Professional Development

ARL Fall Forum: Library Workforce for 21st Century Research Libraries

Sunday, October 14, 2012 11:16 pm

I like to attend the Fall Forum of the Association of Research Libraries because they let non-ARL libraries attend and I can catch up with my ARL friends and see what they are up to. This year, the focus was on the library workforce of the future, which is of high interest to me. Those of you who have been here awhile know that when a vacancy occurs at ZSR, as often as not we tend to fill it with a different kind of position. In this way, we have created positions for a Scholarly Communication Librarian, and Systems Analyst, and Digital Initiatives Librarian, to name only a few. It turns out this is what progressive research libraries are doing also, so I was interested in hearing their perspective. These library systems are much larger than ours. The median ARL library system has 242 positions, while the three libraries at WFU have less than half of that. I will highlight only the presentations that I liked best. The website will soon have slides for all the presenters, if anyone is interested.

The first presentation I will highlight was from Tito Sierra, now at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but formerly of NC State. He did a research study on how research libraries are staffing for the future by examining 444 job announcements for ARL libraries for one full year. He followed up with questionnaires to determine if the positions were new, modified or existing. He learned that over half of all jobs advertised by ARL libraries in 2011 were newly created positions or had significantly redefined roles. Two thirds of Functional Specialist positions were newly created or redefined. The most dramatic moment was when he showed two word clouds. In the one created from jobs with existing roles, the largest words were Collections, Studies and Research. In the one created from jobs with new roles, the single word DIGITAL dominated all other words.

The second presentation of note was from John Seely Brown, a fairly famous person whom Wikipedia describes as “a researcher who specializes in organizational studies with a particular bent towards the organizational implications of computer-supported activities.” He is currently a Visiting Scholar at the University of Southern California and co-chair of the Deloitte Center for Edge Innovation, but previously worked at Xerox for ten years. He said that the future will be determined not by technology, but by social practice. We are about to leave a long-standing S curve of relative stability in infrastructure (cars, roads, planes, etc) for a permanent big shift to the digital world. The half life of a given skill is constantly shrinking, now down to maybe 5 years. This is why it is so important to be constantly training and retraining the work force. Higher education will be too slow. Ways of creating, working and learning must all be re-framed, which is hard. The single AHA! moment for me was when he talked about the “competency trap.” When an organization gets really, really good at something, it becomes harder for them to see new patterns and the people involved do not respond to logic when it is pointed out to them. It takes personally experienced emotion and a new, lived narrative to break out of the competency trap. Immediate examples came to my mind, and I’m sure everyone can think of their own. We need to be very careful that ZSR does not become one of them. Not to mention the liberal arts college model of higher education! Then he went up a notch and talked about Change 2.0 being a meta-narrative, with the vision and role being compelling and strategically ambiguous (everyone loved that phrase). It is ambiguous because that leaves room to make it compelling at a personal level. So the meta-narrative might be to be the best person (or library) you can be – and what that specifically means is left to the individual situation. In the Q&A, he was asked about the uncertainty in higher education today. He said that in following higher education for 30 years, he had never seen such fear and confusion as in the last six months. Presidents and governing boards are in MOOCmania. They realize the old game is up but don’t know what to do next (think UVA last summer). He said traditionally that 80% of the revenue in research universities comes from 20% of the courses and it is that 20% which MOOCs are disrupting. The perfect storm is taking shape and people are in a panic.

Overall, it struck me that our insistence on professional development, bringing new ideas in as well as sharing our ideas out, will serve us well in this period of intense change. If you can stand the ambiguity, it is good to value disruptions, rather than avoid them.


2 Responses to “ARL Fall Forum: Library Workforce for 21st Century Research Libraries”

  1. I had not heard of the “Competency Trap”. I can see how easy it would be to fall into that trap and avoid disruptions instead of valuing them!

  2. Fascinating thoughts. MOOCmania for sure but the idea that organizations want to keep doing what they do well even when what they do well might not be what’s needed is intriguing (and absolutely dead on)… for thought, for sure.

Professional Development
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007

Powered by, protected by Akismet. Blog with