While carelessly perusing my libraryblog roll over some lukewarm coffee, I stumbled upon an unexpected question: Do Librarians need to know anything? Naturally, I was puzzled. If taken philosophically, I could assume that online library land was trying to uncover some deeper meaning to the profession; an existential point of reflection in these changing times (eBooks, web reference, e-learning—oh my!). Upon further reflection, I deduced that the coffee wasn’t working yet and that I was reading too much into a rather simple question. Once my Nancy Drew skills were activated, my gut reaction was, “Why, yes, of course!” My psychoanalysis (sans facetiousness) is below. Please leave your rebuttals and/or elated agreements in the comments section.
Although I am enrolled in a LIS program, my response will reflect my experiences at both public and career college libraries. The effectiveness of LIS programs is a topic for another day. I’ll leave you with this, dear Reader: if I don’t know what I need to know, then how can I evaluate the effectiveness of my LIS program?
1. Librarians need good marketing and customer service skills. People cannot use the resources that they do not know are there. This seems obvious, but it’s not always as simple as it looks. Also, if you cannot connect with your patrons or adapt to their information needs you are not providing quality services. Oftentimes, we fall for the latest trends (i.e.; every library needs Facebook and Twitter accounts), but fail to ask our patrons if these outreach methods are connecting them with information they are seeking. Social media and emerging technologies are great, but if you are serving a population with limited access to high-speed internet, do you need a large online presence?
2. Teaching and tutoring skills are highly recommended. In my current position, my colleague and I are required to instruct students in information literacy. On top of teaching in the classroom, we help students use MS Office programs, search the Virtual Library, use correct citation, develop and compose research papers, create resumes and cover letters, learn basic computer skills (i.e.; sending e-mail attachments, saving documents, etc), and use program specific software (i.e.; AutoCAD).
3. Cataloging skills are beneficial for special librarians and those working at smaller libraries. I never thought I would be creating catalog records. I wasn’t interested in solely focusing on this particular aspect of libraries, but here I am creating original records and copy cataloging in ResourceMate (An aside: I’m not fond of this program). Luckily, my Librarian was a very patient fellow and walked me through the process. Dear Reader, seeing a pile of books that require me to create an original record still produces quiet grumblings.
The above is not, by any means, a comprehensive list of skill sets. It is merely a starting point.