can easily learn technologies, can keep up with changes in the profession, can plan for new services and evaluate old services, can develop services that meet the needs of all stakeholders, can evaluate technologies, and can sell their ideas and market services they will be better able to meet the challenges of changing user populations and changing technologies.
Again, Wow!! This is exactly the type of librarian that I hope I to be and exactly what I am trying to accomplish both in my daily work and in graduate school. I would like to think that I am making significant progress towards this end, but I also believe that one’s development should always be fluid and changing (just like technology).
This post has also got me thinking a bit more about my experiences so far in school and what I hope to actually get out of the experience. I have worked in libraries full time for 12 years and part time for an additional 3 years. It is indeed possible and even desirable to learn most skills on the job. Meredith even points out that some topics are better learned on the job. So, really what does an MLS offer you that on-the-job training cannot (and even more theoretically, what should an MLS offer you)? That is the $50,000 question (Feel free to substitute whatever amount you will spend for your degree. I personally don’t like to tally it up because I find it thoroughly depressing. So no, I don’t think $50,000 is what I will pay). Anyway, I think I will take some time to think about it and save my thoughts for a future post.