Librarian’s expectations in the 21st century

August 31, 2012

About 10 years ago, Karl Bridges edited “Expectations of Librarians in the 21st Century”, a collection of essays by librarians discussing what they perceive to be the most important characteristics needed at the beginning of the millennium (my contribution starts on p. 119.)  Back then, when I wrote my contribution, my son had just been born and I had been an academic librarian for about 3 years.  Well, much has changed since then!  My son is now in middle school, I have moved twice across 3 states, and have again begun working at an academic library after 3 1/2 years at a special library.

I decided to take a look at this collection and see if the predictions or characteristics were on the mark.

In my essay, I gave my top 10 characteristics:

1. Openness

2. Friendliness

3. Persistence

4. Flexibility

5. Teaching ability

6. Patience

7. Communication

8. Personal attention

9. Subject Knowledge

10. Love of the game

I was happy to see that these are all still extremely important to providing the kind of service that our patrons need in 2012 and beyond.

In reading through the essays, the following characteristics appeared again and again:

Flexibility-this was the one mentioned the most
Customer Service

Two things that were mentioned that resonate the most with me were change and the human touch. 

Several essays talk about change as “the new normal” or as the “only constant.”  It is heartening and somewhat surprising after all that has changed in the past 10 years that we, as librarians, have adjusted so well and with such grace to all these changes.  And, because we have been able to adjust and even be at the forefront of new ideas and technologies, we have served our patrons, public, and communities well.

Which leads to the “human touch.”  Of course, we are protective of our profession, which is heavily dependent on this idea.  However, even though we no longer need to mediate much of the information access, our help and knowledge is still indispensable (take a look at this article, just this month!)  I see this particularly at my job in the community college setting–our students are not afraid to ask questions, and we help students on their academic journey.  Librarians are willing and expertly able to assist patrons, through their persistence and love of the game.  Librarians’ natural curiosity, tenacity, and dedication to customer service add real value to patrons’ lives and communities.


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