The UK newspaper Guardian occasionally have articles on academic libraries. Normally they’re not too favourable, but last week there was a really interesting article about how academic libraries are undergoing a quiet revolution.

The article talks about how the information environment is changing and with that the role of the academic librarian must adapt from one of a keeper of information to one of a marketer of services and teacher/trainer to help students (and academics) use the right services with the appropriate tools and techniques to get the best information.

The article features insights from academic librarians in the UK and gives examples of the sorts of activities and skills required for an academic librarian today. A lot of the article really resonates with me – I’ve always been a strong believer in improving communication and marketing services (I even plan to complete my MSc dissertation on this topic), and agree that even in the short space of time I’ve worked in UK University libraries the climate has changed. Particular interesting quotes from the article for me include:

people recruited to work in them have to be willing to embrace new technologies and customer service

tuition in research skills and how to use online library services is crucial

[f]lexibility and willingness to adapt to new ideas is key

It’s really worth a read for those already working in the profession, those considering entering it, and those who wonder what life as an academic librarian is really like!

  • Agreed. It was a great article. I get bored of telling my friends that my work extends further than telling people to be sushh and shelving books, taking fines etc. I sent a lot of emails that day, making sure everyone saw the article!

  • Jo Smith

    I emailed this article to all of my future in-laws…..I too am sick and tired of the stereotype we have as librarians!!!

    When people ask what I do, I have statrted telling them I am an ACADEMIC LIBRARIAN.

    This way, I get asked what the difference is rather than the usual ‘Shhhhh’ jibes!!!

    🙂

  • Jo Smith

    This also seems to fit in quite nicely with our plan bytheway Jo??!!
    🙂

  • Sarahw9

    At least its an accurate portrayal of what academic librarians do, although I have to say its hardly new (at least the last 15 years we have been doing this). Worth sending to people who don’t have any idea of what its about though. Thanks for posting.

  • This article is great news for academic librarians who have one more journalist on their side. But for us scruffians (read: public librarians), it’s another nail in the coffin for public perception of the local library service. And just when we were starting to pull out a few with the pliers of community engagement. OK, end of metaphor. Fantastic media validation for academic librarians, absolutely. But the article is plastered with the flashiness of university money and investment; the partnership in Worcester reads more like the uni holding up the failing public library – does the latter bring anything to this deal? Surely their contribution is more than agreeing a carpet colour and handing over their patrons on a platter? Can’t help inferring that working in a public library in Worcs is so dull that everyone’s hugely relieved when the university steps in to jazz the service and save the day. Very Saving Private Ryan.

  • The quote I really liked from this article (which my Dad pointed out to me – I never read those sections of the Guardian, and I really should…) was this:

    “…the people recruited to work in them have to be willing to embrace new technologies and customer service with an alacrity that would likely horrify the shushing custodians of the past”

    This, for me, is the reality not yet understood by most of those outside the profession.

  • Thanks for the comments everyone.

    Matt, Jo, Sarah, Thewikiman – I agree, it was the accurate portrayal which stood out to me in the article. I don’t know how many non-librarians read it, but I hope that anyone who did now understands the role a little clearer – I know I didn’t until I was actually working in an academic library.

    Paul – I didn’t interpret it that way and personally see it as more of a collaboration between the two libraries which, although challenging, I think will be a positive thing. I guess reading it from a different perspective due to our biases may change our views, but I’m sorry to hear you felt this way about the article. I’d like to think that everyone in the profession aims to promote libraries and librarians in general, and I felt the article was beneficial for libraries in general even though this particular focus was academic libraries.

  • Jo – you’re quite right the article is beneficial for libraries overall, and I can understand why it’s great news for academic librarians. Hope I didn’t cast too much of a damp squib on things. Will be very interesting to see how Worcester turns out.