Working in Further Education

Top 10 Skills Every Librarian Needs to Succeed in Today's Digital World

June 23, 2023

Table of Contents

As we move into the digital age, no profession is left untouched by the rapid wave of change. As a librarian, you might find yourself coming up against these challenges.

While a love for books and knowledge might have attracted you to this field, the demand for digital proficiency is undeniable. The call for transformation can seem daunting. But by acquiring new skills, you can turn these challenges into opportunities.

In the following blog post, explore the top 10 skills for librarians in this digital age.

The Top 10 Skills Needed by Librarians in the Digital Age

1. Digital Literacy

Digital literacy refers to one's ability to find, evaluate, and create content using information technologies and the internet. It's about knowing how to use digital devices and platforms and using this knowledge to navigate online spaces securely and efficiently.

Digital literacy is now a key part of the job description in the library sector. Today's libraries are hybrid spaces, offering both physical books and a wealth of online resources. As a librarian, you must be digitally literate to guide library users through both materials, curate digital resources, and teach users digital skills. It's about being a guiding light in the digital darkness.

But how can you, as a librarian, improve your digital literacy skills? Here are some practical steps:

  1. Embrace continuous learning: Technology is constantly evolving. Stay curious, keep learning, and embrace new tools and platforms as they emerge. Remember, every tech whizz was once a beginner.
  2. Use online learning platforms: Websites like FutureLearn offer excellent courses on digital literacy and other related topics.
  3. Network with other librarians: Professional librarian networks can help you share knowledge and learn from others. Consider signing up for forums on Linkedin.
  4. Practice: Just like any other skill, digital literacy improves with practice. Spend time each day using digital tools and platforms for work or personal purposes.

By boosting your digital literacy, you're not just improving your skills - you're empowering yourself to guide your library and its users into the digital age.

2. Information Management

At its core, information management involves collecting, organising, maintaining, retrieving, and disseminating information. The realm of librarianship pertains to managing both the tangible realms of books and periodicals and the digital dominions of e-books, databases, and online resources.

In the current era, effective information management is more vital than ever. With the exponential increase in available information, libraries have become important hubs for accessing physical and digital resources. As information managers, librarians serve as navigators, guiding users to the correct information at the right time. You're no longer just a keeper of books - you're a custodian of a world of digital data too.

But how can you manage this myriad of data efficiently? Here are some tools and systems you can use:

  1. Library Management Systems (LMS): Software like Koha or Liberty can manage library operations, including cataloguing, circulation, and reporting.
  2. Digital Asset Management (DAM): Tools such as Adobe Experience Manager can help you manage, store, and access digital resources.
  3. Content Management Systems (CMS): Platforms like WordPress or Joomla can help you manage online content, from blogs to online research guides.
  4. Database Management: Knowledge of systems like MySQL or Oracle Database can be handy in managing digital databases.
  5. Cloud Storage Systems: Platforms like Google Drive or Dropbox are helpful for storing and sharing digital files.

3. Technological Proficiency

The digital revolution has transformed libraries from silent book repositories into dynamic, interactive spaces. In such a landscape, a librarian's technological proficiency - their ability to operate, understand, and adapt to different forms of technology - is indispensable.

From digitised catalogues and electronic databases to self-checkout machines, technology pervades the library environment. As a librarian, your technological proficiency helps you manage these tools effectively, enhancing the user experience, improving operational efficiency, and ensuring the library remains relevant in the digital age.

However, technological proficiency isn't only about using technology - it's about understanding how it works, how it can be best applied, and how it can be fixed or improved. It means staying updated with the latest trends, platforms, and devices and learning how to leverage them for your library.

How can you boost your technological proficiency? Here are a few strategies:

  1. Enrol in Online Courses: Websites like Coursera and edX offer courses in technology-related topics, helping you stay ahead of the curve.
  2. Explore Tech Websites and Blogs: Follow tech websites or blogs to keep up-to-date with the latest tech news and trends.
  3. Practice with Different Technologies: Experiment with various software, devices, and platforms. Don't limit yourself to what you use in the library - the broader your experience, the better.
  4. Network with Tech-Savvy Peers: Connect with peers who are knowledgeable about technology. Professional networks and forums like CILIP can be great for this.
  5. Attend Tech Workshops and Webinars: Participate in tech-focused professional development events. These provide hands-on learning experiences and are often tailored to the needs of library professionals.

4. Research Skills

The world of librarianship is intrinsically intertwined with research. As a librarian, you are a gatekeeper of knowledge, a navigator guiding users through a sea of information to the particular piece of knowledge they seek. In essence, advanced research skills form the backbone of a librarian's role.

In today's digital age, information is abundant but fragmented and diverse, available in various formats across multiple platforms. As a librarian, you need to understand where to look and how to evaluate the information you find. Moreover, you must translate complex data into a format your users can understand and use.

Your research skills will enable you to analyse and interpret data, organise and categorise information, and critically assess the quality and relevance of sources. These skills are particularly vital when assisting library users with their research, curating library resources, and solving problems or making decisions based on the information at hand.

So, how can you develop and enhance your research skills? Here are some practical tips:

  1. Attend Research Workshops: Many organisations and universities offer research workshops. Consider attending these to improve your skills.
  2. Online Research Courses: Platforms like Coursera and FutureLearn offer courses on research methods and techniques.
  3. Practice Regularly: The more you practice research, the better you get. Regularly engage in research activities as part of your job or for personal projects.
  4. Stay Updated on Research Tools: Libraries and the internet offer various research tools, such as databases and reference management software. Familiarise yourself with these tools and keep an eye out for new ones.
  5. Collaborate and Learn from Peers: Engage in collaborative research projects or peer discussions. You can learn a lot from the research strategies and techniques of others.

5. Data Analysis

In the digital age, data is the driving force behind informed decisions and strategic planning. For librarians, the ability to analyse and interpret data is vital to enhancing library services, improving user experience, and demonstrating the library's value.

Through data analysis, you can gain insights into user behaviours and preferences, identify trends and patterns, measure the effectiveness of your services, and make evidence-based decisions. For instance, data analysis can help you understand which resources are most used, what times the library is busiest, which services are most valued by users, and where there might be gaps in your offering.

Furthermore, data analysis skills can support you in advocacy efforts. By presenting data-driven evidence of the library's impact and benefits, you can make a compelling case for resources and support from stakeholders.

So how can you improve your data analysis skills? Here are some strategies:

  1. Take Online Courses: Websites like Coursera and edX offer courses in data analysis and related topics.
  2. Use Data Analysis Tools: Familiarise yourself with data analysis tools like Tableau, Microsoft Excel, and Google Sheets.
  3. Read Books and E-books on Data Analysis: Books like "Data Science for Dummies" or "Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think" can provide valuable insights.
  4. Practice: The more you practice data analysis, the more adept you'll become. Try analysing your library's data or explore public datasets available online.

6. Communication Skills

Communication, in its myriad forms, is the heart and soul of librarianship. As a librarian, you interact with a diverse range of individuals, from students and researchers to staff and stakeholders. You guide, advise, teach, listen, negotiate, and advocate. Each of these roles demands effective communication.

In the digital age, communication isn't just about speaking and listening - it's also about writing emails, crafting social media posts, designing user-friendly webpages, and creating engaging online resources. It's about making complex information understandable, responding to user queries, and delivering excellent customer service, in-person or online.

Strong communication skills can enhance user satisfaction, foster relationships, facilitate teamwork, promote the library's services, and strengthen your professional image. They're vital whether you're explaining how to use the online catalogue, conducting a library induction, advocating for resources, or collaborating on a project.

So, how can you boost your communication skills? Here are some strategies:

  1. Active Listening: Pay attention to the person speaking, show empathy, and provide feedback. This encourages open dialogue and builds trust.
  2. Clarity and Conciseness: Whether speaking or writing, be clear, concise, and relevant. Avoid unnecessary jargon.
  3. Non-Verbal Communication: Your body language, eye contact, and tone of voice can significantly impact your message. Ensure they align with your words.
  4. Ask for Feedback: Regularly seek feedback from your peers, supervisors, and library users. This can provide valuable insights into how you can improve.
  5. Professional Development: Attend workshops or courses on communication skills.
  6. Practice: Like any other skill, communication improves with practice. Engage in conversations, contribute to meetings, present at events, and write for different audiences.

7. Teaching and Instructional Skills

In today's knowledge-based society, librarians are pivotal as information providers and educators. With the emergence of new technologies, digital resources, and complex information landscapes, library users often need guidance to navigate these realms effectively. This is where your teaching and instructional skills come into play.

From conducting library inductions and demonstrating how to use online catalogues to hosting information literacy workshops and offering research support, your role as a librarian often involves instructing users on how to access, evaluate, and use information effectively. Therefore, strong teaching skills are crucial for modern librarians.

But teaching in a library context isn't just about conveying information – it's about fostering an environment of learning, curiosity, and discovery. It's about adapting your instruction to meet diverse needs, maintaining user engagement, and empowering users to become independent information-seekers.

So, how can you improve your teaching and instructional skills? Here are some tips:

  1. Understand your Audience: Know the needs and learning styles of your users. This will allow you to tailor your instruction effectively.
  2. Learn from Others: Attend lectures, workshops, or training sessions to observe effective teaching techniques.
  3. Continual Learning: Stay updated with pedagogical research and instructional technologies. Websites like TES can be valuable resources.
  4. Reflect and Adapt: Reflect on your teaching experiences, seek feedback, and be ready to adapt your approach as needed.

8. Adaptability

In an era marked by rapid technological advancements and evolving user needs, adaptability is a crucial skill for modern librarians. The digital age has transformed libraries from traditional repositories of books to dynamic hubs of information and technology with various physical and digital resources.

The role of librarians has evolved too. From merely managing books and answering reference questions, librarians are now expected to teach information literacy skills, manage digital resources, navigate online databases, utilise cutting-edge technology, and more. This constant change demands adaptability - the ability to adjust to new conditions and challenges effectively.

Adaptability allows you to keep pace with changing technology trends, embrace new working methods, and continue delivering top-quality service to your users despite changes and uncertainties. It enables you to learn from experience, be resilient in the face of challenges, and turn setbacks into opportunities for learning and growth.

So how can you cultivate adaptability? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Embrace a Growth Mindset: View change as an opportunity to learn and grow rather than a threat.
  2. Keep Learning: Make continuous learning a habit. Attend workshops, complete online courses, read relevant publications, and stay updated with industry trends.
  3. Flexibility: Be open to new ideas and willing to change your perspective or approach when necessary.
  4. Practice Resilience: Challenges and setbacks are inevitable. Resilience enables you to bounce back from them and keep moving forward.
  5. Networking: Engage with other professionals in your field to learn how they adapt to change and handle challenges.

9. Critical Thinking

Critical thinking – the ability to analyse, evaluate, and form logical judgments – is a cornerstone of librarianship. As custodians of information, librarians often face complex problems, competing priorities, diverse user needs, and various information sources. Navigating these successfully requires sharp critical thinking skills.

Whether selecting resources for the library collection, verifying the accuracy and credibility of information sources, assisting users with their research, or developing strategies to enhance library services, every aspect of a librarian's role benefits from critical thinking.

In a digital world overwhelmed with information, critically assessing information sources' relevance, accuracy, and credibility is especially vital. Not only does this ensure that your library's resources are reliable and high-quality, but it also equips you to guide your users in developing their critical literacy skills.

So, how can you enhance your critical thinking abilities? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Ask Questions: Don't accept information at face value. Ask questions, seek evidence, and consider different perspectives.
  2. Reflect: Regularly reflect on your experiences, decisions, and actions. This can provide valuable insights and promote deeper understanding.
  3. Open-mindedness: Be open to new ideas, perspectives, and approaches. This encourages flexible thinking and creativity.
  4. Critical Reading and Writing: Practice essential reading and writing. This can help you to evaluate arguments, identify biases, and develop logical reasoning skills.

10. Customer Service Skills

In the digital information age, libraries are more than just buildings full of books - they're vibrant hubs of community and learning. At the heart of these services is customer service. Offering excellent customer service isn't just about being nice - it's about meeting the diverse needs of your library users, making them feel valued and supported, and creating a welcoming, inclusive environment for all.

Whether assisting a user in finding a book, helping someone navigate an online catalogue, answering an enquiry about library services, or resolving an issue, every interaction is an opportunity to deliver excellent customer service. Strong customer service skills can enhance user satisfaction, build positive relationships, promote the library's image, and encourage users to return.

So how can you improve your customer service skills? Here are some strategies:

  1. Active Listening: Show genuine interest in your users' needs. Understand their concerns and respond in a respectful, empathetic manner.
  2. Communication: Communicate clearly and effectively. Make sure your messages are understood and your responses are timely.
  3. Patience: Be patient with users, especially those who struggle with technology or find library systems confusing.
  4. Problem-Solving: Effective customer service involves identifying problems and developing solutions quickly and efficiently.
  5. Positive Attitude: A positive, friendly attitude can make library users feel comfortable and welcomed.

Additional Resources

If you're currently looking for a job as a librarian and need some help, have a look at the resources to help you find your next job.

  1. Latest Librarian Jobs: Ready to make the next move in your librarian career? Browse the latest job listings on our job board.
  2. Guide on How to Become a Librarian: If you're just starting your journey to becoming a librarian or are considering this rewarding career path, our guide is the perfect place to start. Learn about the educational requirements, day-to-day responsibilities, career progression and more.
  3. How to Write a Librarian CV: Your CV is the first impression a prospective employer gets of you. Check out this blog post to understand the crucial elements that make a compelling Librarian CV.
  4. Librarian Interview Questions and Answers: An essential read for those preparing for a librarian interview. This guide provides specific questions you may face during your interview, along with sample answers.

Wrapping it Up: Key Takeaways

In an era where libraries are evolving into dynamic digital information and community engagement hubs, librarians must possess diverse skills to succeed. We've explored some of these critical skills and their significance in today's digital world.

Digital Literacy and Technological Proficiency equip librarians to navigate the digital information landscape effectively. These skills enable librarians to manage digital resources, utilise technology in library services, and assist users with their digital information needs.

Information Management and Research Skills are at the heart of librarianship. These skills allow librarians to efficiently manage and organise library resources, conduct effective research, and support users in their information-seeking journey.

Data Analysis skills help librarians to understand user behaviour, make informed decisions, and improve library services.

Communication Skills and Customer Service Skills are crucial for building positive relationships with users, meeting their diverse needs, and creating a welcoming, inclusive library environment.

Teaching and Instructional Skills empower librarians to guide users in navigating library resources and developing their information literacy skills.

Adaptability and Critical Thinking skills equip librarians to navigate the evolving digital landscape, handle challenges, make informed decisions, and continually improve their services.

Alex Lockey
Director | Bolt Jobs
Founder Alex Lockey is an expert in further education, learning, and skills sector. He leads cost-effective hiring solutions and is known for successful talent placements. Dynamic and driven, Alex seeks innovative solutions to solve sector hiring challenges.